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Through Wasp Nest Sculptures and Encaustic Drawings, Valerie Hammond Preserves the Ephemeral
Nature is replete with layering, as seen in the soft tissues of a flower’s petal, the cellular makeup of human skin, or the paper-thin walls of insect nests. Although delicate themselves, these layers offer protection from the more fragile insides and are subsequently prone to change, often through natural decay and exposure to the elements. Valerie Hammond (previously) is drawn to these fleeting moments of life and their inevitable transformation, which she explores through an artistic practice centered around preservation and its limits.
Now based in the Hudson Valley after decades in the East Village, Hammond has spent nearly twenty years considering how quickly an existence can emerge and perish, a theme that emerged during the AIDS crisis in the U.S. Her practice is largely focused on the corporeal and the inherent ephemerality of the human body, which she merges with botanicals in her ongoing series of encaustic drawings.
Using her own limbs and those of her children, friends, and family, Hammond traces outstretched hands and layers the translucent renderings with fresh flowers, pencil markings, wax, and other materials. She portrays the similarities between the vascular and skeletal systems and the structure of ferns and other botanicals, and many works are scaled to the actual size of the human body, preserving the dimensions of a child’s wrist or woman’s fingers as they were in a particular moment. As the series evolves and grows, the pieces offer insight into “how we experience nature and the many ways we might allow it to change us, and the various skins and outer shells that we shed in order to transition to new, and possibly more whole, selves.”
For a recent exhibition at Planthouse, Hammond debuted a new sculpture titled “Laurel” that features a pair of feet with spindly branches emerging mid-calf. Mirroring the encaustic drawings, the work joins a larger collection of anatomical forms and busts made from wasp nests layered with Japanese paper on an armature that again references the impermanent. The natural material “spoke to what I was really looking for in the sculptures,” Hammond shares. “In the last few years, I’ve been thinking about the chimera…about inserting myself in nature, and that’s what I’ve been thinking about in these sculptures, as a way of being a part of nature in this physical, metaphysical, and metaphorical sense.”
Hammond’s work is included in a group show on view through May 23 at Gallery de Sol in Taipei City, and she has a show opening that same month at September Gallery in Kinderhook, New York. To explore a larger archive of her two- and three-dimensional pieces, visit her site and Instagram.
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Bewildering Reflections and Perspectives Shift in the Hyperrealistic Oil Paintings of Nathan Walsh
In his intricate oil paintings, Nathan Walsh captures the textural sheen of rain on city streets and luminescent reflections in cafe windows. The artist has previously explored different vantage points in elaborate cityscapes, rendering the corners of buildings, corridors of skyscrapers, and expansive bridges in detailed, two-point perspective. Recently, he has further honed ideas around perception and the way the built environment presents uncanny optical illusions in the interplay of people and objects, light, and reflections.
The ideas for Walsh’s compositions often form as he wanders the streets of cities like New York and Paris, making sketches and taking photographs that he brings back to his studio, a converted Welsh Methodist chapel. “Up until last year, my work had been exclusively devoted to the urban landscape,” he tells Colossal, sharing that various objects like those spotted in an antique shop window in Paris’s 7th arrondissement signaled new references to his ideas around place and familiarity. He says:
I would travel, collect information, then return to my studio to respond to that material. “Metaphores” started in the same way: a trip to Paris, wandering aimlessly around the streets looking for ideas. On my return to the U.K., I realised a lot of the photographs and drawings I’d made were touching on similar subject matter to [my] home environment.
Pieces like “Metaphores” or “Rue de Saints” represent a shift in Walsh’s understanding of the urban landscape or more concisely, of how it is experienced. Elaborate window reflections warp our sense of space and fuse realism with imagination, such as in “Monarchs Drift,” in which the artist has spliced together scenes of Chicago and San Francisco. Walsh imbues the works with what he describes as a “hallucinatory quality which is ‘neither here nor there,'” embracing notions of transition, global connections, and his own memories of trips he has taken.
Walsh’s paintings will be featured in a forthcoming book published by Thames & Hudson dedicated to urban landscapes, and you can find more of his work on his website and Instagram.
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Yellow Halos Laud People of the African Diaspora in Akindele John’s Vibrant Portraits
Nigerian artist Akindele John harbors a profound respect for people of the African Diaspora, which he exemplifies in his vivid, celebratory portraiture. Working in oil on canvas, the artist centers on figures who offer insight into diasporic lineages, as he intertwines historic elements with that of the present day. “My subjects are based on African old ways,” he tells Colossal. “They are real people that tell a story about the African diaspora.”
Often overlaid with ornate botanical motifs or embedded with patterns, the portraits are vibrant and regal and tend to portray figures in moments of contemplation. Yellow halos encircle their faces, elevating each to a position of spiritual wisdom and regard. John shares that he’s drawn to the contrasts within compositions and contemporary interpretations of chiaroscuro, particularly the work of photographer Maria Presser.
The artist is represented by Genre: Urban Arts and frequently shares glimpses into his process and studio on Instagram.
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Entwined Ceramic Sculptures by Claire Lindner Sprout like Roots and Plants
Although fixed in glazed and fired ceramic, Claire Lindner’s voluptuous sculptures are primed for movement as they appear to crawl along walls or sprout upward like the leaves of a plant. Mimicking the spongy texture of living specimens like fungi, sea moss, and roots, the works embody several dualities from hard and soft to stasis and growth. The lively pieces also reference the relationship between biological processes and human intervention, as the artist (previously) sculpts organic forms and covers them with unnaturally bold gradients.
Lindner, who’s based in the countryside in Montpellier, has one work in Within + Without on view through April 6 at Unit London and will be included in the LOEWE Foundation group show scheduled for May at the Noguchi Museum in New York. She’s also in the midst of a residency with the European Institute of Ceramic Art, which will result in an exhibition slated for June at the Théodore Deck Museum. Keep up with the artist’s latest projects and chances to see the works in person on her site and Instagram.
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Craft Design Photography
Brilliant Botanical Cyanotypes Adorn Kellie Swanson’s Upcycled Garments
Artist and photographer Kellie Swanson imprints jackets, jeans, and other garments with the rich blue of cyanotypes—an early form of photography that uses UV light to produce monochromatic prints—as part of her burgeoning clothing line KSX. With grainy textures that complement the weave of fabrics, the brilliantly hued wearables feature natural specimens like ferns and flowers found around Swanson’s home in Bozeman, Montana. All of the garments are secondhand, and the artist sources most from thrift stores and vintage shops, ensuring KSX takes a more sustainable approach in an industry infamous for its waste.
Swanson began the upcycling project in 2020 as a way to re-engage her creative practice, and it’s since yielded several collaborations and collections, which sell incredibly fast. The next shop update is set for later this month, so keep an eye on Instagram to snag a piece.
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Giana De Dier Introduces Anonymous Women of the African Diaspora in Bold Collaged Portraits
The mystique of anonymity is a powerful presence, exemplified by a common fascination with family albums and historical archives in which we try to recognize unknown faces. Who were they? What are their stories? In bold, mixed-media portraits, Panama City-based artist Giana De Dier is driven by the enigmatic quality of early photographs centering on women of the African Diaspora. Her subjects are often portrayed wearing patterned fabrics, large earrings, and elaborately plaited hairstyles, situated in front of photographed landscapes or domestic interiors that incorporate African masks and decor and tropical plants.
When she first began to make collages, De Dier culled imagery from glossy magazines like Vogue and Elle, incorporating materials and textures from clothing and textiles. Her recent work looks further back in time, drawing inspiration primarily from depictions of women in the 19th and 20th centuries. “I’m interested in who the person photographed was, why they were photographed, and who took the photo,” she says, sharing that even when she comes across a newer image she likes, she manipulates it to make it appear as if it’s from the past. “My intention when using these images is to create new meaning and stories and find ways to connect these with my own.”
De Dier’s collages depict individuals seated in a traditional portrait posture or interacting and conversing with one another in interior settings. The relaxed atmosphere offers a counterpoint to a legacy of those who migrated to Panama in the early 1900s to build the Panama Canal. De Dier examines the “struggle, failed expectations, and heritage of a displaced people” that are informed by interviews and collected stories, remembering a period of grueling labor and challenging living conditions in the segregated Canal Zone.
Combining paper, woven African fabrics, and swatches of denim cut from jeans to make dresses, cloaks, furnishings, and architectural details, De Dier highlights “racial, religious, and language disparities within Panamanian society and culture” while emphasizing individuals’ powerful presences and contributions to the fabric of daily life, both literally and metaphorically. “Denim has always been present in some way,” she says. “It’s also one of the most worn textiles in Panama—where I was born and currently live—even with our warm and humid weather. Denim, to me, is connected with labor and serves as a way of placing these people and events from the past in a context that’s current.”
Find more of De Dier’s work on her website, and follow updates on Instagram.
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