death

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Design Illustration

A Colorful Series of Sugar Skulls Appear on New USPS Stamps Designed by Luis Fitch

October 18, 2021

Christopher Jobson

Images © USPS, all rights reserved. Designed by Luis Fitch.

The United States Postal Service has issued a set of colorful postage stamps that celebrate Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), an annual holiday celebrated in Mexico and beyond on the first two days of November. The vibrant stamps depict a family of four calaveras (sugar skulls) designed by Minneapolis-based Chicano artist and designer Luis Fitch who has been obsessed with postage stamps since a young age.

A chance encounter near a train exit by the National Mexican Art Museum in Chicago lead to the creation of the stamps:

Every year, the day before his birthday, [Fitch] writes a list of things he wants to achieve, asking the universe. In October 2018, he remembered his old dream, designing a stamp, and made it number one, the slot for his most difficult and unrealistic goal.

The next day, the director of the stamp design program called.

He had seen the single poster Fitch wheat-pasted—on a whim, while waiting for his son—near the train exit for the National Mexican Art Museum in Chicago. And then he had gone to the museum, where twelve of Fitch’s posters were included in an exhibition on the Day of the Dead. This was just the style he was looking for, he said.

Fitch’s stamp designs incorporate multiple visual motifs traditionally used during the holiday including lit candles meant to guide deceased loved ones on their annual return journey, and cempazuchitles (marigolds), the most popular Día de los Muertos flower. Each of the four stamps depicts a different family member in the form of a sugar skull: a father with a hat and mustache, a child donning a hair bow, a curly-haired mother, and another child.

The stamps are now available in multiple formats at the USPS. (via Hyperallergic)

 

 

 

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Art

Between Wounds and Folds: Suspended Cow Carcasses and Tree Stumps Reveal Layers of Discarded Fabric by Tamara Kostianovsky

October 11, 2021

Christopher Jobson

Photo © Etienne Frossard. All images courtesy the artist, shared with permission.

Working with the tattered remnants of consumer culture, artist Tamara Kostianovsky (previously) asks us to question the origins, process, and disastrous results of our seemingly unquenchable desire to buy and waste. Four distinct bodies of the artist’s work spanning fifteen years have been gathered at Smack Mellon in DUMBO, Brooklyn to form Between Wounds and Folds. The textile ecosystem of cow carcasses harboring new life, vibrantly hued cross-sections of trees, and colorful birds of prey, are constructed from repurposed fabrics and discarded textiles. In this final state, the soft pieces function as an echo of their concealed beginnings. Smack Mellon shares in a statement:

Through alternating softness and aggression, her installations identify the nuances of violence that exist between a personal encounter and its normalization on a social and ecological level. Kostianovsky’s work asks for a re-imagination of human rights and environmental redemption models in order to consider the resultant violence as part of a larger, inseparable system.

Between Wounds and Folds is on view until October 31, and you can explore more of the Brooklyn-based artist’s work on Instagram.

 

Photo © J.C. Cancedda

Photo © Roni Mocan

Photo © Etienne Frossard

Photo © J.C. Cancedda

Photo © Etienne Frossard

Photo © J.C. Cancedda

Photo © J.C. Cancedda

Photo © J.C. Cancedda

The artist in her studio © J.C. Cancedda

 

 



Art

A Field of Dried Grass Is Suspended from the Ceiling in ‘French Exit’ by Artist Tadao Cern

February 26, 2021

Grace Ebert

“French Exit,” (2020-2021). All images © Tadao Cern, shared with permission

In Tadao Cern’s sweeping installation “French Exit,” a cloud of feathery grasses looms over the room. The immersive artwork juxtaposes the ephemeral, dried material with the viewers who stand underneath as it creates a soothing and introspective space to consider the notions of farewells, whether it be the close of a party or more profound experiences, like the end of a relationship or death.

Cern tells Colossal that the title refers to the colloquialism about leaving a social gathering without saying goodbye. “This is something that I usually do because as an introvert, I can not bear with the attention that you get once you say that you have to go. A ping pong game starts of, ‘I have to go,’ and ‘please don’t go,'” says the Lithuania-based artist (previously) says.

 

Emitting a soft glow, the long-stemmed grasses connect to both the organic nature of the life cycle and the human desire to situate ourselves within a broader context, particularly when confronted by aging and death. Cern writes:

I tried to focus more on the aspect of what we would be missing the most during the last seconds of leaving this place.. My guess (is that) it would be something banal, like fields of wheat during the sunset… Banality is a result of such a strong love and affection with something/somebody that you even get sick of it. And hanging everything on the ceiling creates an illusion of floating for the viewer as if you are being taken to the sky.

Cern finished initial sketches for the installation—which also includes CGI elements and a massive arrow pointing downward—just before the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Months later, he was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, coincidental timing that altered his understandings of death and how we collectively say goodbye. “Once the pandemic is over, hopefully, we’ll have a chance to contemplate our farewells in reality. If there is such a thing,” he says.

Purchase prints of the artist’s meditative projects on Patreon, and follow his latest installations on Instagram and Behance. (via Ignant)

 

 

 



Art

Contemplative Artworks of Cicada Wings, Hair, and Thorned Branches Evoke Rebirth and Change

December 11, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Velo de luto (Mourning veil)” (2020), magicicada wings, sewn with hair, 32 x 47 x 2 inches. Photo by Robert Chase Heishman. All images © Selva Aparicio, shared with permission

Woven throughout Selva Aparicio’s cicada veils and fringed floor coverings are the complexities of rebirth, transition, and beauty’s ability to endure. Organic ephemera—human hair, thorned branches, scavenged wings—become poignant installations and smaller artworks that ruminate on a myriad of global issues, including the climate crisis and the infinite failures of the medical establishment.

Aparicio shares that her explorations of life and death began during childhood when she watched the natural world cycle through growth and decay in the woods outside of Barcelona. This lasting fascination has crystallized in the artist’s body of work, particularly in pieces like “Velo de luto (Mourning veil),” which sews together 1,365 seventeen-year cicada wings with strands of hair taken from two generations of women. The shrouds typically are worn to honor a spouse who’s died, and Aparicio notes the material and form exemplify that “as the fragility of the veil of wings decay so does the patriarchal veil of history that it represents.”

 

“Childhood Memories” (2017), hand-carved rug into utility oak wood floor, 657 square-feet. Photo by the artist

Overall, the artist says that her “practice has evolved beyond the individual to encompass environmental, social, and political activism and evoke the change and rebirth I witnesses in nature.” “Childhood rug,” for example, merges personal memory and a domestic object with larger themes of covering and exposing trauma.

Similarly, Aparicio cites her own experiences in “Hysteria,” an installation that surrounds an antique gynecological table with a curtain of thorned branches. Commenting broadly on the unjust power dynamics inherent within traditional healthcare, the artwork draws a direct correlation between the invasive and painful processes of medicine for women and their ability to bring new life into the world.

Although she spends half her time in Barcelona, Aparicio is currently in Chicago and has work on view at two locations: her piece “Hopscotch” is part of MCA’s group exhibition The Long Dream, while her solo show Hysteria is at the International Museum of Surgical Science, where the artist is in residence. Both are slated to close on January 17, 2021. Head to Instagram for glimpses into Aparicio’s process, as well.

 

“Velo de luto (Mourning veil)” (2020), magicicada wings, sewn with hair, 32 x 47 x 2 inches. Photo by Robert Chase Heishman

“Childhood Memories” (2017), hand-carved rug into utility oak wood floor, 657 square-feet. Photo by the artist

“Hysteria” (2020), thorn branches woven with ligature and Hamilton obstetric table from 1931, 9 x 4 x 6 feet. Photo by Robert Chase Heishman

“Hysteria” (2020), thorn branches woven with ligature and Hamilton obstetric table from 1931, 9 x 4 x 6 feet. Photo by Robert Chase Heishman

“Velo de luto (Mourning veil)” (2020), magicicada wings, sewn with hair, 32 x 47 x 2 inches. Photo by Robert Chase Heishman

“Hysteria” (2020), thorn branches woven with ligature and Hamilton obstetric table from 1931, 9 x 4 x 6 feet. Photo by Robert Chase Heishman

“Hysteria” (2020), thorn branches woven with ligature and Hamilton obstetric table from 1931, 9 x 4 x 6 feet. Photo by Robert Chase Heishman

 

 



Design Science

A Compostable Coffin Designed by Bob Hendrikx Grows from Mushroom Mycelium

September 21, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Bob Hendrikx

While traditional wood and velvet-lined caskets can take more than a decade to decompose in the earth, a new design by Bob Hendrikx is an environmentally friendly alternative that replenishes the soil. Breaking down in just two to three years, “The Living Cocoon” is composed entirely of mycelium, the thread-like part of the fungi that branches out underground to provide food to the rest of the organism. The decomposed coffins actually contribute to the soil health by neutralizing toxic substances and providing nutrition. Mycelium is “constantly looking for waste materials to convert into nutrients for the environment…For example, mycelium was used in Chernobyl, is utilized in Rotterdam to clean up soil, and some farmers also apply it to make the land healthy again,” Hendrikx says.

Generated without light, heat, or any sort of active energy source, the coffins are grown in one week by mixing a strain of mycelium and a substrate together and placing the combination in a mold. The fungi then absorbs the other substance and forms the box-like shape. Research by two funeral cooperatives, CUVO and De Laatste Eer, already shows that “The Living Cocoon” decomposes in soil within 30 to 45 days, and the design was used in a burial in recent weeks. “We are currently living in nature’s graveyard. Our behaviour is not only parasitic, it’s also short-sighted. We are degrading organisms into dead, polluting materials, but what if we kept them alive?” Hendrikx says.

A researcher at Delft University of Technology, Hendrikx designed a similar living pod last year for Dutch Design Week, which spurred the idea to create another vessel from mycelium. He’s working currently to implement light-emitting spores, which could serve as an above-ground marker of where a body is buried. To follow Hendrikx’s environmentally conscious designs, head to Instagram and YouTube. You also might enjoy this living pavilion made of agricultural waste and sprawling mushrooms. (via Dezeen)

 

 

 



Art Illustration

Sinuous Snakes, Insects, and Florals Intertwine in Graphite Illustrations by Zoe Keller

June 27, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Where We Once Lived II,” copper belly water snake, graphite on paper, 14 x 14 inches. All images © Zoe Keller, shared with permission

Through a winding series of delicate illustrations, Zoe Keller (previously) explores the fragility of the natural world. In Scale & Bone, the Portland-based illustrator renders copper belly water snakes, San Francisco garters, and eastern diamondback rattlers through sinuous compositions that are ripe with skeletal remains, rows of butterflies, and dense patches of fungi. Each graphite drawing examines the tension between life and death and how nature’s processes are cyclical, including the shedding and regeneration of tube-like layers of skin.

Keller’s work considers the beauty of the limbless reptiles in an effort to subvert cultural notions. “Snakes, in particular, fascinate me as a subject matter because they elicit such a strong response in so many people,” she shares with Colossal. Scale & Bone is part of a larger effort to visualize the destruction of ecosystems and widespread loss of biodiversity. “Through the use of visual narratives that are interjected with surreal and magical elements, I hope to allow the species in my drawings to speak with urgency to the forces causing their decline in this time of human-driven mass extinction,” she writes.

Many of Keller’s projects fall at the intersection of art and environmental activism, offering
“opportunities to collaborate directly with scientists working on the ground to protect imperiled species.” The illustrator recently worked with Save the Snakes, an organization that steers conservation efforts and attempts to reduce harm by humans. Her serpent-focused poster will be unveiled this summer in time for World Snake Day.

Scale & Bone currently is on view at Antler Gallery, which is offering a virtual tour on its site. Follow Keller on Instagram for updates on her intertwined illustrations, and check her shop for prints, postcards, and stickers.

 

“Black Pine Snake,” graphite on paper, 34 x 43 inches

“Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake,” graphite on paper, 34 x 43 inches

“Eastern Indigo,” graphite on paper, 27.5 x 36 inches

“Memento Mori I” (2020), giant garter snake and pipevine swallowtail, graphite on paper, 14 x 14 inches

“Always I” (2020), New Mexican tidge-nosed rattlesnake, graphite on paper, 14 x 14 inches

“Memento Mori II,” San Francisco garter and cabbage white, graphite on paper, 14 x 14 inches

“Are We Ghosts,” graphite on paper, 27.5 x 36 inches