Multiple scenarios that would give any parent nightmares actualize in the adventurous animation “Kayak.” What begins as a peaceful trip down the river for a father and baby becomes an endless slew of anxiety-inducing incidents as the child trips, ends up upside down in the water, launches into the air several times, and is even preyed upon by a hungry eagle. The short film, which teeters on the terrifying, is a graduation project by students at the French animation school École des Nouvelles Images.
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Like many Korean families, artist Ema Shin’s relatives maintain a genealogy book called a jokbo, which illustrates their family tree. Shin’s ancestral record spans 32 generations, yet only male members of the family are represented. Born and raised in Japan, and currently based in Melbourne, Australia, the artist describes in a recent statement that “in the society that I was born and raised in, there was a prejudice between men and women, and their roles were predetermined. I always felt uncomfortable with this inequality.” In her series Hearts of Absent Women, she celebrates and recognizes women whose achievements remain obscured by history.
Heart-shaped forms made from fabric are elaborately embellished with colorful threads and beads in an homage to the organ’s connection with emotion and vitality. They are nearly life-size, and the range of woven and stitched textures are captivatingly tactile. Both anatomical and fanciful, the arteries, veins, and ventricles become distinctive expressions in needlework that reflect strength, resilience, and individuality. Since becoming a mother herself, Shin has been particularly interested in honoring women’s lives and bodies, recognizing the anonymous contributions of those in her family and around the world and acknowledging their stories for the future.
Some of Shin’s work can be seen at the Victoria Craft Awards 2021 exhibition through May 21. She has limited-edition prints from the series for sale on her website, and you can also follow her on Instagram.
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A 14-Foot Box Truck Transforms into an Intimate Glimpse of Domestic Life in Swoon’s Mobile Sculpture
Exploring trauma and addiction through intricate paper cuttings, pasted murals, and mythical stop-motion animations is at the heart of Caledonia Curry’s practice, and the Connecticut-born artist, who works as Swoon (previously), extends that approach in a mobile sculpture that peers into the intimacy of family life. Produced last year in collaboration with PBS American Portrait, “The House Our Family Built” transforms a 14-foot box truck into a roving domestic scene comprised of a cab cloaked in patterned wallpaper and a trailer split open to reveal a house-like environment.
Within the vehicle are objects synonymous with home life, including framed photos, children’s toys, and furniture, while a fence lines the perimeter in front of the truck. A family of two-dimensional painted figures from multiple generations occupies both the indoor and outdoor spaces, and Swoon says the outdoor installation “asks viewers to consider the legacy of ancestral histories—whether through traditions, trauma, or repeated narratives—and the ways in which they inform how we understand and talk about ourselves.”
“The House Our Family Built” is on view this week at Nasher Sculpture Center as part of the Dallas Art Fair, and you can follow Swoon through the making-of process on PBS. Find an archive of her imaginative projects on her site, YouTube, and Instagram. (via Artnet)
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“Family is intrinsic to my creativity,” says Ismail Zaidy about his photographic practice that’s grounded in color, emotion, and various aspects of Moroccan culture. In many of his conceptual images, Zaidy’s brother and sister serve as models positioned among swathes of pastel fabrics or balancing between taught ropes. Shot against the sandy backdrops of windswept deserts, each photograph amplifies movement and an interplay between light and shadow.
Pairing with the abstract and minimal aesthetic, Zaidy uses simple editing tools and only the camera on a Samsung Galaxy S5. He draws on his passion for color through silks, cotton, and other textiles that evoke the imagery of his upbringing. “When I was a kid, I used to live in a modest area in Marrakech where I was watching the way the women would wear their fabrics, hike and djellaba out on the streets. These women are still a huge inspiration for me today,” he says.
Although the involvement of Zaidy’s siblings began out of necessity when others weren’t available, they continue to offer direction and insight into the concepts, which the 23-year-old photographer explains:
I’m trying to shine a light on certain subjects. A lack of communication, distance between siblings and their parents, and family estrangement are problems that affect many but are rarely talked about. I am trying to treat this issue throughout my work in a poetic way, showing that family is one of the most valuable gifts in our lives.
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Arresting Sculptural Reliefs by Artist Anne Samat Layer Everyday Objects with Meticulously Woven Threads
In her fiber-based reliefs, Malaysian artist Anne Samat disrupts classic woven patterns with unusual objects: toy soldiers, rakes, and plastic swords are intertwined in the multi-color threads that fan outward and billow down onto the floor. Comprised of a trio of wall hangings and a free-standing sculpture, “Follow Your Heart Wholeheartedly” meticulously juxtaposes beadwork and traditional South Asian weaving techniques with common items, a project that questions the boundaries of craft and art.
Each section is incredibly complex and infused with references to Samat’s family, identity, and experiences with loss. The largest work, for example, features five sections, with the innermost piece paying homage to her late brother who recently died after a long illness. Flanking the central portion are two stately pillars with pink and blue details that represent her mother and father. The outermost layers that sprawl from floor to ceiling evoke the artist herself and her sister, who are the only two living members of her family. Even the title is derived from advice Samat received from her father before he died.
“Follow Your Heart Wholeheartedly” is on view through February 7, 2021, as part of the Asia Society Triennial.
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To prepare for a recent portrait, Shannon LaNier pulled a black coat over his head and wrapped a thick, layered collar around his neck, a costume to match what Thomas Jefferson wore in an iconic 18th-century painting. The Houston news anchor was participating in an ongoing series by British photographer Drew Gardner that recreates photographs, paintings, and other images of historical figures by styling their descendants in similar garb. LaNier’s photograph is particularly significant, though, because he’s the sixth-great grandson of Jefferson and Sally Hemmings, who the third U.S. president enslaved and forced to bear his children, a story that’s long been left out of historical narratives.
Titled The Descendants, the project is a visual excavation of Western history that questions what remains after generations pass. The relatives of historically significant people are, for the most part, out of the spotlight, but as the photographer notes, their ancestors’ “DNA is walking down the street.”
The project began about 15 years ago when Gardner’s mother mentioned that he resembled his grandfather. Although the current project has diverged from simple likeness—the photographer notes that similar features are not a requirement when searching for descendants—he hopes to inspire questions about people’s legacies. “I am not saying they look like their forebears,” he notes. “I’m encouraging a debate. I want to provoke a conversation that makes people curious about history.” Since its inception, he’s photographed relatives of Frederick Douglass, Lisa del Giocondo, Berthe Morisot, and Napoleon.
Gardner’s criteria for choosing subjects is strict: the historical figure must be widely known to the public and have made a significant impact that goes beyond simple celebrity. The next step involves tracking down paintings, photographs, and other realistic representations of the person, which eliminates a considerable number of prospects—originally, Gardner hoped to recreate an image of Pocahontas but soon realized that only a woodcut existed. The photographer then searches for living family members, sometimes working through more than a dozen generations to find someone within 15 years of age of the forebear. Often with the help of museums and other institutions dedicated to historical preservation, he contacts the relative to ask if they’ll pose for a portrait.
To maintain the integrity of the original image, the costumes and props are vintage, when possible. Some elements, though, like the massive, rusted chains forming the backdrop of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s portrait from 1857, don’t exist anymore. When the authentic items aren’t available, Gardner recreates them in physical or digital form.
For LaNier’s portrait, though, the situation was different. While he is dressed similarly to Jefferson, he diverges because he chose to forgo the wig his sixth-great grandfather wore. “I didn’t want to become Jefferson,” he told Smithsonian Magazine. The result is a striking set of portraits that explore historical truths. “Jefferson may have been a founding father, but I am an image of what his family has now become,” LaNier says in an interview about the experience. “You look at my family and you see every color in there, as you will see from many family’s that have come from slavery.”
Although the pandemic has changed his immediate plans for upcoming recreations, Gardner is hoping to release more pieces in 2021, which you can follow on Instagram. For those interested in a behind-the-scenes look at his process, Smithsonian Magazine has released videos of the Douglass, Jefferson, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton shoots.
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Editor's Picks: Craft
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