Strands of silk thread are delicately intertwined to create inviting pastoral scenes in miniature needlework sculptures by Ágnes Herczeg (previously). The Hungarian artist has recently begun to incorporate found driftwood into her pieces, foraged from the shores of the nearby Danube River where floodplain trees dot the riverside. Drawing inspiration from her surroundings, Herczeg’s subjects include animals, trees, landscapes, and women performing tasks like pouring tea, weaving, or taking a walk.
Fascinated by natural materials and the process of embroidery, Herczeg carefully shapes the outline of each scene with metal wire, then builds up tiny webs of fiber using a needle lace technique. Once she has carved the wood and the mesh is complete, each is colored in earthy blues, greens, and browns and bound together with thread.
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At once malleable in material and secure in shape, the vessels that comprise Suzanne Shafer-Wilson’s body of work are intricate studies of texture, pattern, and space. The Illinois-based artist loops and twists lengths of wire into intricate baskets that range in size from 20 inches tall to the width of a fingertip. Using a technique similar to the one employed by sculptor Ruth Asawa to create her rounded, metallic forms, Shafer-Wilson works with an Italian needle lace method designed for fibers like wool and silk. She intertwines brass, copper, or sterling silver in place of textiles and fashions porous vessels with wide, gaping bodies and elaborately constructed outer walls.
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Inscribed Lace Patterns Defy Expectations in Cal Lane’s Plasma-Cut Steel Tools and Industrial Objects
Using car hoods, shovels, and oil drums as her base, Canadian artist Cal Lane cuts generic lace motifs found on the shelves of mass-market retailers. Her quotidian designs adorn tools and commodities typically associated with masculinity, warping both assumptions about gender and the limits of construction and craft. “I am more interested in the dialog between the object and the image, not so much the lace pattern specifically. I didn’t want the work to necessarily be decorative but to be about decoration and the relationship we have with it,” she shares.
A former welder, Lane is broadly interested in the possibilities of materials, and it’s “the industrial, man-made structure, masculine, modernist quality of steel that I am attracted to. I see steel as a metaphor for confrontation, a thing that represents the walls put up by the society I was born into,” she shares. Her body of work, which includes a series of Industrial Doilies, is steeped in contradiction and an ability to defy expectations, which manifest as delicate filigree inscribed in sturdy hunks of metal. “Steel feels like the perfect material to carve into to create the contrasts and conflicts that I myself struggle with,” the artist says.
Many of the plasma-cut sculptures shown here are part of In Her Space, which is on view through March 3 at C24 Gallery in New York. The exhibition includes some of Lane’s more recent pieces, including the collection of shovels and “Astute Class.” A miniature marine vessel, the submarine features a pattern Lane designed that’s comprised of thale cress flowers, a species that “had been bioengineered by Canada and The Netherlands as a bomb-sniffing flower…the flowers grow, but if there is a landmine beneath, the color of the flower changes,” she says. “I thought it was so beautiful, brilliant, and poetic.”
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Every inch of Nespoon’s elaborately designed murals is rooted in local history. Prior to sketching one of her large-scale lace patterns on a residential building or commercial facade, the Warsaw-based artist (previously) visits museums and meets with residents to learn more about the region’s culture and its ties to fiber arts. “I respect and commemorate the emotional bound between individual patterns and particular cities or even particular groups of lacemakers. If there is no tradition of lace making in the area where I work, I ask for laces in the homes of elderly people living nearby,” she tells Colossal. “I always find something.”
The resulting murals envelop concrete and brick structures in intricate webbing embellished with oversized florals or fringed edges. Often splaying across multiple levels and wrapping around corners, the massive works showcase the intricacies of the craft and bring the adornment traditionally associated with domestic life out into a public space.
Because women produced almost all of the decorative textiles for centuries, their stories remain at the forefront of Nespoon’s body of work, which ranges from stenciled graffiti pieces to smaller ceramic installations imprinted with patterns. Still today, lace museums and makers tend to be women, the artist says, veiling each of her site-specific projects within a broader, global context of feminine art, craft, and tradition.
While many of her projects are celebratory and honor the local customs that manifest in the lace pieces, others, like humble motif painted in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, necessarily confront a community’s struggles. “For the first time in my life, my wall had such clear traces of war, dozens of bullet holes all over the facade,” Nespoon writes, explaining further:
While working, I thought about the fate of women who are victims of wars all over the world. Here, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, however, it had an extraordinary dimension. Institutionalized sexual violence and mass rape were a cruel instrument of terror used in this conflict, in front of the whole world. I wanted to not think about it, but I did. The bullet holes became part of my mural.
Next week, Nespoon will be installing a lace web at the Triennale di Maroggia in Switzerland. She’s also preparing for a solo exhibition next May in Brescia, Italy, and working on a book compiling her works from the last 12 years, many of which you can find on Behance and Instagram.
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For Myriam Dion, a newspaper’s narrative qualities go beyond the text on the page. The Montreal-based artist accentuates the daily briefs and profiles in publications like The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and Le Monde by overlaying broadsheets with painstakingly cut newsprint. Brilliantly hued flowers veil an issue focused on the wildfires raging across California, while masked subjects appear in the foreground of a piece about the post-COVID economy. Each tableau centers on one narrative, supporting the journalism with intricate motifs and trimmed photographs spread across the unfolded issue.
Masking the text-based print with color and woven sections has been a recent addition to Dion’s practice. “This operation often doubles or triples the working time, but it helps solidify the works (which are already quite fragile) and gives more depth and possibilities to the patterns that I choose and invent,” she writes, noting that weaving thin strips through whole editions visually aligns her works more closely with fiber arts.
More often utilizing vintage copies of North American newspapers than she had previously, the artist has identified a through-line in many of the editions. “For a long time, and even today, the print media has been a forum articulated by and for the male sex, where women have occupied a limited place, and interestingly enough, the newspaper articles I have accumulated document the perception of women in the mass media over the last century,” she says.
Dion will be an artist in residence at the NARS Foundation in Brooklyn in 2021, where she plans to create 8-10 new pieces that merge these historic narratives with traditionally feminine art forms, like lacework and embroidery. The idea is subversive and pays “homage to the female public figures represented in these old newspapers, but more particularly to ordinary women to whom the recognition of any artistic contribution, both from a technical and conceptual point of view, has long been denied by the politics of art.”
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Working within a scale of just a few inches, Hungarian artist Ágnes Herczeg (previously) threads together fragments of wood, seeds, and wire with delicate lace work to form pastoral scenes inspired in part by her surroundings in a small town near the river Danube. This year, Herczeg utilized more tree bark and golf leaf and developed her abilities with silk thread to create pieces even smaller than before. In a note to Colossal, she shares this challenge to work increasingly smaller is “a very good mind game.” You can see lots of her new work on her website, and several pieces are for sale in her online shop.
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