Through stunning renderings of Black children and women, Jamaican-American artist Jessica Spence explores the beauty of finished braids, twists held in place with plastic barrettes, and perfectly laid edges. Her acrylic paintings generally depict a single subject, who often is turned away from the viewer, centering the hair and how it’s presented rather than the person’s face. Spence focuses on the intricacies of each lock, comparing the styling process to that of painting. “I nurtured each brushstroke like I would a strand of hair, a two-strand twist, or a braid,” she shares with Colossal.
Based in New York, the artist imbues her paintings with social commentary derived from her own experiences and from those around her. She considers the impossibility of beauty standards, by saying:
I was inspired to create my current body of work on Black hair in response to the discrimination and chastising experience of many Black women and girls in spaces such as the workplace or schools… The paintings show the beauty and versatility of these hairstyles and highlight the significance of hair in Black culture, while also highlighting these intimate experiences and routines of daily life.
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Photographer Justin Dingwall (previously) continues to challenge how the public perceives and defines beauty. In his photo series “Albus,” butterflies and snakes rest on models with albinism as symbols of transformation and change. The images are a celebration of diversity and an invitation for viewers to question and rethink conventional beauty standards.
The series includes portraits of model Sanele Junior Xaba and South African model, lawyer, and activist Thando Hopa, the first woman with albinism to grace the cover of Vogue. Dingwall uses light and dark in his work for contrast, but also symbolically to represent truth and an unenlightened state. The photographer also uses water in some of the photographs to indicate change and self- reflection.
“They are not about race or fashion, but about perception, and what we subjectively perceive as beautiful,” Dingwall in a statement. “I wanted to create a series of images that resonate with humanity and make people question what is beautiful…To me diversity is what makes humanity interesting and beautiful.”
To see more of Justin Dingwall’s work, give him a follow over on Instagram.
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Dramatic Decaying Flowers in Tiffanie Turner’s Solo Show “What Befell Us” Challenge Notions of Beauty and Perfection
In her latest solo exhibition, What Befell Us, California-based artist Tiffanie Turner explores notions of aging, imperfection, and perishability. Massive flower blossoms including dahlias, garden roses, ranunculus, and strawflowers are formed from Italian crepe paper and span more than five feet across. While in her previous work Turner strove for the ideal phenotype of each flower, in What Befell Us the artist pushes past perfection to investigate our collective relationship to flaws and damage.
The artist shares with Colossal that she felt strongly pulled to focus on climate change and environmental peril in her latest show. She expresses concern that humans’ resistance to perishability with plastic and preservatives also hastens irreparable damage to the earth. And, as a woman experiencing aging in a superficial society, Turner saw personal parallels with our global obsession with freshness and perfection. She explains:
When I started to choose my specimens for this show, instead of superimposing formal imperfections onto these pieces, I sought out flowers that are beautiful even though they are not perfect. For example, the two strawflowers in the show are two sides of the same coin. One is still bright and colorful, but its center is deformed as it starts to lose moisture. The other is older, its petals slumped back from the fading, greying center. Each are “imperfect”, but both are undeniably still beautiful. Why just keep trying to create more beauty. Why can’t we just see more things as beautiful?
What Befell Us is on view at Eleanor Harwood Gallery in San Francisco through June 15, 2019. Follow along with Turner’s latest work via Instagram. And if you’re inspired to create paper flowers of your own, the artist’s in-depth instructional book is available on Bookshop.
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Editor's Picks: Illustration
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.