Art History Science

Interview: Heidi Gustafson Recounts Establishing an Archive Preserving Hundreds of Humanity’s Oldest Art Materials

June 7, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images © Heidi Gustafson, Early Futures, shared with permission

The word ochre tends to be associated with the warm brownish-yellow color, although it also refers to the physical substance that once removed from the earth, crushed, and combined with liquid, becomes paint. In a new interview supported by Colossal Members, we speak to forager, artist, and researcher Heidi Gustafson, who established the Early Futures Ochre Sanctuary in 2017 and has since amassed hundreds of samples of these pigments.

When you get into the nature of color (akin to tracing food from farm to table), you start to realize color symbolism has a lot of direct, solid foundations in geomorphology. Red that feels “intense or energizing” is often made of 500 million-year-old ancient volcano spew. Yellow that is “sunny” might be ochre made by spring sunlight interacting with microbes to create fresh iron hydroxide. Blue that feels “mournful or spiritual” could be made from vivianite (iron phosphate) forming in dead bodies.

In this conversation, Gustafson speaks about Early Futures, its evolution, and what it’s meant to work with a substance with such a rich and lengthy history. She discusses the multi-sensory and sometimes uncanny nature of her process, the threat the climate crisis poses to the earth’s stores, and how ochre’s legacy reaches far beyond its alluring color.

 

 

 



Art

Otherworldly Vistas and Noble Portraits Celebrate Life’s Mysteries in Sherman Beck’s Vibrant Paintings

June 6, 2022

Kate Mothes

“Portrait of Shirley Chisholm” (2022). All images © Sherman Beck, courtesy of Kavi Gupta and shared with permission

One of the original ten members of the groundbreaking Chicago-based artist collective AFRICOBRA founded in 1968, Sherman Beck paints vibrant portrayals of Black family, ancestry, and community that celebrate the wonder and mysticism of everyday life. In a retrospective at Kavi Gupta, paintings made during the past five decades explore themes of cultural identity, multidimensional time and space, and the origins of life.

In Ancestors, a series of untitled works from the 1990s, Beck juxtaposes traditional African masks, labeled as if in a museum display, alongside contemporary Black faces. He challenges the viewer’s perception of reality and the imagination, combining realistic characteristics with vividly patterned backgrounds or portraying visages in bold geometric abstraction. The subjects of his portraits, which include historical figures such as Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress, or Frederick Douglass, the national abolitionist leader and social reformer, always gaze directly at the viewer.

Through symbolic motifs such as winding paths, all-seeing eyes, and contrasts between light and dark, Beck explores continuity across time periods and the human desire to understand how and why we exist. He questions the nature of revealing and concealing, oscillating between representational portraits, bold abstraction, and otherworldly interiors and landscapes that open up into enigmatic cosmic vistas.

Beck’s retrospective continues at Kavi Gupta in Chicago through July 30.

 

“Ancestors” (c. 1990)

“Ancestors” (2005)

“Time” (2022)

“The Boat” (2012)

“Eyes” (2022)

“Immersed” (2022)

“Sunrise/Sunset” (2012/2017)

“Untitled” (2022)

 

 

 



Art

Dreams Emanate from Sleeping Children in Lena Guberman’s Imaginative Ceramic Sculptures

June 6, 2022

Grace Ebert

All images © Lena Guberman, shared with permission

A mass of unruly curls, scaly bodies, and motifs painted in red cradle the sleeping children in Lena Guberman’s ceramics. Lying in the center of round plates, the young characters are suspended in states of slumber, their joys, anxieties, and formative experiences flowing from their resting bodies. “I was an introverted child, compensating for my loneliness with dreams and fantasies. I had a feeling that there is a creature protecting me from anything bad that can happen,” the Israel-based artist tells Colossal. “I think those visions came to me when sculpting.”

Primarily illustrating picture books, editorial pieces, and animations, Guberman began working with ceramics a few years ago, although only recently returned to the medium as a reprieve from her otherwise two-dimensional practice. Part of her growing sculpture collection, the plates shown here reflect her imaginative style and similarly capture the expressive, whimsical qualities of her drawings.

Guberman shares an archive of her works on Behance and Instagram.

 

 

 



Art

Vivid Contours and Bold Colors Illuminate Empowering Portraits by Naledi Tshegofatso Modupi

June 6, 2022

Kate Mothes

“Colours.” All images © Naledi Tshegofatso Modupi, shared with permission

In vibrant and expressive digital portraits, Cape Town-based artist Naledi Tshegofatso Modupi captures the essence of individual style, confidence, and joy. Pools of color highlight eyelids, cheekbones, chins, or ears while continuous lines define the contours of the subjects’ features and profiles. Intricate linear patterns adorn an array of distinctive hairstyles and accessories, celebrating women’s unique and empowering stories. Focusing on the beauty of Black people, the artist says in a statement that she aims to “inspire confidence and awaken hope in those who are able to find their reflections in her pieces.”

Modupi will have work in Modern Flavours with Brutal Curation in Cape Town from June 11 to July 1. She also has prints available in her shop, and you can find more of her work on Instagram and Behance.

 

“Hair is Jewellery”

“Accept Imperfections”

“Inhale Peace”

“Issa Rae”

“Stay Shining”

“What a Woman”

 

 



Art Craft

Vivid Compositions in Thread Enliven Hollow Spaces in Diana Yevtukh’s Striking Embroideries

June 3, 2022

Kate Mothes

“Why did they do this to us” (2022). All images © Diane Yevtukh, shared with permission

Ukrainian artist Diana Yevtukh draws inspiration from her surroundings by carefully situating cornucopian floral arrangements made of thread in the hollows of trees. Based in Lviv, her work has assumed more urgency since the invasion of her home country by Russian forces earlier this year, and pieces like “Why did they do that to us” draw on her background in photography and design to spread the crucial message that Ukraine remains under threat.

The artist’s meticulous needlework pieces feature a medley of vibrant flowers like poppies, daisies, and sunflowers, which nestle into the surfaces and appear to effervesce from within. Her works are often juxtaposed with rough or decaying surfaces like old stone walls or rusting metal to “heal” the damage, emphasizing the possibility for beauty and strength in unexpected places.

You can find more of Yevtukh’s work on Instagram.

 

“And the spring will come, and night will be gone”

“Life is breaking out of the mysterious hideaways”

“Stitch by stitch, cracked and forgotten wall blossoms with new life”

“No cage can hold the radiance of hope”

 

 



Art

Layers of Intricately Cut Paper Evoke Strength and Vulnerability in Christine Kim’s Elegant Collages

June 2, 2022

Kate Mothes

“By Heart” (2022). All images © Christine Kim, shared with permission

In intricately cut collages by Ontario-based artist Christine Kim, flowers, foliage, and crown-like adornments encompass anonymous portraits. Painted floral motifs on carefully torn pieces of paper paired with slats of wood appear like lath exposed beneath ornate wallpaper, providing a backdrop for the elegant silhouettes. The elaborate designs of the figures’ headdresses suggest wrought iron with delicate strands of plants or ribbon partially obscuring their faces. In her series Paper Thin, Kim explores myriad techniques for working with the ubiquitous material.

Inspired to examine relationships between surface, pattern, and volume, she portrays how the medium can be both fragile and solid, rigid yet flexible. She describes in a statement that the series evokes “dualities of strength and vulnerability, as stark black fences crown the regal female figures, but these barriers are, in the end, only paper-thin.”

Kim’s work is currently on view at Galerie Youn in Montréal as part of the group exhibition YOUNIVERSE until July 3. You can find more of her work on her website and on Instagram.

 

“Yesterday’s Thoughts” (2022).

“Stories We Tell” (2022)

“At Least” (2022)

“In Good Faith” (2022)

“Boundaries of Ours” (2022)