Worn copies of World Books, agricultural texts, and classic novels become canvases for Rose Sanderson’s insect studies. Now a few years old, the expansive series boasts more than 100 paintings featuring beetles, moths, and butterflies that splay across the printed material. Each specimen is enlarged to showcase the details of their bodies as they wrap around the tattered spines.
In a note to Colossal, Sanderson shares that her process is more cyclical than linear as she’s constantly resurfacing themes, materials, and methods from earlier works or those she previously set aside. While her focus currently is on abstract interpretations of the lichens found near her home in West Wales, she draws a connection between the intricacies of the organisms she paints today and the insects of her book series.
Keep an eye out for Sanderson’s work in Issue #24 of Create! Magazine that’s curated by Colossal’s Editor-in-Chief Christopher Jobson. You can follow her specimen-centric projects, which include forays into miniature and 3-D, on Instagram.
Share this story
French illustrator and author Isabelle Simler deftly renders the liminal time surrounding dusk through a poetic exploration of Earth’s rarest color. The Blue Hour winds through the natural world on a journey to spot the pigment, from a bluejay resting on ice-coated branches to robin’s eggs to midnight skies and ocean depths. Simler focuses on “this time of day, when daytime animals enjoy the last moments before nighttime animals wake up. This in-between where the sounds and smells are denser and where the bluish light gives depth to the landscapes.”
Arranged like a color chart, Simler’s richly cross-hatched drawings display myriad nuances in time, species, and scenery of our ocean-blanketed planet. Because the pigment isn’t naturally occurring—plants, insects, and animals that appear blue are simply reflecting that portion of the spectrum rather than emitting it—the illustrations spotlight the uncommon specimens that populate the world with indigo, turquoise, and azure.
The Blue Hour is available on Bookshop along with a few of Simler’s other illustrated titles. Currently, she’s working on Topsy Turvy, a book that focuses on mimetic insects, which you can follow on her site and Instagram. (via Brain Pickings)
Share this story
Freeze Frame: A Meditative Stop-Motion Short Explores Preservation and Decay Through a Tedious Ice Harvest
Brussels-based director Soetkin Verstegen bills her methodical and nostalgic animation “Freeze Frame” as a “miniature cinema inside an ice cube.” Produced in a grainy, vintage style, the black-and-white short loosely follows workers as they harvest and attempt to preserve the frozen blocks. Amidst scenes of the monotonous, assembly-line efforts are insects, frogs, and various creatures swimming across the frames and eventually, crystallizing into skeletal ice sculptures.
In a conversation with Short of the Week, Verstegen spoke to the difficulty of using such a transient material, calling it “the most absurd technique since the invention of the moving image.” The tedious nature of stop-motion further matches the repetitive movements of the film’s subjects, forming “a playful puzzle with formal ideas around early cinema, decay, and preservation.”
You can find more of Verstegen’s short films that experiment with animation techniques on Vimeo.
Share this story
Woven throughout Selva Aparicio’s cicada veils and fringed floor coverings are the complexities of rebirth, transition, and beauty’s ability to endure. Organic ephemera—human hair, thorned branches, scavenged wings—become poignant installations and smaller artworks that ruminate on a myriad of global issues, including the climate crisis and the infinite failures of the medical establishment.
Aparicio shares that her explorations of life and death began during childhood when she watched the natural world cycle through growth and decay in the woods outside of Barcelona. This lasting fascination has crystallized in the artist’s body of work, particularly in pieces like “Velo de luto (Mourning veil),” which sews together 1,365 seventeen-year cicada wings with strands of hair taken from two generations of women. The shrouds typically are worn to honor a spouse who’s died, and Aparicio notes the material and form exemplify that “as the fragility of the veil of wings decay so does the patriarchal veil of history that it represents.”
Overall, the artist says that her “practice has evolved beyond the individual to encompass environmental, social, and political activism and evoke the change and rebirth I witnesses in nature.” “Childhood rug,” for example, merges personal memory and a domestic object with larger themes of covering and exposing trauma.
Similarly, Aparicio cites her own experiences in “Hysteria,” an installation that surrounds an antique gynecological table with a curtain of thorned branches. Commenting broadly on the unjust power dynamics inherent within traditional healthcare, the artwork draws a direct correlation between the invasive and painful processes of medicine for women and their ability to bring new life into the world.
Although she spends half her time in Barcelona, Aparicio is currently in Chicago and has work on view at two locations: her piece “Hopscotch” is part of MCA’s group exhibition The Long Dream, while her solo show Hysteria is at the International Museum of Surgical Science, where the artist is in residence. Both are slated to close on January 17, 2021. Head to Instagram for glimpses into Aparicio’s process, as well.
Share this story
Steeven Salvat (previously) evokes the glass-covered entomological studies of rare butterflies, beetles, and moths with an additional layer of protection. The French artist armors the singular insects with precious gemstones, silver and gold filigree, and rotational gears. Even elements of luxury watches, like Breguet’s Reine de Naple and an intricate dial from Vacheron Constantin, cloak the critters’ outer shells.
In a note to Colossal, Salvat writes that the growing collection of drawings is an “allegory for the preciosity of biological systems. A way to drive attention to our smallest neighbors on this planet—we need to preserve them because they are worth much more than all the gold and jewels I dressed them with.” Each intricate drawing is rendered with China black ink and watercolor and takes at least 50 hours to complete.
View this post on Instagram
Share this story
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.
Share this story
Editor's Picks: Science
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.