A measure of well-written fiction is its ability to provoke clear images in the minds of its readers. For Bethany Bickley, though, the joy of envisioning protagonists and scenery has a more literal element. The Savannah-based artist utilizes pages torn from classics, magazines, and contemporary works to fashion distinctive paper sculptures of clenched fists, a lounging reader, and a trio of masks. Each figurative work serves as a tangible representation of otherwise imagined visuals.
Among her bookish sculptures are the iconic pear tree from Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, a seated Esther Greenwood from Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, and an amalgam of weapons and detective objects to symbolize the thriller genre. In a statement, Bickley said she merges narrative and imagery “to tell a story with impact and purpose. If there are no visuals, I create them.”
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A Natural History Compendium Catalogs Albertus Seba’s Exotic Specimens through Exacting Illustrations
Packed with careful illustrations of striped snakes, preserved creatures, and now-extinct animals, Cabinet of Natural Curiosities is one of the most impressive natural history compendiums of the 18th Century. Spanning nearly 600 pages, the new edition from Taschen features the work of Amsterdam-based pharmacist and zoologist Albertus Seba, who was a renowned collector of natural life. He commissioned the meticulous illustrations in 1731 that he then published into four, hand-colored volumes. The new Cabinet of Natural Curiosities catalogs these original drawings of exotic specimens in a single text and features writing by Irmgard Müsch, Jes Rust, and Rainer Willmann. Grab your copy from Taschen’s site.
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Known for transforming Barcelona’s architectural landscape, Antoni Gaudí famously combined nature, materiality, religion, and influences of Orientalism into a widely recognized aesthetic that’s captured in a new book from Taschen. Throughout more than 350 pages, Gaudí: The Complete Works encompasses the Catalan architect’s projects from the Casa Batlló to his first house, Casa Vicens, to his most recognized creation, the Sagrada Família. It features new and historical photographs, the architect’s plans and drawings, and an appendix of each of his projects—including buildings, furniture, decor, and even unfinished pieces.
With words by art critic Rainer Zerbst, the book considers the effects of Gaudí’s unconventional designs. “Like a personal tour through Barcelona, we discover how the ‘Dante of architecture’ was a builder in the truest sense of the word, crafting extraordinary constructions out of minute and mesmerizing details, and transforming fantastical visions into realities on the city streets,” a note about the text said. Grab a copy for yourself from Taschen’s site.
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Mimicking Connect the Dots puzzles, a new pair of flipbooks released by Flipboku reveals jumping characters and spinning geometric shapes. Created by the animation studio Zumbakamera, Dots & Lines is made of up two books by the same name—Dots features animations, while Lines unveils optical illusions—that utilize the technique of the classic game to create six different sequences that span the entirety of the book, depending on thumb placement. Flipping the book and positioning a thumb at the top, middle, or bottom of the books’ edges determines which animation the viewers see.
“With Dots & Lines, we’ve taken a 150-year-old medium and turned it up a notch, combining the popular dot-to-dot puzzle game with the original flipbook format,” said Flipboku co-founder Julie Reier. “It’s given life by gradually transforming the numbers into mind-boggling optical illusions and animated cartoon characters, ranging from astonishing to laugh-out-loud funny.” Get the latest on the live Kickstarter project on Instagram and YouTube.
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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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