In her ongoing series Human Nature, Dutch artist Bella Ormseth paints lavish domestic scenes inhabited by central mushroom characters and a cohort of plants and oversized insects. The evocative subjects stem from those the artist encounters around her home in Puget Sound off the coast of Washington and are human-like in their gestures and poses, whether draped over a chair during a nap, embracing over wine and oysters, or staring out the window.
Each of the oil-based pieces is a study of Dutch genre paintings and their light, composition, color palettes, and techniques—Ormseth shares glimpses into her process and longer descriptions of specific references on her site. The ornate, tied-back curtains in “The Nap,” for example, mimic those in Johannes Vermeer’s recently restored “Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window,” while “The Conversation” (shown below) works within the subgenre doorkijkje, or look-through, that offers a view of one room while in another, with the intimacy of family bonds present in Pieter de Hooch’s “The Bedroom” and “A Woman with a Child in a Pantry” apparent, as well.
Although the works glean elements common in the Dutch Golden Age, Ormseth veils each with contemporary contexts, including the pandemic-induced loneliness that exudes from the character in “Waiting by the Window.” She explains further in a statement:
Dutch genre paintings, with their depiction of everyday scenes of ordinary life, marked a significant turning point in Western art, away from biblical and historical subjects. It stirs me to see this elevating of domestic life to a subject of art—of seeing not only beauty but something profound in the everyday business of life… While I look to history for guidance, my paintings depict my own time. The idea for a painting always starts with an emotional response to something that is happening in the world, either in my own life or the world at large.
“The Nap” is currently on view through October 2 at Copro Gallery, and Ormseth is working on another Human Nature piece for a January group show at Roq La Rue Gallery in Seattle. She’s also starting new series about an adventurous group of women in the 1920s and their connection to the intertidal life of the Salish Sea, which you can follow on Instagram. (via This Isn’t Happiness)
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The diverse taxonomic order of spiders is brimming with strange biological phenomena: black widows have been known to cannibalize their mates, tarantulas are covered in barbed urticating hairs that they fling in defense similar to porcupines, and others have evolved to mimic the shape and pheromones of an ant to avoid predators.
On a recent trip to a wooded area in Santa Claus, Indiana, photographer Kevin Wiener uncovered one of the latter species, the tutelina similis, and snapped a few macro shots of the 6-millimeter creature. Each of the striking photos catches the arthropod’s iridescent exoskeleton in a manner that highlights its rainbow luster and reveals its ant-like appearance. Similar gleaming color schemes are widespread in the world of insects, including on the microscopic scales that cover butterflies.
The radiant jumping spider is part of Wiener’s vast archive of insect images, which he shares on Instagram and in his online group called All Bugs Go to Kevin. He launched the resource in the spring of 2019 as a way to offer insight into the micro-world of insects, and it now boasts more than 42,000 members, including scientists, macro photographers, and other arthropod enthusiasts.
Currently based in Evansville, Indiana, Wiener fuses his background in both wedding photography and pest management into a practice that highlights striking and bizarre organisms. “I try to photograph my subjects in a way that gives the appearance of a personality which makes them appear less scary and helps those with fears to see them differently. I want to showcase the beauty of arthropods and show people the things they don’t see with the naked eye,” he tells Colossal. “Basically, if it’s little and moving, it’s probably gonna have a photoshoot.”
In addition to uncovering the diverse world of insects, Wiener also teaches an Indiana Master Naturalist course and has presented to the Entomological Society of America as part of a symposium. You can follow his work that falls at the intersection of science and photography on Instagram and Twitter.
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History, science, and nature converge in the watercolor and ink drawings of French artist Steeven Salvat (previously). Whether encasing beetles in ornate armor, rotational gears, and antique dials or rendering vast entanglements of flora and fauna, Salvat’s works exquisitely apply a fanciful veil to wildlife and insects. Each piece, which is the result of hundreds of hours of painstaking linework, stems from biological studies and 18th-century engravings, two themes the artist returns to as a way to allude to the precious qualities of the natural world.
Salvat’s Nymphalidae series will be on view from August 14 to September 12 at Haven Gallery in Northport, New York. Find a multitude of videos detailing his process on Instagram, and shop limited-edition prints and originals on his site.
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Almost a year after releasing his wildly popular footage of muppet-like insects, Dr. Adrian Smith is back with another montage in incredibly slow motion. This similarly spectacular follow-up—which is shot at 6,000 frames per second with a macro lens—documents the unique flight maneuvers of seven moth species as they slowly lift into the air. Capturing both graceful wing movements and ungainly leg flailing, Smith records rare glimpses of the yellow underbelly of the Virginian tiger moth, the spiky mohawk of the white-dotted prominent, and the beautiful wood-nymph’s habit of scattering microscopic scales all with extraordinary detail. For more close-ups of moths, beetles, and other insects, head to Smith’s YouTube. (via The Kids Should See This)
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When an herbivorous insect like an aphid or mite needs a place to feed and reproduce, it sometimes seizes a tiny section of a plant where it establishes an abnormal growth or gall. These tissue pockets, which are spurred by a reaction in the host, provide shelter and nutrition for the creature, and although some can be unsightly blemishes, others, like these brightly colored growths of cynipid wasps, are bizarrely beautiful additions to the otherwise green leaves. Photographed by Timothy Boomer, the macro images capture the imperceptible details of the galls, which appear like fairytale-style mushroom houses, prickly sea urchins, and fuzzy, striped domes. See more of the whimsical growths, which generally only cause cosmetic damage to the host plant, on Instagram and Boomer’s site, where you can also purchase prints.
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Whimsical Illustrations and Motifs Dyed with a Traditional Wax-Resist Method Cover Caroline Södergren's Eggshells
Formally trained in glassblowing, Stockholm-based artist Caroline Södergren transfers her experience working with a delicate, fragile material to an ornately illustrated collection of eggshells. She adapts the traditional Ukrainian craft called pysanky, a wax-resist method that involves drawing a design on a clean, empty chicken, turkey, goose, or ostrich egg with hot beeswax. The shell is then dipped in multiple baths of dye and the seal washed away with oil to reveal the colorful, layered design—you can watch the entire process in the video below.
The technique often is combined with folk art, although Södergren illustrates her own botanical motifs, beetles, and mythical creatures that stray from traditional designs. “You have to think before you start a pattern as the different color layers must come in the right order,” she says. “If you make a mistake with the wax, it is not possible to change, and a written line is where it is. A constant challenge that makes it so fun to work with!”
Konsthantverkets Vänner, an organization dedicated to supporting Swedish arts and crafts, just awarded Södergren a scholarship for her batik designs. Browse available eggs in her shop, and find a larger collection on Instagram. (via Lustik)
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