In order to give to artists, writers, and small booksellers more directly, Colossal has removed nearly every link to Amazon from previous posts and replaced them with Bookshop.org. The new online platform supports independent bookstores by pooling 10 percent of all sales to be distributed evenly among participating businesses every six months, in addition to offering an affiliate program. During the last decade, Colossal has supplemented a small fraction of revenue through occasional affiliate marketing that provides us with a percentage of sales through retailers like Amazon, Etsy, and Society6.
Colossal’s ongoing collection on Bookshop contains a range of texts in categories like photography, art, and history. Currently, you’ll find works like If You Can Cut, You Can Collage: From Paper Scraps to Works of Art by collage artist Hollie Chastain, In Her Kitchen: Stories and Recipes from Grandmas Around the World: A Cookbook by photographer Gabriele Galimberti, and Naturalia, a compilation of photographs captured by Jonathon Jimenez, aka Jonk, among other works featured on Colossal during the past 10 years. Head to Bookshop and see what we’ve been paging through.
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It’s well understood that producing a single book is an arduous task, making it even more impressive that British photographer Alastair Philip Wiper is offering three distinct versions of his newly released work, Unintended Beauty. The monograph is available in three covers—an orange or blue option with architectural and machine focuses and a black one with hanging sausages—created by the design firm, IRONFLAG.
The Copenhagen-based artist has an eye for spotting the sublime complexities inside warehouses, factories, and shipyards of global institutions like Adidas, Boeing, The European Space Agency, and the Swiss research laboratory CERN, where he captured the pattern and symmetry of the industrial spaces. “We create systems, structures and machines that allow us to provide for our lives and answer our questions about the universe. Machines tell the story of our needs and desires, our hopes and follies, our visions for the future,” Wiper said in a statement.
Something I want to do is challenge what people think of as beautiful, because there are a lot of things that you can say are ugly and beautiful at the same time. The title of the book ‘Unintended Beauty’ is meant to be a bit provocative. A lot of beautiful things should have a bit of ugliness to them.
Including a foreward written by theoretical physicist Marcelo Gleiser and an interview with the artist conducted by Ian Chillag, the 208-page book features 90 full-color images and is printed on Galerie Art Silk paper with a cover of Italian Manifattura del Seveso cotton textile. Unintended Beauty is now available from Hatje Cantz, although each edition has a limited number of copies.
Two exhibitions for the project will open this year, one on February 26 at RIBA, London and another on April 2 at the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Bordeaux. Until then, you can keep up with Wiper’s exploration of technical intricacies by following him on Instagram. (via Creative Boom)
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Ectlectrc Pencil: Lost Collection of Pencil Drawings Reveals Trials of Patient at Missouri State Hospital No. 3
Harris Diamant knew he discovered an important piece of outsider art when he came across a hand-bound book of drawings for sale on Ebay in 2006. Listed by a bookseller in Lawrence, Kansas, the collection was comprised of 238 crayon and colored pencil illustrations on ledger paper by a then-anonymous author and was sold to a collector minutes after being posted. Diamant reached out to the buyer to share his contact information in case the person decided to sell the work. Soon enough, he purchased the entirety of the cardboard, cloth, and leather-bound book that held a hefty five-figure price tag.
The series is titled Ectlectrc Pencil—a misspelled version of Electric Pencil—and features lightly-pigmented drawings from a patient at Missouri State Hospital No. 3, a moniker that often tops the pages. On the cover, a thin-lipped woman with coiffed hair holds up a bouquet of flowers. Other pages include a brown lion with a bird swooping overhead carrying a banner saying “Cat Rag,” while another depicts a rocky gorge with a train running above it. The portraits throughout the work are detailed similarly: most people have large eyes and are dressed in clothes indicative of the early 20th century. Each page is numbered in the top corner.
After multiple unsuccessful attempts to sell the entire collection, Diamant brought the drawings to the 2011 Outsider Art Fair in New York, where the project garnered attention from The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Art on Paper. Firmly planted within the tradition of outsider art, the Electric Pencil project somewhat resembles the work of Henry Darger, the American writer and artist who worked as a Chicago hospital custodian while creating hundreds of drawings and watercolor paintings that were discovered after his death. His pieces now sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
As talk about the unknown artist’s identity grew—Diamant even hired a private investigator to look into the project—so did interest in the collection. According to a 2012 report in Riverfront Times, a 52-year-old woman soon contacted Diamant about the artifact. She was the niece of James Edwards Deeds Jr., the collection’s creator.
Born in the Panama Canal Zone in 1908, Deeds frequently was abused and mistreated by his father. When he was four years old, the family moved to McCracken, Missouri, where they ran a successful farm. By age 25, Deeds’s parents sent him to the Marshall School for the Feeble Minded, an outmoded component of a system that sequestered people with a range of educational and social capabilities. Three years later, he was committed to the state hospital in Nevada for the rest of his life.
Housing more than 2,000 patients at its greatest capacity in 1950, the state hospital was situated on 500 acres and was an active farm that patients worked throughout their stays. In a conversation with Colossal, Diamant mentioned that four pages in the book, including the cover and title of the project, refer to ECT or electroconvulsive therapy, a procedure that sends small electric currents through the brain in order to cause a seizure, which alters the brain chemistry and can aid in mental illness. The frequent mention of the therapy points to the effect it had on Deeds as he underwent standard treatment from doctors at the time.
Reports printed in Riverfront Times from the state hospital described Deeds as “psychotic, disturbed, boisterous and delusional.” Doctors diagnosed him officially with schizophrenia.
On the ward, he is hilarious, sings and runs around on the hall…Worked for the state of Arkansas for a man he did not know. States he only committed one crime and that was murder, and did not think that amounted to very much. Said they told him at home he was crazy, but he does not think so, but his mind is not quite right since he got hit on the head with a stick. He is in no way depressed, is much pleased at being here, says he is worth twenty or thirty million dollars. He states that he is most popular with the girls, that they are all running after him. When asked how (illegible notation) he states that he was just born that way.
While committed to the institution, Deeds crafted scenes of circuses replete with animals and performers, in addition to what seem to be depictions of the expansive hospital. Page 33 even features a yellow-eyed man sporting a top hat called “Why Doctor,” perhaps an indication of how Deeds’ understood those who oversaw his care.
Diamant also noted that the cover and many of the inside pages show signs of wear, signaling that Deeds carried his prized project with him often. As his most valued possession, Deeds gifted his illustrated works to his mother to protect them from getting ruined or thrown away, but of course, that plan didn’t work out as he intended. Lost for years, a 14-year-old boy found the collection in the trash in 1970 at the Springfield town dump, and it was then passed through various hands until Diamant purchased it.
He’s been digging deeper into the story since, trying to uncover and share information about Deeds’s life and the creativity the artist fostered while confined to a life inside Missouri State Hospital No. 3. For deeper insight into the Deeds’s life and his illustrated project, grab a copy of The Drawings of the Electric Pencil.
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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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What’s a road trip without checking out the scenery? Chris Helzer, aka The Prairie Ecologist, has put together a new guide for those who want to know a little bit more about the wildflowers they see along the roadside but don’t want to leave their moving vehicles.
What about the silent majority who prefer to experience wildflowers the way General Motors intended – by whizzing past them in a fast, comfortable automobile? How are nature-loving-from-a-distance drivers supposed to learn the names and habits of the wildflowers as they speed blissfully past them at 65 (85?) miles per hour?
“A Field Guide to Roadside Wildflowers at Full Speed,” which is available for free download, is a satirical take on the classic handbook that describes the plant, says when it’s in bloom, and gives a hint about where to find it. For Helzer’s project, though, each habitat is listed as “roadsides” and similar flowers tend to include descriptions like “anything yellow.” The photographs identifying each species are blurred to “appear as they actually look when you see them from the road.”
A scientist for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska, Helzer began his blog in 2009 intending to serve as a resource for people interested in managing and restoring prairies. He tells Colossal he created this parody as a joke for his regular 4,500 readers who come to his site for his wildflower photos.
If you want to take this guide for a spin, be sure to heed Helzer’s warning: “Always use a designated passenger to look up flowers.” (via This Isn’t Happiness)
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There’s a well-known saying that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. For Guy Laramée (previously), though, a books’ contents aren’t the only important aspect either. The Montreal-based artist repurposes encyclopedic volumes and series of dictionaries to create topographic carvings that dip into and excavate the pages, framing the physical object as a work of art in itself. Laramée’s latest projects include a piece with minuscule carved steps scaling a mountainside and another with moss-covered ridges jutting up from low valleys. His work titled “Journey to the Center of the” features two side-by-side texts with a cavernous hole bored through them, piercing entirely through to the other side.
In 2018, the artist released a TEDx talk titled “No outside,” in which he considers conceptions of art in an age that fosters a growing addiction to ideas, leaving little room for contemplation. He refers to his text-based projects as being the perfect medium for exploring his “love-hate relationship with intellectual knowledge, (his) critique of the ideologies of progress, and the idea that true knowledge could very well be an erosion,” as he explores questions about the relationship between meaning, emotion, and art, more broadly.
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A new book by Charlotte Vannier considers how embroidery has evolved from a domestic task mostly done by women into an art. Comprised of the work of 84 contemporary artists from around the world—including Elisabeth Bucht, Rossana Taormina, Diane Meyer, and Aline Brant—From Thread to Needle: Contemporary Embroidery Art features full-page illustrations of embroidered pieces utilizing cotton canvas, photographs, plastic, and wire mesh. The 368-page book highlights work that is particularly distant from the decorative needlework of previous generations and ranges from fully embroidered cloth to sparingly stitched images to threaded toast. Often, the artists reinvent the craft by altering the methods and materials they use and rejecting the outdated notion that embroidery is only a feminine past time.
In an interview with VC Projects, Vannier described her obsession with thread and embroidery. “I am fascinated by the idea that a simple thread becomes a piece of art completely, and how many artists use it. Thread is like a pencil,” the writer says.
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