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 new book by Charlotte Vannier considers how embroidery has evolved from a domestic task mostly done by women into an art. Comprised of the work of 84 contemporary artists from around the world—including Elisabeth Bucht, Rossana Taormina, Diane Meyer, and Aline Brant—From Thread to Needle: Contemporary Embroidery Art features full-page illustrations of embroidered pieces utilizing cotton canvas, photographs, plastic, and wire mesh. The 368-page book highlights work that is particularly distant from the decorative needlework of previous generations and ranges from fully embroidered cloth to sparingly stitched images to threaded toast. Often, the artists reinvent the craft by altering the methods and materials they use and rejecting the outdated notion that embroidery is only a feminine past time.
In an interview with VC Projects, Vannier described her obsession with thread and embroidery. “I am fascinated by the idea that a simple thread becomes a piece of art completely, and how many artists use it. Thread is like a pencil,” the writer says.
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Artist Diane Meyer has spent the last several years meditating on the Berlin Wall and the physical and visual divisions between, and within, cultures. In her series Berlin, Meyer embroiders 43 photographs with meticulous stitches that overlay pedestrians, walls, and forests. Each embroidered area represents the former wall, which would have bisected or blocked the views now seen in Meyer’s photographs.
The project is part of Meyer’s broader practice of “combining a traditional, analogue process with the visual language of digital imaging,” the artist tells Colossal. “At one point, I was experimenting with large landscape images using thousands of little tiny squares of carpet remnants which functioned as pixels. I think these early experiments ultimately led me to the work that I am doing now.” Meyer explains that for the Berlin series, she sought to evoke how the wall continues to exude a felt presence in the city, despite having been removed decades ago.
I started thinking about the relationship between forgetting and digital file corruption, particularly given how photographs are strongly tied to and ultimately often replace memory. By re-inserting the Berlin Wall through embroidery, a pixelated view of what is behind the wall is seen, creating the effect of an almost ghost-like trace in the landscape.
Meyer shares with Colossal that the materials of her artistic practice have evolved over time, shifting from straight photography to more multimedia approaches, but that she has consistently returned to some core concepts. “My work has long been defined by explorations into the physical, social, and psychological qualities that characterize place,” says Meyer, shifting genre and medium depending on the conceptual framework she is working within.
Her current undertaking is Reunion, a series of elementary school class pictures from the 1970s, which Meyer explains is an outgrowth of a previous project centered around family photographs. With Reunion, the artist seeks to focus on body language by obscuring the normal focal point of facial features with stitched interventions. “I am interested in exploring these details to reveal not only the relationships between the various figures, but also how, even at a very young age, children were taught and instructed to pose in particular ways, often based on gender,” Meyer tells Colossal.
Marking 30 years since the fall of the wall, Berlin is on view through January 10, 2020, at Klompching Gallery in Brooklyn, New York. See more of Meyer’s current work on Instagram and explore the artist’s archive on her website. (via This Isn’t Happiness)
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120,000 Ribbons Wave Across the Former Footprint of the Berlin Wall in an Installation Marking 30 Years Since the Peaceful Revolution
On November 9, 1989, German officials decided to allow residents of Communist East Germany to cross over and visit the Western, democratic half of the divided country. Though the complex process of physically and ideologically reunifying the country took about a year in total, November 9th is considered a landmark day. To celebrate 30 years since the Berlin Wall began to break down, artist Patrick Shearn (previously) was commissioned to create a large-scale installation that integrated the reflections and hopes of 30,000 people.
Visions in Motion was on view November 4th through 10th in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, a location that had previously been a demarcation of division. A statement from Poetic Kinetics explained, “the artwork’s rectangular shape conjures the form of the wall; but instead of a heavy, impenetrable border, the form takes flight.” The massive installation spanned 20,000 square feet and was comprised of 120,000 fabric streamers, a quarter of which featured hand-written messages that were collected in the months leading up to the display.
Shearn is a resident of Los Angeles, Berlin’s sister city, and is renowned for his large-scale kinetic installations, which he calls “Skynets”. Tying the German installation to its sister city, the Los Angeles-area Wende Museum, which houses Cold War artifacts, invited Los Angelenos to contribute messages to Visions in Motion as well.
Shearn and his team at Poetic Kinetics are prolific creators. You can explore much more of their archive on the Poetic Kinetics website, and follow them on Instagram to keep up with their latest projects around the world.
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Li Songsong uses dramatic textural repetition to create portraiture and landscapes in his large-scale oil paintings. The Chinese artist often centers visual narratives around historical events of the 20th century, working from found photographs and news images. In some instances, the story becomes more personal, as in “Civil Rather Than Military”, which depicts Songsong’s grandfather. In a statement about the work provided by Pace Gallery, Songsong shared:
I started this painting a month after my grandfather passed away. It’s from a photograph of him that I think was taken in the early1960s, when he was about my current age. I know what kind of person he was, but not until this year was I really willing to think deeply about him. I used a technique in which it is nearly impossible to paint delicate details, but in the end, the work still ended up with lots of expressive detail and an almost idealized quality, as if from a fairy-tale.
In both his intimate and anonymous paintings, Songsong balances content with process, employing tactile techniques that obscure the subject and emphasize the painting as an object or artifact in and of itself. Take a closer look at Songsong’s work in his solo show “One of My Ancestors”, on view through December 21, 2019 at Pace Gallery in New York City. You can also explore more of the artist’s work on the gallery’s website.
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Celestial Illustrations by Diana Sudyka Fill a New Book Celebrating 19th Century Astronomer Maria Mitchell
A new book written by Hayley Barrett and illustrated by Diana Sudyka (previously) celebrates the life of pioneering 19th century astronomer Maria Mitchell. Mitchell was America’s first professional female astronomer and taught at Vassar College (which was a women’s college at the time). She also used her platform as an internationally renowned scientist to advance women’s rights and abolition. What Miss Mitchell Saw tells the story of Mitchell’s life, geared toward young readers with lush, star-filled illustrations that intermingle celestial shapes and patterns throughout the story’s earthbound elements.
“I immediately was struck by the beauty of Barrett’s writing, and her deep respect for Maria Mitchell was very apparent,” illustrator Diana Sudyka tells Colossal. “It was also important to me is as a manuscript about the power of observation, and a woman in science at a time when there were very few, and even less being recognized for their contributions.” The artist shares that she didn’t know much about Mitchell at the start of the project, but learned through research how Nantucket whaling culture and the Quaker faith shaped Mitchell’s character and point of view.
Sudyka used india ink, gouache, watercolor, and handmade indigo to build the imagery for What Miss Mitchell Saw. The artist works by hand and in full color from the get-go, and uses some digital techniques at the end of the editing process, once the images are ready to be integrated into the book. To complement the artist’s established aesthetic, which naturally meshed with the storyline, Sudyka tells Colossal that she drew inspiration from scrimshaw (decorative and narrative carvings into whale bones by whalers), as well as Rockwell Kent’s illustrations for an edition of Moby Dick. “The biggest challenge for working on this book was simply finding good reference material to make sure I got the look and feel of Nantucket and that time period right,” Sudyka explains.
In addition to her work as a children’s book illustrator, Sudyka has volunteered at the Field Museum of Natural History’s bird lab for over a decade, and is drawn to science and natural history. You can see more of the artist’s work on Instagram and find prints in her online store. What Miss Mitchell Saw was published last month by Simon and Shuster, and is available on Amazon.
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