Moscow-based artist Nastasya Shuljak transforms packs of wool into sculptures of small animals and other whimsical creatures. Plants sprout from the heads of smiling trees and other natural spirits. Polar bears, foxes, hares, and other critters stare through inquisitive eyes applied to their tiny woolen faces. Shuljak’s toys are an exercise in the flexibility of the material and also a way to bring joy to all who meet them.
Shuljak, a former theater artist and art teacher, tells Colossal that the practice of making creatures began when friends gifted her some wool. With that first bag she made a bear and a hare, and the menagerie has been growing ever since. “I saw children’s sonorous happiness in an adult man holding in his hands what I did,” says Shuljak. “Until now, it touches me, causes surprise and peace.” Commenting on the purpose of the figures, she added that her animals “do not aspire to the exhibition hall, do not claim to be art. These are just small lumps of joy, carefree second smiles.”
Shuljak teaches classes in Moscow on how to create the toys and also sells them via social media. For more information on upcoming workshops and to meet more of these adorable wool creatures, follow Shuljak on Instagram.
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Jonatan Maldonado, a Los Angeles-based artist and creative director, has a strong sense of pareidolia, the psychological phenomenon causing humans to see faces and meaning in inanimate objects. In Creatures of the Ancient Forest, Maldonado’s black and white photographs frame found branches and chunks of wood at just the right angle, allowing viewers to catch a glimpse of a squawking bird or a horned animal poking its head out of a tree.
The dark, twisted series is ongoing, and the artist tells Colossal he’ll soon be in Alabama Hills, California, searching for more pieces. “The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in California is the home to the oldest trees in the world,” he says. “Being surrounded by their spectacular shapes feels truly magical, or maybe it’s the lack of oxygen when hiking at 10,000 feet.” Follow Maldonado on Instagram to see what he spots next.
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150,000 Botanical and Animal Illustrations Available for Free Download from Biodiversity Heritage Library
Billed as the world’s largest open access digital archive dedicated to life on Earth, the Biodiversity Heritage Library is comprised of animal sketches, historical diagrams, botanical studies, and various scientific research collected from hundreds of thousands of journals and libraries around the globe. In an effort to share information and promote collaboration to combat the ongoing climate crisis, the site boasts a collection of more than 55 million pages of literature, some of which dates back to the 15th century. At least 150,000 illustrations are available for free download in high-resolution files.
Among the collections is a digital copy of Joseph Wolf’s The Zoological Sketches, two volumes containing about 100 lithographs depicting wild animals housed in London’s Regent’s Park. Wolf originally sketched and painted the vignettes in the mid-19th century. Other diverse works range from a watercolor project detailing flowers indigenous to the Hawaiian islands, to a guide for do-it-yourself taxidermy replete with illustrated instructions published in 1833.
The library also offers a variety of tools, including search features to find species by taxonomy and another option to monitor online conversations related to books and articles in the archive. Consistently adding collections to the public domain, the organization currently is working on a project to promote awareness of the field notes available from the Smithsonian Institution Archives, the Smithsonian Libraries, and the National Museum of Natural History.
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Knoxville, Tennessee-born artist Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels ruptures long-held conceptions that human environments are stable—literally. Part of two different projects at Catinca Tabacaru Gallery and the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Bothwell Fels creates ridge- and mountain-like installations that split and burst through the floorboards, sometimes even spanning multiple rooms. With lighter pigmented tops, the wood pieces swell and expand, solidifying their resemblance to natural features.
The artist’s goal is to transform mundane spaces into areas of disruption, forcing her viewers to question how their environments inform their senses of reality. In a statement, Bothwell Fels said her “sculptural ecosystems pierce the architectural facade of banality with fantastical outcroppings of growths, pores, wrinkles, spills, fractalized structures, and rupture, inviting a reassessment (of) the norms that are established and reinforced through the physical materiality of our built environments.”
Her show Beauty Surplus is on view through May 24 at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Check out Instagram for more of Bothwell Fels’s destabilizing projects. (via Art Ruby)
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Paper artist and illustrator Hollie Chastain clips, layers, and stitches found photographs and scraps of paper ephemera to create her mixed-media collages. The Chattanooga, Tennessee-based artist repurposes old narratives and images—in one piece, tuba players pop out of a library card pocket, and in another, two men tug on a string woven through a handwritten note—providing a new story for each regenerated work.
Chastain tells Colossal she began working with the medium in 2008. “Vintage book covers became a favorite substrate,” she says. “I fell in love with the scribbles, stamps, library and school identification, water and ink marks and all the other visual history and how that added to and sometimes altered the composition of the piece. ” Today, she often cuts images from National Geographic copies printed in the 1960s and 70s, gravitating toward “strong characters and people in action.”
To share her appreciation of the versatile medium, Chastain published an instructional book detailing various techniques and methods. “What I adore about collage as a medium is the complete versatility and the allowances that it gives first time creators to play around with color and texture and composition without any ‘but I can’t draw’ and ‘I’m not an artist’ hang-ups,” she says. If you want to join Chastain and start your own textured project, order a copy of If You Can Cut, You Can Collage. Otherwise, check out her shop and follow her on Instagram.
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Paola Delfín’s monochromatic murals found in Cancun, St. Petersburg, and cities worldwide all share a message of unity and community. The Mexico-based artist often creates impeccably detailed and stylized profile views, which show her subjects looking down or into the distance, joined by plants, grasses, and flowers of the local environment.
Her lifelike works center on ideas of women’s strength and their ability to build community, in addition to the ways families are bound together and remember their ancestors—although Delfín tells Colossal she has a more personal connection to the Cancun mural, which depicts a couple staring forward as they cradle a small boat.
My family, uncle and aunt, are part of (the) pioneers. They moved to this city almost 40 years ago and watched it grow. They started a school. My uncle worked on a ship for many years. Now the younger generations are trying to bring more culture since this city transformed into a tourist paradise, and sometimes we forget this was the place where centuries ago the great Mayan culture (rose).
The artist finds murals challenging because of her desire to “leave something meaningful” for those who pass by her work. Before she begins creating in any location, she studies the history and culture of the neighborhood she’s working in and talks to its residents to learn their stories. For “Familia/Suku,” the artist spoke with Tampere residents to understand how immigrants and natives across generations form a community in the Finnish city. In the horizontal piece, Suham, an Iranian expat, leans toward elderly Maya, who has lived in the country for 50 years, while Suham’s daughter Sofia stands in front of them.
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Marianne Eriksen Scott-Hansen doesn’t have to worry about her flowers wilting. She constructs enormous bouquets of tissue paper blossoms featuring countless petals and leaves in color-coordinated bunches. The Copenhagen-based artist tells Colossal that she doesn’t keep track of the pieces of paper or number of hours she spends on her large-scale projects, preferring to focus on creating rather than the actual process of cutting and shaping. Each piece is crafted by hand and without patterns or templates, making every petal, stem, and bit of pollen unique.
Much of Scott-Hansen’s work reflects her childhood in the countryside, anchoring her style in nature and Danish folk art. Heavily rooted in craft, the artist says she works both artistically and intuitively. “It’s all in the hands so to speak. I want to enter into a dialogue with the material. Work my way into it. Exploring rather than ‘mere’ re-working and investigation. (Seeing) how far can you ‘stretch’ paper.” She enjoys using the same material to create various textures, contrasting durable, rough wood and delicate petals.
Thrift, hard work, and industry are required as well, in order for my artworks to grow into something other than the tissue they were. Something must be small before it can be big, humble before it can be flashy—it is the contrast of nature that carries opulence within it and triggers our imagination. In my reworking, the tissue paper roots of the triffid may also become that of the rose.
The artist graduated from The School of Design at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1995 with a degree in fashion design. Since then, she’s collaborated with a long list of clients including Elle Denmark, Karl Lagerfeld, and Hermès, to name a few. Currently, she’s working on an installation for an international summit planned in Copenhagen in May. See more of Scott-Hansen’s blooming projects on Instagram. (via The Jealous Curator)
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Editor's Picks: Architecture
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