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Design

A Photographer Captures a Dwindling Herd of Elephant Slides Across Taiwan

September 23, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Pi Cheng Hsiu, shared with permission

Wander into a playground in Taiwan, and you might stumble upon an elephant in the midst of basketball courts and swingsets. Vintage slides shaped like the lumbering animal were once popular in the country, and although the equipment is generally out of use because it doesn’t match current regulations, the eclectic designs remain a fixture in both abandoned and thriving playgrounds. Photographer Pi Cheng Hsiu documents these quirky creations by the hundreds—in addition to similarly shaped animals like seahorses and giraffes—and you can find a vast array of colors and styles on Instagram. You also might enjoy these elephants squeezed into tight spots. (via Present & Correct)

 

 

 



Art History

Archaeologists Uncover Children's Hand and Foot Prints in What's Thought to Be the Oldest Cave Art To Date

September 16, 2021

Grace Ebert

Image via Science Bulletin

A series of hand and foot impressions uncovered in the Quesang village in the Tibetan Plateau might rewrite the art-historical timeline. According to an article published this month in Science Bulletin, researchers believe the ancient prints were made between 169,000 and 226,000 years ago and appear to be placed intentionally, cementing the notion that they’re the earliest examples of cave art yet to be uncovered. 

Of course, there’s plenty of debate over whether these impressions are art, although archaeologists arguing for the categorization are staking their claims on intent. “​It is the composition, which is deliberate, the fact the traces were not made by normal locomotion, and the care taken so that one trace does not overlap the next,” geologist Matthew Bennett told Gizmodo, rejecting the idea that the prints are a byproduct of common movement like walking or grasping nearby material for stabilization. If the impressions are considered art, they predate the prehistoric figurative findings in both Sulawesi and Lasceaux, which date back about 43,900 and 17,000 years, respectively.

Fossilized on a piece of limestone called travertine, the size and variances of the prints also indicate that they were made by two children. Archaeologists theorize that the indentations, which include five feet and five hands, were placed in mud near the Quesang Hot Spring before it compacted under pressure, or lithified, preserving the duo’s pieces in the hardened material for millennia. Although the research team isn’t sure that the creators were Homo sapiens—the timeline also aligns with the Denisovans, an extinct species from the hominin group that primarily occupied what’s now Asia—if they were, they were likely 7 and 12 years old.

 

 

 



Art

Evoking Childhood Nostalgia, Color and Cartoon Commotion Burst from Kayla Mahaffey's Paintings

September 15, 2021

Grace Ebert

“No Harm Done.” All images courtesy of Thinkspace Projects, shared with permission

Surrounding Black children with jumbled masses of cartoon characters, doodles, and explosions of color, Chicago-based artist Kayla Mahaffey (previously) imagines adolescent daydreams and an array of playtime inventions. She infuses her acrylic paintings with a longing for carefree summer days, mornings spent watching the foibles of favorite animated characters, and hours left open for adventure, capturing feelings of joy and curiosity. Vividly rendered and layered with squiggles and globs of color, the large-scale works find “value in the sugar-coated nostalgia,” which Mahaffey explains:

There have been numerous occasions where we omit the truths of our past to only be met with the disappointments of the future, a never-ending cycle that has influenced our current era for the best and the worst. Even though we’re currently going through a very troubling era, let’s take a moment to remember those times where we felt the most safe or where we felt the happiest. Many of us wish to go back to that life, but not to change anything, but to feel a few cherished things, once again.

If you’re near Culver City, you can see the pieces shown here as part of Remember the Time at Thinkspace Projects from September 18 to October 9. Otherwise, find Mahaffey on Instagram to see where she’s headed next.

 

“The Sweet Escape”

“Head in the Clouds”

“The Child In Us”

“Tender, Love, and Care (TLC)”

“Beautiful Day In The…”

 

Left: “No Public Enemy.” Right: “Kid In Play”

“Daydreamin”

 

 



Art Illustration

'Banksy Graffitied Walls and Wasn't Sorry' Is a Cleverly Illustrated Book Introducing Kids to the Elusive Artist

May 21, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images courtesy of Phaidon

Banksy Graffitied Walls and Wasn’t Sorry introduces the life and work of the anonymous street artist to some of the youngest readers. The 48-page book is cleverly written as a plainspoken autobiography, detailing both Banksy’s aesthetic sensibilities and surveying his decades-long career, including references to Dismaland, his “Better Out Than In” residency in New York, signature rats, and the subversive, overtly political messages of his pieces and antics. Illustrated in Fausto Gilberti’s whimsical style, the largely black-and-white drawings are playful and humorous and contextualize Banky’s profound impact and mysterious, unapologetic reputation in a manner fit for kids.

Published by Phaidon, Banksy Graffitied Walls and Wasn’t Sorry is Gilberti’s fourth in a series exploring the legacies of some of the most well-known artists, including Yayoi Kusama, Jackson Pollock, and Yves Klein. Shop the complete collection on Bookshop. (via Kottke)

 

 

 

 



Art

Bold Bands of Paint Bisect Playful Sculptures of Carved Wood by Willy Verginer

March 24, 2021

Grace Ebert

Detail of “I pensieri non fanno rumore” (2019), different types of wood, acrylic color, 150 x 100 x 107 centimeters. All images © Willy Verginer, shared with permission

Clusters of wooden spheres bubble up the fingertips and bodies of the children in Willy Verginer’s poetic sculptures. The Italian artist (previously) contrasts realistic carvings of adolescent figures with elements of whimsy and imagination. Alongside the forms that evoke childhood games are thick stripes of monochromatic paint, which wrap around the sculptures and bisect them in unusual places.

Whether a pastel, neutral tone, or black, the color is symbolic and used to convey subtle messages. Verginer’s works often stem from what he sees as the absurdity of ecological issues or larger societal problems, like the U.S. banking collapse. “My largest effort and research focus on not tying myself to the naturalistic representation of figures, but on giving something more through a dreamlike study, or better an absurd one, and not an imaginary one,” he says. “This world and the whole connected system were so absurd that they made me reproduce an equally absurd situation.”

 

Detail of “Chimica del pensiero” (2019), lindenwood, acrylic color, 168 x 46 x 45 centimeters

Many of the sculptures shown here are part of Verginer’s most recent series, Rayuela, which is the Spanish term for hopscotch and the title of Julio Cortázar’s counter-novel that can be read from front to back or vice versa. Written in a stream-of-consciousness style, the book produces varying endings and meanings depending on the reader’s sequence. Cortázar’s adventurous format combined with the imaginative nature of the game informed Vreginer’s approach to the series, which the artist explains:

(In rayuela), kids outline an ideal map on the ground, which starts from the earth and reaches the sky, through intermediate stages marked with numbered squares, on which they jump according to where a pebble is thrown. I can see a metaphor of life in this game; our existence is full of these jumps and obstacles. Each of us aims to reach a sort of sky.

In June, Toronto’s Gallery LeRoyer will have an exhibition of Verginer’s precisely carved works, and the artist has another slated for September at the Zemack Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv. Until then, find more of his sculptures on Instagram.

 

“Pensieri nascosti” (2020), lindenwood, acrylic color, 172 x 39 x 33 centimeters

“Chimica del pensiero” (2019), lindenwood, acrylic color, 168 x 46 x 45 centimeters

“I pensieri non fanno rumore” (2019), different types of wood, acrylic color, 150 x 100 x 107 centimeters

“Scisserlé,” lindenwood, acrylic color, 200 x 59 x 46 centimeters

“Palvaz” (2019), lindenwood, acrylic color, 95 x 70 x 47 centimeters

“Rayuela” (2020), tiglio, acrylic color, 123 x 110 x 90 centimeters

 

 



Art

Mixed-Media Portraits by Nelson Makamo Reflect Childhood Innocence and Wonder

February 12, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Nelson Makamo, shared with permission

Nelson Makamo (previously) is known for his oversized, lively portraits of the children and teens he meets around Johannesburg. Using a distinct blend of acrylic, watercolors, monotypes, silkscreen, and oil paint, the South African artist often delineates their silhouettes with a thick line of charcoal before adding colorful details to their clothing and faces. The resulting works are simultaneously earnest and imbued with a sense of wonder.

Whether posed or engaged in rowdy activities, many of the subjects sport bright, round glasses, emphasizing Makamo’s focus on viewing the world through the lens of childhood. His subjects “embody the peace and harmony we all strive for in life, the search for eternal joy lies in the child within us all. We are just so consumed with worldly things that we forget the simplicity of life through a child’s perspective,” he says in a statement.

Makamo recently closed a solo exhibition at Botho Project Space this January, and you can find more of his dynamic pieces on Artsy and Instagram.