An extraordinarily glamorous collaboration graces the pages of ESSENCE’s January/February 2021 issue. The print publication paired acclaimed artist Lorna Simpson and pop icon and businesswoman Rihanna for a striking interpretation of modern beauty.
Within the Of Earth & Sky series are 12 collages and the cover image, which features Rihanna, eyelids coated in bright blue, staring directly at the camera. A diamond collar drapes around her neck, and she’s adorned with a roughly textured crown of crystal derived from 19th-century lithographs.
Many of the superimposed collages feature the Barbados-born singer framed in archival imagery, from star-studded galactic coiffes to bright bursts of watercolor. Others in the collection stray from hairstyle transformations and instead position her against vintage backdrops, including one shot of Rihanna donning an elaborately feathered headdress and lingerie in front of the city skyline.
Brooklyn-based Simpson is known for her kaleidoscopic collages centered on Black women that pull imagery from back issues of Ebony and Jet, a treatment she applies to ESSENCE‘s first-ever commission. The layered works are paired with an essay by the artist’s daughter, actress and model Zora Simpson Casebere, about Rihanna’s lasting influence on her own career. For more of Simpson’s collages that intersect contemporary culture and retro imagery, head to her site. (via Artnet)
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For Myriam Dion, a newspaper’s narrative qualities go beyond the text on the page. The Montreal-based artist accentuates the daily briefs and profiles in publications like The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and Le Monde by overlaying broadsheets with painstakingly cut newsprint. Brilliantly hued flowers veil an issue focused on the wildfires raging across California, while masked subjects appear in the foreground of a piece about the post-COVID economy. Each tableau centers on one narrative, supporting the journalism with intricate motifs and trimmed photographs spread across the unfolded issue.
Masking the text-based print with color and woven sections has been a recent addition to Dion’s practice. “This operation often doubles or triples the working time, but it helps solidify the works (which are already quite fragile) and gives more depth and possibilities to the patterns that I choose and invent,” she writes, noting that weaving thin strips through whole editions visually aligns her works more closely with fiber arts.
More often utilizing vintage copies of North American newspapers than she had previously, the artist has identified a through-line in many of the editions. “For a long time, and even today, the print media has been a forum articulated by and for the male sex, where women have occupied a limited place, and interestingly enough, the newspaper articles I have accumulated document the perception of women in the mass media over the last century,” she says.
Dion will be an artist in residence at the NARS Foundation in Brooklyn in 2021, where she plans to create 8-10 new pieces that merge these historic narratives with traditionally feminine art forms, like lacework and embroidery. The idea is subversive and pays “homage to the female public figures represented in these old newspapers, but more particularly to ordinary women to whom the recognition of any artistic contribution, both from a technical and conceptual point of view, has long been denied by the politics of art.”
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The anonymous pair behind Frank Moth (previously) characterize their layered digital collages as “nostalgic postcards from the future.” Using vintage photographs, the artistic duo merges retro visuals with natural elements like botanics and outer space to create playful composites that range from futuristic to romantic. “Our work almost always revolves around introspection, soul searching, and universal themes like eternity and human vices,” they share with Colossal.
Based in Veria, Greece, the pair sources images of tropical plants and starry expanses from a variety of sources, including library and museum databases and other photograph-centered websites that offer copyright-free works. “We still have our own huge inventory of images that we have been growing and expanding for many years, after endless digging and searching in databases of very old photos and scanned clippings of old magazines from the 60s and 70s,” they say.
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A decade ago, Catherine Nelson compiled hundreds of photographs of barren, snow-covered landscapes and autumnal forests for her project Future Memories 2010. The Australian artist, who lives and works between Ghent and Amsterdam, recently revisited that series to create a new body of work with similar world-building techniques. “With the tumultuous events of 2020 still unfolding and the undeniable links to the destruction of the natural world by mankind, it felt timely to return to the themes from that series, which talk about our planet and the importance of protecting what we have,” she says.
Composed of photographs captured during three years and across four continents, Future Memories 2020 spans “from the lush, tropical flora of Costa Rica and Far North Queensland and the fertile, volcanic mountains of the Azores, to the rolling hills of the Greenland tundra,” Nelson writes. Many of the orb-like digital assemblages feature thick brush and foliage around the outside, while the less-populated centers appear to bulge out. The organic spheres hover effortlessly against a cloudy backdrop, highlighting the rich colors and incredible diversity of every environment. Each piece serves as a reminder that “it is in the flourishing variety of the local that the fate of the world resides,” the artist says.
Nelson’s work is on view through September 22 at Michael Reid in Sydney and will head to Gallerysmith in Melbourne early next year. Those unable to experience the complexly assembled worlds in person can see more on her site.
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Berries, Cookies, and Salami Slices Anonymize Vintage Portraits by Digital Artist Harriet Moutsopoulos
Telling someone that there’s an errant herb stuck between their teeth or a dot of sauce just below their lip is likely to spur embarrassment, so noting that they’re covered in egg or raspberry or a gloopy mound of ketchup might be too much to bear. Harriet Moutsopoulos, though, helps her subjects save face by completely masking their distinct features with singular bites of fruit, bowls of ice cream, and slices of salami, ensuring their anonymity.
The Australian artist, who works under the name Lexicon Love, combines found portraits and edibles into strange collages. Although her techniques are digital, Moutsopolous often considers analog practices, preferring basic technologies to programs like Photoshop or Illustrator. She also imposes limits of two or three elements to maintain the integrity of each piece. “The most significant challenge for me is giving each artwork the slight imperfections of hand and the general look and feel of being made entirely from traditional, analog practices,” she says.
Moutsopolous tells Colossal that she’s “drawn to the surreal and unsettling and try to inject that into my work where possible, always seeking out the unexpected connections between humor and tragedy.” At times both comical and unsettling, the bizarre compilations inspire questions about the subjects’ identities. “On the surface, this absurd combination appears to reject any sense of reason (an extension of my own twisted sense of humor). However, obscuring the faces of my portraits with food is designed to not only challenge traditional notions of beauty but also to provoke, tease, and confuse the observer,” the artist says.
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Often blurring or concealing the faces of her dramatically posed figures, Kylli Sparre (previously) captures magical portraits of young women and girls. The fine art photographer, who is based in Tallinn, captures her lone subjects amidst swirling swaths of fabric or perched atop a towering mass of bicycle wheels. Many are in motion, whether dancing against hazy landscapes and or scooting across calm waters.
Sparre tells Colossal that she’s begun to experiment with technical aspects of her process by using a scanner, piecing together images in collages, and experimenting with movement and exposure time. Although she notes that many of her forays into underwater photography “will never see the light of day,” she’s “trying to be as open as I can… I think what has demanded me to grow, is the wish to keep finding the “something” in an image, that would touch a chord in me. Because what I find interesting, slightly changes over time. It is not always an easy task to be truthful to this inner scale, but still essential.”
To see more of Sparre’s conceptual projects focused on the female figure, head to Instagram.
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