Through Trompe L’oeil Bronze, Prune Nourry Fuses Human Anatomy and Arboreal Roots
At the end of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s baroque opera Atys, the titular character is transformed into a tree. This metamorphosis, the result of a spell cast by an agitated goddess, secures Atys’ Earth-bound fate, melding human and plant life into a single body.
French artist Prune Nourry draws on this mythological allegory in a series that visualizes the hybrid form. Standing several feet tall to be lifelike or larger, a trio of bronze figures emerges through intricate networks mimicking both veins and branches, “fractal shapes that we can find in different scales in nature,” the artist says. Each sculpture references the form’s roots in operatic performance, and Nourry painted the smooth metal in a trompe l’oeil style so that the works appear as if made of rope, used frequently in stage rigging. This illusory material also alludes to the connection between the infinitely large and infinitely small, a concept often described in the framework of string theory.
Nourry, who lives and works between New York and Paris, has long been interested in the body and the way it interacts with the environment. She recently completed a massive public work featuring a pregnant mother embedded in the land, and earlier projects include anatomical sculptures that similarly connect vein and branch. In her ongoing In Vitro series that began back in 2010, for example, Nourry uses laboratory glass to create delicate, sprawling renditions of human lungs and bodies. As a whole, her practice “questions the notion of balance and the ethical issues attached to it: the body and healing process, the dangerous demographic imbalance due to (the) selection of babies’ sex in some countries, the ecosystem, and (the) interdependence between living species,” a statement says.
Last year, the artist collaborated on a performance of Atys, and you can see the massive rope installation she created for that production in the video below. Find more of her corporeal projects on Instagram.
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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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Leaves, Insects, and Human Anatomy Converge in Delicate Pencil Drawings by Amahi Mori
Through veins and hybridized beings, Japanese artist Amahi Mori connects life across the plant and animal kingdoms. Various circulatory systems blend together in seamless compositions with leafy greens emerging from a blue morpho or cloaking an elongated human hand. Rendered in graphite, colored pencil, and watercolor, Amahi’s delicate works center on the vibrancy of life conveyed through brilliantly patterned wings and supple leaves. Many of the drawings are also tinged with the otherworldly and surreal, particularly as human skin stretches to account for a growing stem.
Amahi has a solo exhibition slated for this May at Ginza Getsukoso Gallery. Until then, find an archive of her fused creatures on her site and Instagram.
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Expressive Eyes Painted by Robyn Rich Peek Out from Vintage Tins
What does it mean to see? To be seen? Artist Robyn Rich (previously) examines these questions in her practice as she paints realistic eyes that peer out from vintage tins and small vessels. The tiny works harness physical particularities to relay the emotions and idiosyncrasies of the subject, whether through thick brows, wrinkles, or mascaraed lashes that frame the delicate organs. Intimate and unsettling when displayed in large collections, the miniature pieces explore various aspects of the gaze and perspective and ask who is watching whom.
Rich’s solo show Optics is on view through December 23 at Beinart Gallery in Melbourne. Find more of her work on Instagram.
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Vintage Illustrations of Flora and Fauna Are Superimposed into Surreal Portraits by MUMI
Feathers, flowers, leaves, and the human muscular system are spliced into an eclectic camouflage in MUMI’s surreal portraits. From vintage encyclopedias, magazines, and art historical paintings, the Argentinian artist cuts and layers images into compositions that vacillate between the whimsical and the bizarre. Led by a larger narrative, the collages commingle styles, eras, colors, and textures into disorienting portraits, all spurred by the artist’s desire to experiment. “I truly enjoy the organic process in which I let myself go freely,” MUMI shares. “There are endless possibilities when I cut an image. I take it out of its context, its direct meaning, or its origin, and I give it a new surreal environment.”
Prints are available from Society6, and you can find an archive of her fantastic works on Instagram.
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Plastic Bottle Caps Bound by Thread Undulate Across Ghizlane Sahli’s Embroidered Sculptures
Echoing coral, cells, and the contours of the female body, Ghizlane Sahli stitches sculptural embroideries that curve and arch in shapely forms. The voluptuous works are part of what the Marrakech-based artist terms The Aveoles, a series made from plastic bottle caps interlaced with thread. With a background in architecture, Sahli shares that she “is always concerned by space and volume,” two components that manifest in myriad ways throughout her three-dimensional works.
The salvaged caps nestle into dense patches covered in silk and wool, adding texture and depth to the overall works and referencing the inherent relationship between the individual and the whole. “It is the atom that constitutes the substances. It is the cell whose accumulation creates the matter,” Sahli tells Colossal, noting that she finds the repetition of washing, stitching, and assembling her works meditative and trance-like.
“I also have the feeling that each waste comes from a previous life with its own energy. The final artwork is made with the accumulation of all the energies of the different waste and has its own soul.” This idea of gathering proliferates Sahli’s practice, and she often works in collaboration with women in her community who utilize ancestral embroidery techniques, translating the traditional, localized methods into contemporary contexts with universal themes of preservation and vitality.
Sahli was recently named a winner in The Spirit of Ecstasy Challenge, which will be touring internationally in the coming months. For more of the artist’s textile-based work, visit her site and Instagram.
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