Sinuous branches half-submerged in water, fish swimming through the treetops, and plant life spearing small birds compose the intricate entanglements rendered by Teagan White. Through gouache, watercolor, and colored pencil, the artist merges plant and animal life in delicate scenes that focus on the interconnectedness and beauty of the natural world.
Having just moved to the Pacific Northwest, much of White’s work draws on their years spent biking throughout the Midwest and viscerally experiencing life and death on the region’s roadways. The artist describes their recent series, Things As They Are & As They Could Be, which includes many of the mixed-media pieces shown here, as “meditations on peril and possibility; what has been lost and what remains; dystopian presents and improbable futures.” It’s on view now through May 3 at Nucleus Portland.
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Saigon-based artist Mai Ta veils the subjects of her nuanced paintings with leaves, long locks of hair, splayed hands, and dim lighting. Utilizing muted tones and saturation, she works primarily in gouache to render lone women in domestic settings, creating introspective scenes that question what’s visible. “Obscurity in my work represents my own inability to be confident about who I am,” the artist tells Colossal. “It’s easier to hide behind my hair (shadows, plants, anything) than to honestly express how I really feel.”
Many of the pieces stem from Ta’s background, although she strives to connect her experiences and the viewers’. I Set the Moon on Fire Because She Wouldn’t Wake Up, a series comprised of many of the paintings shown here, was transformative in helping her realize that “exploring my own personal narrative and emotions can be both therapeutic and visually exciting,” she says. “I made work about how my friends’ and (my) rooftop moon-watching sessions moved me. I made work about my own heartbreak. I made work about missing and loving Vietnam.”
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Painted on Vintage Postcards, Flora and Fauna Celebrate Farming Traditions and Wildlife of the Midwest
Twenty-seven years ago while studying at the University of Illinois, illustrator Diana Sudyka (previously) retrieved a bundle of postcards from a dumpster. The ephemeral correspondence revealed a relationship between farmers and workers from the Harvard area and a man named John Dwyer, either their accountant or investor who lived throughout Chicago, Cicero, and Berwyn. Dated from 1939 to 1942, the short letters generally contained information about livestock sales and farm expenses.
Now based in the Chicago area, Sudyka repurposes the envelopes as canvases for her watercolor and gouache paintings of flora and fauna native to the Midwest. “I have a strong attachment to the envelopes for various reasons, not least of which is that I was born and raised in Illinois, and spent a good deal of time in rural areas of the state,” she shares with Colossal. The penmanship, patina, and markings on the paper all inform her decisions to reflect a particular shrub or beetle duo amongst the remaining postmark and stamp. “I am drawn to the beauty of the handwriting on the envelopes, and the variation in the inks used,” she says, also noting her affinity for the assembled artworks of late artist Joseph Cornell.
Through delicate depictions of squirrels and long-legged herons, the illustrator connects her own experience enjoying the region’s bucolic settings with the decades-old content of the letters. “I often think about the wildlife that I saw as a child in those rural areas, unaware at the time of how much agriculture had already altered the land. And now as an adult, so much of both wildlife and those family farms are gone. The envelope paintings are my homage to both,” she says.
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Using a combination of acrylics, gouache, and ink, Yellena James cultivates brightly-hued ecosystems ripe with lines, patterns, and nature-based motifs. The Portland-based artist paints organic forms that resemble both marine species like coral and kelp in addition to full-bloom flowers, creating brilliant, labyrinth-like ecosystems. Although Prussian blue ink has been a mainstay in James’s practice for years, she recently discovered that the specific color serves as a remedy for certain toxic metal poisonings. This realization spurred the series shown here, which is aptly named Antidote. Each work features the vibrant hue in some capacity.
If you’re in Portland, check out James’s solo show at Stephanie Chefas Projects through October 10. To see the artist’s works in progress, head to Instagram, and try your hand at similar drawings with James’s book, Star, Branch, Spiral, Fan: Learn to Draw from Nature’s Perfect Design Structures. (via Supersonic Art)
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The posed women in Hanna Lee Joshi’s latest series are comprised of vivid gradients: their chests are cobalt, shoulders rose, and palms lime. Created with gouache and colored pencil, the bright hues stray from flesh tones in favor of what Joshi terms “a more otherworldly aspect in my women. Reclaiming the goddess within and exploring the concept of embodying an ephemeral spirit in form,” she says. By rendering their enlarged, curved torsos and limbs in bold shades, Joshi subverts the tradition of the nude figure.
The Korean-Canadian artist, who’s based in Vancouver and recently was part of the group show “Somebody” at Hashimoto Contemporary, is concerned with how idiosyncratic experiences transcend the personal, which is why the subjects are all anonymous. Each work is, in part, a self-portrait that encompasses the physical, mental, and spiritual.
It is my way of coming to terms with being ok with taking up space; in society, in my day to day life. My pieces range from exploring a feeling of being contained within social constraints or self-created limitations to depicting the ceaseless chase for freedom. For me, it is a therapeutic reclaiming of how female bodies are depicted, little by little dismantling any internalized misogyny or any notion of how a woman should be or behave. It is a constant process where I am attempting to redefine how I see myself.
The unclothed figures also share messages with the positions of their elongated fingers and hands. Joshi depicts them with yogic mudras to embody “the beautifully poetic gestures that are so loaded with powerful symbolism,” she says.
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Sinuous, intertwined wildlife bridge worlds of the living and the dead in Lauren Marx’s intricate multi-media work. Twisting fox heads, disemboweled deer, and lambs bursting with flowers and birds are rendered with watercolor, ink, pen, and colored pencil. Marx often places her animal compositions on semi-abstract backgrounds, awash with grey tones that give a sense of weightlessness to the dense drawings by evoking fog or clouds.
The artist, who resides in her hometown of Saint Louis, Missouri, cites frequent trips to the Saint Louis Zoo, biology classes, and National Geographic television shows as cultivating her lifelong interest in animals. Her latest body of work debuts December 14, 2019, at Corey Helford Gallery. The show, titled Chimera, is an evolution from her previous pieces, combining multiple animals into each artwork to combine their symbolic meanings.
“Chimera further explores my concepts of fauna representations of emotions, personal mental health, family, and self,” Marx shares in a statement. “I am creating a mythological world, centered around North American flora and fauna, to better expresses my image of who I am, how I am perceived, my struggles with mental health, and to explore self-healing.”
Marx studied Fine Art at Webster University and draws inspiration from zoology, mythology, scientific illustration, and Northern Renaissance themes. The artist shares with Colossal that in 2020 she wants to continue to challenge herself technically and conceptually, and that works in the Chimera show brought her practice to new levels in terms of scale and complexity.
See Chimera through January 18, 2020, at Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles, and explore more of Marx’s intricate illustrative artwork on Instagram. The artist also offers prints and stickers on Etsy.
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