Within the luscious pink acrylic that composes Yvette Mayorga’s Surveillance Locket series, messages of joy and nostalgia for a 90s childhood coexist with critiques of consumerism and gendered labor. The Chicago-based artist uses tools like piping bags and tips to apply paint in peaks, curls, and scalloped edges evocative of an elaborately decorated cake. She builds each relief layer by layer, drawing on techniques she gleans from baking shows and Instagram tutorials. “Cake decorating is a true craft that is super laborious,” she says.
This sense of labor permeates Mayorga’s body of work and provides a conceptual framework that’s as subversive as it is celebratory: “The color pink holds so much weight that is tied to fragility and prescribed to femme identity and gender norms. Piping and baking labor is also very gendered and constitutes a perceived notion of labor,” she says. “I am saying that pink and baking labor is powerful. The hyper femme is powerful.”
Alongside fields of ornate textures, the artist also uses the tactile material to define labyrinth-like playhouses, which reference the small, plastic clamshells called Polly Pockets. “It’s a toy that I always dreamed of owning,” she tells Colossal. “To me, it’s a marker of attaining an Americaness that as a child of immigrants is often sometimes forced upon us in order to fit in.” Mayorga’s iterations include recreations of her childhood home alongside gilded rooms, staircases, and Rococo-style flourishes she admired while spending her childhood summers in west-central Jalisco and Zacatecas, Mexico. More modern emblems like cartoon-style characters and the televisions she used to watch MTV and Looney Tunes, alongside frames showcasing art historical works and selfies, complete the decadent mansions.
Beyond their idiosyncratic and playful reflections, though, Mayorga’s works contain more ominous messages. She stations toy soldiers in entries and underneath staircases, shrouding the works with “a feeling of an impending doom” as the concealed characters surveil the scenes in a nod to patrols at the U.S./Mexico border. “My practice is a compounding of these two worlds coming together to create surrealist landscapes that are about the pink, decadent, playful, real-time, nostalgic, art historical, surveillance, and consumerism. To me, the decadence becomes the surrealist in-between space that marks my identity, because it is imagined and an aspiration,” she shares.
You have multiple chances to see Mayorga’s dioramas in person this year: in April, she’ll be at EXPO Chicago, in a group show in Hong Kong this fall, and will open a solo show at Crystal Bridges The Momentary in October. A commissioned work will also be installed in O’Hare’s Terminal Five at the end of the year. See more of her works on her site and Instagram. (via It’s Nice That)
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In a wooded area of Lincolnshire, it’s not unusual for people to partake in what’s dubbed a “drive through body part heist.” The preposterously named activity involves a trip to Mannakin—a Midlands mannequin distributor frequented by a wide array of clientele like merchandisers, film crews, and Halloween devotees—where visitors spend 15 minutes scouring its meters-high pile of discarded forms for, none other than, body parts. These challenges to fill a car with as many pieces as possible are just one part of the company’s business model, which involves saving the used fiberglass displays from landfills and returning them to the retail ecosystem.
English YouTuber and educator Tom Scott walks through the staggering heap in a recent video and talks with director Roz Edwards, who’s amassed about 25,000 figures from locations all over Europe that are now scattered across the property. The short documentary project dives into the company’s process for revitalizing worn arms, legs, and torsos and confronts the strange, surreal environment created when thousands of lifeless bodies occupy a single space in what’s ultimately a striking visual indictment of consumerism and our collective approach to waste.
You also might find this short documentary set in a mannequin factory interesting.
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Thousands of Fresh and Artificial Flowers Overrun an Abandoned Convenience Store in a Small Michigan Town
Port Austin, Michigan, is a picturesque village on the Lake Huron shoreline lauded for its beaches, water sports, and vegetable-shaped rock formations. With a population in the hundreds, the small community relies heavily on tourism to fund its economy, a reality Detroit-based botanical artist Lisa Waud contended with in a recent pop-up installation in one of the town’s abandoned convenience stores.
Titled “Party Store”—this colloquialism refers to a small shop selling snacks, alcohol, lottery tickets, and other cheap staples—the immersive project transforms a dilapidated space into a lush garden of fresh-cut flowers grown in Michigan and artificial replicas sourced from resale shops around the state. A water-damaged drop ceiling, stained carpeting, and wood paneling peek through the colorful botanicals, which envelop a commercial coffee machine, crawl across shelving, and bulge out of dimly lit coolers.
Similar to her other site-specific works like her 2015 transformation of a condemned duplex in Detroit, Waud describes “Party Store” as a “cleansing reset,” one that uses the tension between life and decay as a prompt to consider cultural understandings of permanence and disposability. She references pieces like Robin Frohardt’s grocery store stocked with plastic food and Prada Marfa as influences, two large-scale projects that criticize consumerism through their satirical imitations of common and luxury goods. “In spending time in Port Austin, I recognized a similarity between its tourism culture and that of my hometown of Petoskey,” Waud writes in a statement. “The local economy relies on the tourists, but often the folks who come can have a ‘disposable’ quality to their visit, exemplified in the increase of consuming convenient items—often packaged in single-use plastic.”
“Party Store” was dismantled after its July 16-18 run, when many of the materials were recycled or reused. “By installing flowers that will ultimately be composted into a space that historically sells items that cannot be biodegraded, I hoped to bridge a connection for responsible choice-making in its visitors’ future,” the artist says.
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For the last 13 years, guerrilla miniaturist Slinkachu (previously) has been creating barely noticeable scenes to be discovered by unsuspecting passersby. The London-based artist uses tiny model people whose minuscule size creates humorous and thought-provoking scenarios. Slinkachu often comments on current events and social dynamics in his work. An installation at the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent features a purse placed nonchalantly on a gallery bench, which turns out to be a meta-gallery. Inside the purse, small figures admire glorified tokens of consumer consumer culture like framed credit cards and lipstick sculptures.
Slinkachu’s work is on view through June 22, 2019 in a two-person show with Jaune at Thinkspace in Culver City, California. You can see more from Slinkachu on Instagram, where the artist often shares videos that help contextualize the scale of his installations.
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While growing up in post-communist Warsaw, photographer Zuzanna Szarek dreamt about the movies, toys, and food produced in America. McDonald’s was one aspect of the culture readily available to Szarek as a child in the 90s, and its Happy Meal toys always provided a rush of excitement. Today Warsaw is undergoing rapid changes, with hip stores and restaurants popping up as fast as its skyscrapers. Although the golden arches of her childhood still remain, they are now blocked by towering buildings and new construction.
For her series M, Szarek captures these strange juxtapositions, photographing what has long been viewed as an American icon as it becomes lost and obscured. “The over-sized monster hovering above the city’s landscape has became more of a landmark than a destination itself,” she tells Colossal. You can see more images from this series on her website and Instagram. (via This Isn’t Happiness)
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Los Angeles-based artist Thrashbird is known primarily for stencils and paintings that blend socio-political commentary and humor, which are often done in highly visible areas like on city walls or billboards. For a recent project called “Valley Of Secret Values,” the artist ventured off the beaten path to an abandoned industrial site. Thrashbird transformed crumbling structures into replicas of high-end designer bags using paint for designs and nearby found objects like tires and wood for the handles, straps, and hardware.
While on an expedition through Lime, Oregon, the artist happened upon what used to be a power plant. “To see [the stones] crumbling with the passage of time, returning to the earth as a dust, well the metaphor was too strong to disregard,” Thrashbird told Ignant. He chose to paint the structures as handbags as “part beautification project, part cautionary tale,” drawing parallels to the destructive nature of society’s obsession with consumerism while confronting his own demons.
“We grapple for status and purpose in society, and [consume] possessions to showcase how successful we are and to fill us with purpose, with complete disregard for the people and the planet affected by our careless overconsumption,” Thrashbird said. “Our measure of success has been skewed. We’ve come to a place in society where things and social status have become more important than our connection to each other.”
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