A Monumental Bas-Relief Sculpture by Nick Cave Connects Senegalese and U.S. Cultures in a Web of Beadwork
Innumerable pony beads, pipe cleaners, sequins, and objects gathered from two continents overlay a web of rainbow mesh that’s suspended in the U.S. Embassy atrium in Dakar. Installed in 2012, the expansive work by Chicago-based artist Nick Cave (previously) is composed of amorphous swells and circular patches of multicolor netting that stretch 20 x 25 feet. Physically connecting pieces of both U.S. and Senegalese culture, the webbed, bas-relief sculpture symbolically stands as “a unifier that brings people together,” Cave says in an interview.
Virginia Shore and Robert Soppelsa curated the project for Art in Embassies, a program led by the U.S. Department of State that fosters cross-cultural exchange through visual arts and spans more than 200 venues in 189 countries. “When you think about Art in Embassies and cultural diplomacy, what is interesting for me, as an artist, is, how can I facilitate that within the work that is developed? Yes, I will create the piece for the embassy, but I was also interested in ways to integrate the artists that live and work here,” he says.
Cave developed the structural portion of the work in his Chicago studio, and after meeting Sengalese artists, scholars, and students, he utilized pieces from three locals—Seni M’Baye, Loman Pawlitschek, and Daouda N’Diaye—once on site. The resulting installation, which weighs nearly 500 pounds, took Cave and ten assistants more than three months to complete.
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Arresting Sculptural Reliefs by Artist Anne Samat Layer Everyday Objects with Meticulously Woven Threads
In her fiber-based reliefs, Malaysian artist Anne Samat disrupts classic woven patterns with unusual objects: toy soldiers, rakes, and plastic swords are intertwined in the multi-color threads that fan outward and billow down onto the floor. Comprised of a trio of wall hangings and a free-standing sculpture, “Follow Your Heart Wholeheartedly” meticulously juxtaposes beadwork and traditional South Asian weaving techniques with common items, a project that questions the boundaries of craft and art.
Each section is incredibly complex and infused with references to Samat’s family, identity, and experiences with loss. The largest work, for example, features five sections, with the innermost piece paying homage to her late brother who recently died after a long illness. Flanking the central portion are two stately pillars with pink and blue details that represent her mother and father. The outermost layers that sprawl from floor to ceiling evoke the artist herself and her sister, who are the only two living members of her family. Even the title is derived from advice Samat received from her father before he died.
“Follow Your Heart Wholeheartedly” is on view through February 7, 2021, as part of the Asia Society Triennial.
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UK-based embroidery artist Amber Griffiths is riding a wave of anatomical inspiration in her latest designs. Typically inspired by nature, Griffiths tells Colossal that her series kicked off when looking to put a non-traditional spin on the iconic Valentine’s Day heart. “I’m not particularly someone who’s into all the mushy classic love hearts, so I thought the anatomical route would be much more interesting,” Griffiths says. That set off an obsessive exploration of human anatomy through her primary embroidery technique—the punch needle. This method pushes yarn or thread through the fabric while staying on one side, in comparison to normal stitching during which the needle moves in and out of the fibers.
Griffiths finds the ways the organic shapes, layers, and textures fit together endlessly fascinating. While anatomy is an enjoyable yet challenging subject to dive into, she also finds it educational. She spends time researching the particular organ or system, finding at least 20 to 30 reference images before starting. The embroidery artist embellishes her anatomical pieces with various beads and even mimics a fused spine using real metal screws.
Although she learned how to sew at a young age, Griffiths took up embroidery as a way to relax while on holiday break during her final year at university and hasn’t put down the punch needle since. She’s also become a resource for those wanting to try the difficult punch needling technique and shares her process on YouTube.
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Based in Austria, Natalia Lubieniecka scours Vienna’s markets for antique objects, fabrics, and anatomical posters that eventually inform and meld into her peculiar sculptures. Whether it be a blush-colored heart enveloped in florals, a supine frog with exposed entrails, or a deceased bird covered in a lace bodice, her fantastical works speak to the fragile relationship between life and death.
The sculptor tells Colossal that her interest in organs and bodies began after a visit to Naturhistorische Museum Wien, where she encountered taxidermy of birds, insects, and other animals. Her favorite piece, though, is her faux anatomical heart because it pushed her to expand her source material. “I think that human and animal anatomy has something magical about it. Each organ is responsible not only for the functioning of the body, but also for feelings, thoughts, and emotions, and these transport us to another magical dimension,” she said.
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Beadwork artist Myrlande Constant has spent nearly three decades honing the craft of her intricate flag tableaux. Often spanning six or seven feet, the large-scale flags feature religious, historical, and mythological scenes, surrounded by a beaded “frame” of abstract patterns or symbolic objects. Constant hails from from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where she continues to live and work. The artist learned the art form her mother, who was a factory worker at a local wedding dress manufacturer that created beaded garments. Apparently, several other women who were employed at the factory also created artwork in the Vodou flag tradition outside of work hours.
Constant was recently commissioned to create a new work, one of her largest to date, for Faena Hotel in Miami, Florida. It will be displayed, along with several of her other flags, during Faena Festival, a free series of events and installation running December 2 – 8, 2019, alongside Miami Art Week. Learn more about Constant’s work in a Huffington Post article by Wesleyan University.
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Artist Ava Roth loves working on collaborative projects. But her studiomates aren’t fellow two-footed friends. Rather, Roth pairs with her backyard honeybees to create mixed media collages combining embroidery, beadwork, fabric, tree bark, and honeycomb. The Toronto-based artist builds artworks inside the comb frames, and the bees complete the pieces by encasing them in organic honeycomb patterns. “This project is a collaboration in the truest sense. It involves careful listening, respecting the bees, and cooperating with them entirely, from the choice of materials, size, timing and scope of design,” Roth tells Colossal. “My intention is to celebrate the extraordinary work of the honeybee and match it with sewings that invoke their delicate and ephemeral comb.”
The artist explains that she had been working in encaustic, a painting technique that incorporates wax, for several years, and decided to start collaborating with her bees as she learned more about Colony Collapse Disorder and sought to uplift and honor the bee’s work.
The threadwork in this collection mirrors the fragility and beauty of the honeycomb in which they are encased. By placing the embroideries in hoops, I am also giving a nod to a tradition of women’s work. Since the working bees are all female – and not making ‘fine art’, the finished pieces are very much in the tradition of marginalized women’s work, and sewing in particular. Because both the bees work and traditional women’s work have been largely functional, their beauty and significance have been easily overlooked.
Roth tells Colossal that it took a great deal of trial and error to solve for the variables like what materials the bees respond to instead of destroying, how long to keep the pieces in the hive before honey is deposited, and conveying to the insects which areas they should or shouldn’t build comb. The artist shares that she worked closely with Master Beekeeper Mylee Nordin on strategizing and implementing the project. Shown here are works from her abstract series; Roth also works in this mode with more representational images, which you can see on her website.
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