A visual insights designer at Nike by day, Gladys Orteza spends her off-hours transforming otherwise dull stock market charts into brilliant landscapes. The dips and rises of companies like Ford, Tesla, Apple, and Disney become rocky gorges and distant city skylines. Prompted by trading practices pre-pandemic, Orteza began to envision buildings and natural features when diving into Robinhood. “I remember sitting on the couch looking at one of my stock charts and nonchalantly saying to my husband that these charts look really pretty and that I should recreate them as mountains on a landscape,” she says. These visualizations soon manifested into vivid, nature-based depictions.
The Hillsboro, Oregon-based artist, who’s been sharing her landscapes on Instagram, tells Colossal that much of her inspiration comes from living in the Pacific Northwest. “One day we were driving through farmland during a sunset, and the colors of the sky was so breathtaking I had to start drawing. I then got inspired by a few old trucks that were parked on people’s properties,” she says. That experience resulted in the pastel landscape created utilizing Ford’s chart (shown below) that has a vintage vehicle driving through the foreground.
Orteza also contradicts any notion that stocks and data are impersonal by adding important pieces of herself into each artwork. The moon radiating in the background of every piece represents her daughter named Lyanna Luna, and if you look closely at the nearby bird, you’ll see the creature actually is comprised of the artist’s signature.
To be clear, Orteza doesn’t expect her mountainous scenes or starry nights to influence trading decisions. “It’s not intended to help the viewer make any business decisions or give any technical analysis. It’s visual storytelling. It’s art,” she says. (via Kottke)
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Artist Yang Yongliang (previously) harmonizes human-generated light and naturally glowing stars in a celestial, 4K video installation. Set to an eerie, technological soundtrack, “Journey to the Dark II” winds through a mountainous city that spans 70 meters across. Movement in the immersive piece is confined mostly to the cars traveling across bridges and down streets, and the lights emit a constant glow among the modern architecture and landforms.
Residing in Shanghai and New York, Yang often juxtaposes modern, industrial life and organic elements to produce dystopian environments that question human progress. “Ancient Chinese people painted landscapes to praise the greatness of nature; Yang’s works, on the other hand, lead towards a critical re-thinking of contemporary reality,” said a statement about a similarly foreboding project.
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Through densely laid cross-stitches and whorls of thread, Han Cao revitalizes discarded photographs and postcards. Similar to the artist’s previous projects, her latest series New Nostalgia strikes a balance between the original subjects and the fiber-based additions. Sometimes covering faces with sparse dandelion puffs or confetti-like burst, Cao redefines the vintage pieces and explores how narratives linger as she stitches plumes of train steam that trail beyond the initial photograph’s edges.
Based in Palm Springs, the artist shares glimpses into her process on Instagram, and if you’re in Philadelphia, check out her embroidered pieces that are on view through August 22 at Paradigm Gallery. Cao also sells some of her mixed-media works in her shop.
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Throughout July, Comet NEOWISE has been visible to those in the northern hemisphere as it orbits the sun. Portland-based photographer Lester Tsai recently traveled to Mount Hood to capture the phenomena as it shoots over Oregon’s highest mountain in a remarkable set of images. One of the brightest comets in decades, NEOWISE won’t make another appearance in the inner solar system for 6,800 years.
Tsai recounted the experience, describing the necessary preparation and the efforts to determine the frozen object’s probable visibility. “The comet changes position each day but when I mapped it out, it looked like there was a good chance it would do what I needed it to. I had never been there (Mount Hood National Forest) before but was excited to check it out,” he shares with Colossal. Location is crucial for astrophotography, but factors like weather, the sun’s position, and the moon’s cycle have an effect, too. Light pollution from a nearby municipality also can brighten the sky too much for a clear shot.
After traveling through a dense forest in the middle of the night, Tsai found his spot on a nearby cliff and set up his equipment. “Based on the rough directional data I had, I knew the comet would rise to the left side of the mountain and make its way up and to the right. Because this was such an unprecedented and possibly once in a lifetime event, I decided to use one of my cameras to shoot a timelapse,” Tsai says.
He expected the comet to arrive around 2 a.m., and after waiting and worrying he’d missed it, NEOWISE finally made its appearance an hour later. “As the night went on, the sky began to slowly brighten and saturate with beautiful colors on the horizon. 3 a.m. passed, and as 4 a.m. arrived, the comet was almost directly over the mountain,” Tsai says. Thanks to his patience, the photographer was able to capture the fleeting body as it descends in the star-speckled sky.
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Heesoo Lee has spent years carefully layering blades of grass, pine trees, and cherry blossoms to construct botanic entanglements that crawl across ceramic mugs and bowls. Inspired by seasonal woodlands and aspen forests, the Montana-based artist recreates bright pockets of landscapes that capture small motions, like falling fronds or rustling branches. “There is movement in trees, but it is slow and subtle, a leaf in wind, the slow growth of new leaves in spring,” she says.
While Lee has continued this tradition with many of her recent pieces, she’s expanded her source material to the ocean. For seven years, the artist lived in Maui, where she often surveyed the water. “I could sit on a beach all day and watch the waves, observe them, and feel calmed by them but also respectful of their energy and force,” she says. The memory has inspired a textured piece that swells upward to form a cavernous bowl. “Even in a small object, the waves are powerful and convey so much. For me, the waves connote freedom, the freedom to express myself and take risks,” the artist writes.
Diverging from land posed new challenges in Lee’s process. For landscapes, the artist repeats elements in layers to create a fully formed piece, but the same technique didn’t translate to water. “The first time I tried to make waves I failed. I failed over and over and over after that. There were cracks, pieces broke off,” she says. “I realized the feeling of making a wave is so much different from making a landscape.” Instead, Lee retrained her hands to follow the movement of the water, using slip casting, carving, and a series of manual techniques to capture its energy and force. Her color palette changed from amalgamations that evoked seasons to a precise set of blues.
Despite her forays into aquatic forms, Lee maintains an affinity for grassy fields and windswept boughs, which she explains:
My seasonal work, landscapes that focus on all four seasons, are still a mainstay of my practice. The memories that fuel the images are so powerful for me, and it gives me great pleasure to share my interpretation of those memories with people… I have heard from people that drinking from a cup I made helped them channel their own memories of the outdoors and the seasons, even during a time when they are stuck inside.
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Through a luxuriant series of embroideries, Litli Ulfur translates thick landscapes into lush entanglements of brown and green stitches. The abstract forms consider the intricacies of nature through an aerial perspective, contrasting micro- and macro-views in every inch. Each piece is created organically and uniquely, ensuring no two are alike.
The textured works are inspired by natural sources, like jungly forests and the human nervous system, that are reflected through French knots, tufts, and flat patches. “I was struck by certain similarities between the two—some of the trees in these forests (including oaks and beeches) were confusingly similar to the structure of human neurons. Their branches and roots bent in various directions creating a huge endless network,” she writes on Instagram about creating “The Inside.”
In a note to Colossal, Ulfur says her process begins with immersing herself in natural settings for a full sensory experience. “I celebrate this moment—being completely aware of it is crucial. I open myself up so I can consciously connect with it. I smell the scent, color. I feel the texture, experience the sound and taste,” she says. “Being alone with nature is really important to me. It gives me space to reflect on why I do what I do and feel what I feel.”
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