In Laura Berger’s minimalist paintings, female figures entwine together in abstract formations. Their dark locks flow with the curves of their bodies, which are posed in relaxed, natural stances. Using tight color palettes of muted tones, Berger works mostly in acrylic, although she’s ventured into oil since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’m not sure if it’s related to everything that’s been going on in the world or to the shift in medium itself, but my ideas have been moving in a more narrative direction which has really opened up a lot of new things for me to work with,” she tells Colossal.
The Chicago-based artist (previously) continues to explore themes of identity, community, and connection, in addition to more abstract conceptions of energy and quality of life, throughout her largely geometric body of work. “As a woman, I usually paint from that perspective point, but the figures are really meant mostly to serve as characters through which to explore our collective humanity and shared experience,” she says.
If you’re in New York City, check out Berger’s solo show, which is open from November 21 to December 12, at Hashimoto Contemporary. Otherwise, follow her on Instagram to see her latest considerations of the female experience.
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A Transfixing Animation Utilizes the Optical Illusions of Pareidolia to Parallel Two Narratives About Birth
Created by London-based animator and artist Vier Nev, “A Mind Sang” plunges into an entrancing journey of life’s stages. The short film is centered on themes of transformation as it hypnotically shifts perspectives scene-by-scene. “It began with twenty drawings I had created about different cultural representations of birth and identity. I find that in my drawings I often come back to the same characters: queer couples, mothers, and, for some inexplicable reason, cats,” Nev said in a Vimeo interview.
Relying on pareidolia—the tendency to see objects or patterns where they physically don’t exist—each frame simultaneously depicts two different narratives. “I wondered if I could create a film that merged the stories of these characters into the same shapes and shadows,” Nev said. The characters seamlessly change from fully realized figures into amorphous shapes, animals, and single body parts throughout the illusory project.
Although Nev originally planned for the entire film to be black and white, he instead infused bits of crimson and shades of violet. “The two red moments are particularly special to me as they signal moments where blood (sangue) fills the frame,” he said. “First as fire and then as water, blood represents death or birth.”
“A Mind Sang” recently won a Staff Pick Award at the 2020 Annecy International Animation Film Festival. Check out stills of the transformative project on Nev’s Instagram, and follow his upcoming animations on Vimeo.
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Alberta-based artist Simone Saunders hand-tufts bold, colorful portraits with themes of identity and Black history woven throughout. Crafting vibrant patches of fibers that form eyes, lips, and garments, Saunders casts her earnest subjects against austere backgrounds, which sometimes are marked with “Black Lives Matter.”
The textured artworks serve as a site for conversation, prompting questions about race relations and societal injustices. “Textiles engage upon a search for belonging: studying the Black female body, personal identities, and a connection to Black history,” the artist tells Colossal. “I create colorful portraits of Black people who are leaders within their respective disciplines: the arts, music, sports, advocacy. It’s important to carry forward their message and have their legacy move through different channels, like my textiles.”
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Amy Sherald grew up in Columbus, Georgia, which shaped her conceptions of identity and fundamentally influenced her artistic practice. “Acknowledging the performative aspects of race and Southernness, I committed myself to exploring the interiority of Black Americans,” the artist told Smithsonian Magazine in December 2019. “I wanted to create unseen narratives.”
Now living and working in Baltimore, Sherald paints distinctive portraits set against bold, vibrant backdrops. She renders each subject, who stares directly at the viewer, in her signature grayscale. “A Black person on a canvas is automatically read as radical,” she said. “My figures needed to be pushed into the world in a universal way, where they could become a part of the mainstream art historical narrative. I knew I didn’t want it to be about identity alone.”
When considering how Sherald titles her works, it’s not surprising that she reads voraciously: “She had an inside and an outside now and suddenly she knew how not to mix them” is a line from Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God; Gwendolyn Brooks wrote “She was learning to love moments, to love moments for themselves” in Maud Martha; and “The lesson of the falling leaves” is a Lucille Clifton poem. Each explores the relationship between interiority and exteriority and the experience of Black Americans.
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Domestic Perfectionism Overwhelms Faceless Women in a Satirical Series by Photographer Patty Carroll
Patty Carroll’s homebound snapshots are the epitome of domestic pressure: A high-heeled working woman tries to cook and chat on the phone but ends up amid scattered kitchen supplies with her head stuck in the oven. Mops and rags knock another figure down into a sea of neon sponges and cleaning sprays. Two seated women are obscured by constricting drapes and an inordinate amount of fresh produce.
The photographer’s four-part Anonymous Women series is comprised of highly stylized scenes featuring a faceless mannequin attempting—and failing to complete—a range of duties. They’re humorous commentary on the pressure modern women continually face to achieve domestic perfection while excelling professionally and caring for others.
The interior of the home is comforting, but can also camouflage individual identity, especially when the idealized decor becomes an obsession, or indication of position or status…. The “constructed” images in the ongoing series are of home turned inside out, where things are topsy-turvy and scale is variable. Decoration is out of control, and the woman of the house is lost in her own madness.
Carroll began the satirical project after moving to Britain and finding her professional accomplishments disregarded. “Being known as Mrs. Jones rather than the independent, teacher, photographer Patty Carroll sent me into a small identity crisis. I made photographs of vulnerable, stark heads hiding behind various domestic objects as my initial response to this predicament,” she said in a recent interview with Aint-Bad.
One installment of the series, “Domestic Demise,” touches on contemporary issues of consumption, as well, and “is when the woman becomes a victim of her own obsessions and activities. She is no longer in control and life is a series of mishaps and mayhem,” the photographer said. Having too many books, too many items lining the pantry shelves, and too many alcoholic drinks overwhelm the women.
Carroll previously employed models for her drapery series, but as her scenarios got more complex and took longer to shoot, she switched to mannequins. She constructs each chaotic scene within an 8 x 8 frame. Her influences include “colorful vintage movies, traditional still-life paintings, decorating magazines, my suburban upbringing, the game of clue, and even Victorian writing,” she wrote in a statement.
Since being confined to her home due to the ongoing coronavirus epidemic and because of a recent appendectomy, Carroll says the mundane and oppressive requirements of domestic life are inescapable. “It is hard to ponder larger issues when we are confined to our homes and are concerned with the everyday, seemingly meaningless issues of cooking, cleaning, eating, sleeping, and what is on Netflix for entertainment,” she said. “Nevertheless, all of my photographs are about those simple, ordinary, yet overwhelming tasks that we carry out every day.”
For more of Carroll’s identity-questioning work, pick up her recently released monograph that’s available from Aint-Bad and or a photograph from Catherine Couturier Gallery. Watch videos of the draped women as they attempt their domestic duties on Vimeo, and follow Carroll’s upcoming projects on Instagram. (via This Isn’t Happiness)
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Model Moostapha Saidi Questions the Audience’s Gaze with Highly Stylized Portraits Shot by Justin Dingwall
Photographer Justin Dingwall recently collaborated with South African model Moostapha Saidi on a series of images that speak to themes of perspective and of perception. “A Seat at the Table” was informed by Saidi’s experiences living with the skin condition vitiligo, in addition to conversations between the photographer and model. Taken at face value, the images showcase a man with missing skin pigment, but as the South Africa-based photographer explained to Colossal, the ideas and symbolism are more than skin deep.
Brightly colored and stark white sets contrast Moostapha’s dual-toned skin in each of the images. Dingwall uses precious stones and googly eyes as a commentary on the way that Moostapha is objectified by strangers who stare, point, and see him as an other because of the way he looks. “I worked with the old saying ‘a seat at the table’ to represent the idea of an opportunity to be heard, to be seen, to have a voice and an opinion, and in this way to make a difference,” he explains to Colossal. “The images that I have created with Moostapha aim to start conversations about preconceived ideas and perceptions based on appearance, and how what we see affects what we think.”
Dingwall says that during his first collaboration with the aspiring model he learned about his story and about the disease that, at first, was a challenge and later became a source of pride and confidence. “Vitiligo is a topic that I did not know much about and I am always interested to expand my world through my art and learn about something that is not seen as ‘usual,'” Dingwall tells Colossal. “I decided to create a body of work that engages with this topic on a much deeper level, and that raises questions about perspective, as well as how the media and representations subjectively perceive the world and other people.”
Because of his appearance, growing up was difficult for Moostapha, Dingwall says, but things have changed. “Through these challenges he has gained strength and confidence from looking so different. He no longer sees his vitiligo as a hindrance, but as something precious and unique… As in previous bodies of work, I hope in these images to highlight beauty in difference. In these images it is now Moostapha who is staring back at the viewer. Questioning our gaze.”
“A Seat at the Table” has helped Saidi pursue his dream of becoming a model, as he is now signed to one of the top agency’s in South Africa. In 2019 Justin Dingwall plans to create more images in the series, has three new bodies of work planned, and a few upcoming exhibitions in Europe. Follow him on Instagram for future updates and to see more of his photography.
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Editor's Picks: Craft
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