At age 72, Mary Delany (1700-1788) devoted herself to her art practice, taking up a form of decoupage to create an exquisite collection of botanical collages from dyed and cut paper. She interpreted many of the delicate specimens she encountered in Buckinghamshire while staying with her friend, the Duchess of Portland, through layered pieces on black backdrops. From the wispy clover-like leaves of an oxalis plant to the wildly splayed petals of the daffodil, the realistic works are both stunning for their beauty and faithfulness to the original lifeforms.
Known for her scientific precision, Delany labeled each specimen with the plant’s taxonomic and common names, the date, location of creation, name of the donor, and a collection number, the latter of which was used to organize all 985 collages in her Flora Delanica series. Together, the works create a vast and diverse florilegium, or compilation of botanicals and writings in the tradition of commonplace books.
The British Museum houses most of Delany’s collages, which you can explore in an interactive archive that has information about the plants, artworks, and the option to zoom in on images of the pieces. You also might enjoy The Paper Garden, a book that delves into the artist’s work and what it means to foster a creative practice.
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Artist Asya Kozina is known for her elaborate paper wigs that soar into the air with scenes of miniature metropolises and various botanical frills, coils, and pleats. Referencing the ominous tale of the Flying Dutchman, Kozina’s latest collection transports wearers to the sea with fleets of ships that sail across the cut-and-folded headdresses. The legend states that seeing the vessel portends imminent danger, a sense of mystery and hazard the artist juxtaposes with blossoming botanicals and butterflies full of life.
Kozina is based in Ukraine, and in a note to Colossal, she shares that Russia’s ongoing aggression has necessarily paused her practice as she focuses on volunteer efforts and caring for her family. “We are in a state of more or less stress,” she says. “My attention is focused on air alarms and news and correspondence with relatives in other cities of Ukraine. At the same time, we pretend that we have a normal life… It’s completely surreal.”
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Chicago continues to rank among the most segregated cities in the United States, with Black and brown populations living across the south and west sides that lack the investment and resources of the white-dominated northern neighborhoods. Caused by more than a century’s worth of inequitable governance, redlining, and various forms of discrimination, this enduring racial separation has irrevocably shaped the city and its residents, impacting those who came to the area during the Great Migration and those who call it home still today. It’s often said that the history of Chicago is also the history of segregation.
This infamous legacy is an essential component of Yashua Klos’s evolution as an artist. “I’m from the city of Chicago, and Chicago’s urban planning was designed for segregation, to separate Black and white,” he shares with Colossal. “That segregation is baked into the ‘redlining’ housing ownership policies and the geography of the city.”
Now based in the Bronx, Klos frequently reflects on his hometown and brings the gridded structure of its streets into his works. A 2021 solo show at UTA Artist Space exhibited portraits bisected by angular blocks textured like wood, brick, and cinder, allowing fragments of the uniform roadways to emerge through facial features. “In art history, the grid is a kind of tool for optical democracy. There’s no visual hierarchy in a grid—you can enter any space at any time. So, I’m interested in that grid’s proposal of democracy and how that’s failed Black folks, especially where I’m from and how Chicago is constructed,” he says.
The collaged portraits evoke the ways identities are an amalgam of both genetics and surrounding influences. They mimic three-dimensional forms that surface from the flat plane of the paper, and Klos portrays the subjects as breaking free from constraint or relying on the structure for support. “I’m considering Black folks who are forming a defiant sense of self in order to survive in an often unjust environment. This is why these head forms often appear built of construction materials and suggest that they are sculptures or even monuments,” the artist writes, referencing the art historical use of statues and portraits to convey value and respect.
While Klos spent his upbringing in Chicago, his father’s family has ties to Detroit, particularly the car industry and Ford plant where many relatives worked. Like his portraiture, the artist’s woodblock prints of singular, upturned hands allow this personal history to converge with broader themes of familial love and political resilience. The appendages grasp botanicals native to Michigan and blocks floating nearby as they deny “work in order to hold flowers,” he says. “Here, I’ve found (an) opportunity to explore themes of nurturing, tenderness, generosity, and self-care.”
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Designer Zoe Feast has an affinity for patterns, and her practice revolves around motifs of flora, fauna, and organic forms that she creates for a variety of personal projects and commissions. After a visit to her local library and an encounter with its laser engraver, Feast decided to translate her whimsical illustrations to a three-dimensional surface. She sourced slabs of wood from a nearby habitat restoration project and carved seals in whispy waves, hedgehogs lounging among flowers and foliage, and a family of wide-eyed owls perched on branches. Nestled within the gnarled, bark-laden edges, the woodland creatures add a playful texture and motif to the raw material.
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Utilizing vintage tennis rackets, T-shirts, and tie-dyed fabrics as canvases, Danielle Clough’s expressive embroideries (previously) sport summery motifs like flamingo pool floats, bright citrus, and bucket hats. The artist continues to expand upon the traditional hoop as the framing device and considers how the medium translates to unexpected surfaces like surfboards or apparel. And she isn’t afraid to experiment: her design for a surfboard—a bird perched on a large flower with a stem that trails into loose threads—didn’t go as planned when the time came to apply the piece to the physical board. However, the learning experience shaped the way she approaches future projects.
A recent series of vibrant human eyes stitched onto Adidas shirts comprise a collaboration with the brand to produce limited-edition wearable artworks. “The brief was broad: to create a sense of individual expression through the community,” Clough explains. “This collection of ‘expressions’ looks out from the wearer’s chest. Standing alone, but all together; a part of a group, like a bouquet.” She has also been experimenting with different threads and watercolor, focusing on the fabric background as an important part of the overall composition.
Clough says, “I’m currently working with a South African clothing brand called Poetry on creating a collection for spring using a variety of techniques to translate my work onto apparel,” and shares that she is also collaborating with Florida-based boxing glove maker 1V1 to create embellished mitts. Toward the end of this year, Clough will also present a series of workshops at Paradigm Gallery in Philadelphia. Find more of her work on her website, and follow the latest updates on Instagram.
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Created from single pieces of paper, Maude White’s sculptures (previously) reveal the veins of petals and leaves, braided locks, and vivid animal portraits. Making countless tiny incisions on archival sheets with a size 11 blade, the artist begins by referencing a photograph and creating a loose sketch to maintain general dimensions. She then carefully selects the location of the first cut, telling Colossal that “every cut expands outward from there, and I have to make sure that the piece can maintain its integrity when complete and not fall apart.”
White continues to pursue nature as a subject, focusing on expressive animals and diverse flora. “I will always come back to my love of elephants and flowers,” she says, sharing that she has been experimenting with new forms that are less visually literal. The net-like, “sketchy” composition pictured below appears at first glance like a bird’s nest, but upon closer inspection, an elephant’s eye and trunk emerge. “I really enjoyed this piece, and it was quite a challenge to design and execute!” she says.
In December 2022, White published Resilience Alchemy, a deck and guidebook featuring her artwork that focuses on creative self-discovery and empowerment. “I’m really proud of this project, and even though it’s a departure from the more intricate cut-paper work, it explores resilience in a way that I think can be helpful and hopeful for a lot of people,” she says. Find a copy on Bookshop, and keep an eye out for a new deck slated for release this December. Follow White’s updates on Instagram, and explore more work on her website.
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Editor's Picks: Design
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