Giana De Dier Introduces Anonymous Women of the African Diaspora in Bold Collaged Portraits
The mystique of anonymity is a powerful presence, exemplified by a common fascination with family albums and historical archives in which we try to recognize unknown faces. Who were they? What are their stories? In bold, mixed-media portraits, Panama City-based artist Giana De Dier is driven by the enigmatic quality of early photographs centering on women of the African Diaspora. Her subjects are often portrayed wearing patterned fabrics, large earrings, and elaborately plaited hairstyles, situated in front of photographed landscapes or domestic interiors that incorporate African masks and decor and tropical plants.
When she first began to make collages, De Dier culled imagery from glossy magazines like Vogue and Elle, incorporating materials and textures from clothing and textiles. Her recent work looks further back in time, drawing inspiration primarily from depictions of women in the 19th and 20th centuries. “I’m interested in who the person photographed was, why they were photographed, and who took the photo,” she says, sharing that even when she comes across a newer image she likes, she manipulates it to make it appear as if it’s from the past. “My intention when using these images is to create new meaning and stories and find ways to connect these with my own.”
De Dier’s collages depict individuals seated in a traditional portrait posture or interacting and conversing with one another in interior settings. The relaxed atmosphere offers a counterpoint to a legacy of those who migrated to Panama in the early 1900s to build the Panama Canal. De Dier examines the “struggle, failed expectations, and heritage of a displaced people” that are informed by interviews and collected stories, remembering a period of grueling labor and challenging living conditions in the segregated Canal Zone.
Combining paper, woven African fabrics, and swatches of denim cut from jeans to make dresses, cloaks, furnishings, and architectural details, De Dier highlights “racial, religious, and language disparities within Panamanian society and culture” while emphasizing individuals’ powerful presences and contributions to the fabric of daily life, both literally and metaphorically. “Denim has always been present in some way,” she says. “It’s also one of the most worn textiles in Panama—where I was born and currently live—even with our warm and humid weather. Denim, to me, is connected with labor and serves as a way of placing these people and events from the past in a context that’s current.”
Find more of De Dier’s work on her website, and follow updates on Instagram.
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Art History Illustration Science
Explore Hundreds of Exquisite Botanical Collages Created by an 18th-Century Septuagenarian Artist
At age 72, Mary Delany (1700-1788) devoted herself to her art practice, taking up a form of decoupage to create an exquisite collection of botanical collages from dyed and cut paper. She interpreted many of the delicate specimens she encountered in Buckinghamshire while staying with her friend, the Duchess of Portland, through layered pieces on black backdrops. From the wispy clover-like leaves of an oxalis plant to the wildly splayed petals of the daffodil, the realistic works are both stunning for their beauty and faithfulness to the original lifeforms.
Known for her scientific precision, Delany labeled each specimen with the plant’s taxonomic and common names, the date, location of creation, name of the donor, and a collection number, the latter of which was used to organize all 985 collages in her Flora Delanica series. Together, the works create a vast and diverse florilegium, or compilation of botanicals and writings in the tradition of commonplace books.
The British Museum houses most of Delany’s collages, which you can explore in an interactive archive that has information about the plants, artworks, and the option to zoom in on images of the pieces. You also might enjoy The Paper Garden, a book that delves into the artist’s work and what it means to foster a creative practice.
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From Chicago to Detroit, Yashua Klos Presents Black Resilience, Defiance, and Tenderness
Chicago continues to rank among the most segregated cities in the United States, with Black and brown populations living across the south and west sides that lack the investment and resources of the white-dominated northern neighborhoods. Caused by more than a century’s worth of inequitable governance, redlining, and various forms of discrimination, this enduring racial separation has irrevocably shaped the city and its residents, impacting those who came to the area during the Great Migration and those who call it home still today. It’s often said that the history of Chicago is also the history of segregation.
This infamous legacy is an essential component of Yashua Klos’s evolution as an artist. “I’m from the city of Chicago, and Chicago’s urban planning was designed for segregation, to separate Black and white,” he shares with Colossal. “That segregation is baked into the ‘redlining’ housing ownership policies and the geography of the city.”
Now based in the Bronx, Klos frequently reflects on his hometown and brings the gridded structure of its streets into his works. A 2021 solo show at UTA Artist Space exhibited portraits bisected by angular blocks textured like wood, brick, and cinder, allowing fragments of the uniform roadways to emerge through facial features. “In art history, the grid is a kind of tool for optical democracy. There’s no visual hierarchy in a grid—you can enter any space at any time. So, I’m interested in that grid’s proposal of democracy and how that’s failed Black folks, especially where I’m from and how Chicago is constructed,” he says.
The collaged portraits evoke the ways identities are an amalgam of both genetics and surrounding influences. They mimic three-dimensional forms that surface from the flat plane of the paper, and Klos portrays the subjects as breaking free from constraint or relying on the structure for support. “I’m considering Black folks who are forming a defiant sense of self in order to survive in an often unjust environment. This is why these head forms often appear built of construction materials and suggest that they are sculptures or even monuments,” the artist writes, referencing the art historical use of statues and portraits to convey value and respect.
While Klos spent his upbringing in Chicago, his father’s family has ties to Detroit, particularly the car industry and Ford plant where many relatives worked. Like his portraiture, the artist’s woodblock prints of singular, upturned hands allow this personal history to converge with broader themes of familial love and political resilience. The appendages grasp botanicals native to Michigan and blocks floating nearby as they deny “work in order to hold flowers,” he says. “Here, I’ve found (an) opportunity to explore themes of nurturing, tenderness, generosity, and self-care.”
To explore an archive of Klos’s works, visit his site and Instagram
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Everyday Situations Take an Amusing Turn in Toon Joosen’s Clever Collages
A man mows a field of text, a vacuum cleaner sucks up beachgoers, and kids shield themselves from falling words in the witty collages of Toon Joosen. From his studio in The Netherlands, the artist cuts and splices vintage photos, magazines, postcards, and book pages into clever works that take an ironic and surreal approach to everyday activities. Joosen tends to play with scale and perspective, creating tongue-in-cheek scenarios brimming with nostalgia and humor. He shares dozens of works on Instagram and has prints, buttons, and other goods available on Etsy.
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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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Metaphorical Portraits by Michael Mapes Deconstruct Art History as Collaged Specimens
Photographs, scraps of fabric, human hair, dried flowers, and gelatin capsules are a few of the materials that artist Michael Mapes (previously) arranges into fragmented portraits and still lifes. Referencing traditions and prominent works in art history, Mapes interprets figures and fruits through deconstructed compositions. Set in specimen boxes evocative of those used in entomological studies, the collages utilize the metaphor of scientific study as a way to dismantle and reconstruct the contexts and meanings of the original works.
Mapes begins each piece with research around the subject matter and materials, and many of the artist’s most recent works center on muses, like fashion designer Emilie Louise Flöge who was the lifelong companion of Gustav Klimt. “I’ve been making studies, smaller scale works that allow me to consider compositional approaches for larger pieces,” he says about the series. “It connects the past to the present in a very personal way. A muse vibe is inspired by mining art history to find subjects that resonate with me and my work process.”
Mapes, who is based in Hudson Valley, has a few works currently available, which you can find on his site and Instagram.
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