Belgian artist Adele Renault (previously) has an unparalleled ability to turn an urban nuisance into an extraordinarily beautiful creature. Her oversized pigeons grace walls in cities around the world, creating public artworks that celebrate her favored subjects in the exact locations they’re often overlooked and disregarded.
A few years ago, Renault began what she calls “wandering in the macro world,” a venture that shifted her focus to the individual feathers she’s always found most alluring. “The texture is more dazzling and intriguing than showing the whole thing,” she says. “The feathers have become my own language in a way. I now create them without photo reference, more like a meditative practice that creates textures and softness as a result.” Her murals have since strayed from portraying full birds to focusing instead on clusters of plumes and the individual barbs that sprout in layers and tufts.
Although Renault is dedicated to realistic forms, her more recent artworks play with color, injecting bright rainbow hues where she previously focused on naturally occurring blues and purples. The vibrant feathers radiate with an oily, iridescent sheen and appear to ruffle on the wall, a teffect she achieves by meticulously coating either oil or spray paint to create depth and shadow.
A few of Renault’s smaller works on canvas are on view at Moberg Gallery in Des Moines through the end of June, and she’s currently preparing for a solo show in Belgium that’ll feature her Plantasia series, which similarly extracts minuscule details from leaves. You can find out more about her practice in Gutter Paradise, which was published late last year, and follow her on Instagram to stay up-to-date with her latest projects.
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From an Egyptian vulture with wispy feathers to a cockatoo with a vibrant fanned crest, Tim Flach’s expressive portraits convey the subtleties and bold features of birds around the globe. The London-based photographer (previously) focuses on endangered and vulnerable species throughout his work, which includes a range of animal portraiture. “I am also interested in the perceptual divide between sentient beings. There is a sense of awe and wonderment and there is always an uncertainty about what will reveal itself on set. I like to encourage thoughts about how we see each other,” he says in a statement.
Flach’s avian portraits, in particular, are shot to reveal human-like qualities, collapsing the differences between species. He compares the black-feathered head of the long-tailed broadbill to a fighter pilot’s helmet and the mustachioed Peruvian Inca tern to an iconic artist. “This for me, is the Salvador Dali of the bird world,” he writes on Instagram, noting that the longer mustache indicates a stronger immune system, making the bird more attractive as a mate.
To explore more of Flach’s striking photographs, check out the five books he’s published, in addition to his Instagram, where he shares his portraits and idiosyncratic details about the avian subjects.
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Throughout lockdown in the United Kingdom, Mark Harvey, who is known for his striking equine and canine photography, shifted his focus to the avian creatures gliding above his home in the Norfolk Broads. Now part of a series titled In Flight, the exquisitely detailed shots frame common birds —including magpies, blue tits, starlings, goldfinches, great tits, coal tits, long-tailed tits, and green finches—in otherwise unseen poses: some splay out an entire wingspan, while others wrap their feathers around the front of their torsos.
Hearkening back to the methods of famed birdwatcher Victor Hasselblad, Harvey employed similar techniques to capture the dramatic shots. He used a slow, medium format with the same camera Hasselblad manufactured for the outdoor endeavor, taking just one image at a time.
Harvey just released limited edition prints of the In Flight series, which are available in a run of 15 per subject in his shop, and shares more of his striking horse and pup portraits on Instagram. (via Creative Boom)
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Based in west London, artist Kate MccGwire is known for her serpentine feather sculptures and discomfiting artworks that coil and ooze in every direction. A recent installation follows in that tradition as it pours down like a massive gush of water from a built-in bookcase. Composed of approximately 10,000 pigeon feathers, “Discharge” stands nearly five meters tall and cascades to the floor in feathered ripples. While the plumes lining the main chute are in shades of gray, those at the bottom are lighter, evoking the ways water appears white when it crashes.
The delicate feathers are sourced ethically from pigeon racers who collect the plumes in August and October when the birds molt. MccGwire sorts the materials in her studio, separating the ones that curve left from those that bend to the right, before arranging them in captivating, color-specific patterns. “When visitors see the piece for the first time they are drawn to the phenomenal scale, rhythmic patterning, movement, and perfection of the piece,” she says of the mixed-media installation. “But are often perturbed and revolted when they understand what the material is,” which is exactly her intention. By juxtaposing the raw materials with the finished artwork, she asks viewers to consider the everyday beauty that’s often overlooked.
“Discharge” has been exhibited in an evolution of configurations in South Korea, Berlin, Paris, and now, Harewood House in West Yorkshire until August 14. Take a video tour of the current exhibition—which also includes a massive feather rug and encased sculptures—and find more of MccGwire’s voluptuous projects on Instagram.
Update: The exhibition at Harewood House has been extended through October 25.
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For the past three decades, Louisiana-based artist Demond Melancon has created highly detailed Mardi Gras Indian suits using millions of hand-sewn small glass beads. Each suit takes several months to create and features custom patches that tell stories about African and American history.
Images of Nyabinghi warriors, Haile Selassie, African nature scenes, and slavery are strung together bead by bead to form decorative costumes that weigh up to 150 pounds and are worn from 9am to 6pm on Mardi Gras. Frills and feathers frame the complex beadwork and sequins to complete the one-of-a-kind single purpose suits.
Melancon tells Colossal that in junior high school his friends “masked Indian” and that he followed them into the craft. He was chosen by the elders to learn sewing techniques as well as the history of Black Masking Culture in New Orleans when he was 14 years old. After masking as a Spy Boy for 15 years with the Seminole Hunters, Melancon earned the distinction of becoming Big Chief to his own tribe. In addition to leading his community and passing on traditions to the next generation, the honor is expressed through the size and intricacy of his suits, which can take over 4,000 hours to complete and are only worn once.
“I study our history and historical narratives to create my pieces [with] many different references,” Big Chief Demond Melancon of the Young Seminole Hunters explained. He added that as a “bead master,” his style involves using the smallest beads available to pack in as much detail as possible.
Melancon’s work has been exhibited in galleries around the world. A new documentary short about his life and art titled “All on a Mardi Gras Day” (dir. Michal Pietrzyk) was the Documentary: Grand Jury Prize Winner at Seattle International Film Festival and has been shown at other festivals across America, Germany, and Denmark. For a list of upcoming screenings and to see more of the Big Chief’s suits, visit his website and Instagram.
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Mysterious women are delicately rendered in surreal graphite portraits by Japanese artist Ozabu. Working on warm-toned paper, Ozabu uses a combination of meticulous linework and astoundingly smooth blending to create images that are simultaneously dramatic and soft. Young female subjects seem to fuse with ravens, chrysanthemums, and bonsai trees, blurring the boundaries between human and nature. The self-taught artist refrains from speaking about or explaining her work, instead allowing each ineffable drawing to spark the viewer’s imagination. Ozabu is currently working on an upcoming solo show and regularly posts in-progress and completed pieces on Instagram.
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Editor's Picks: Photography
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