Throughout 2020, Stacey Lee Webber developed Insurrection Bills, a revisionary collection of United States currency overlaid with subversive stitches: flames envelop monuments, a wall is left unfinished, and an eclectic array of face masks disguise Abraham Lincoln’s portrait. Contrasting the muted tones of the paper, the vibrant embroideries stand in stark contrast and as amended narratives to those depicted on the various denominations. “The series references feelings of anger, turmoil, and frustration during the tense political climate while recontextualizing and questioning the beloved iconography we see on our money,” she tells Colossal.
Currently working from her studio and home in Philadelphia’s Globe Dye Works, Webber is formally trained in metalsmithing—she has an MFA from the University of Wisconsin, where she initially began using currency as the basis of her projects—and sees the two mediums as an ongoing conversation. Embroidery “allows me to work in a quieter setting outside of my metal shop acting as a sort of ying to the yang, soft and hard, masculine and feminine,” she says.
Many of Webber’s sculptures involve soldering coins, including the copper penny works that make up The Craftsmen Series and question the value of blue-collar labor in the U.S. Comprised of hollow, life-sized tools, the collection visualizes “putting endless amounts of work into a single cent,” the artist says.
Webber has multiple exhibitions this year, including at TW Fine Art Palm Beach Outpost in April, Philadelphia’s Bertrand Productions in October, and Art on Paper Fair in New York City this November. If you can’t see the currency-based projects in person, head to Instagram, where the artist shares a larger collection of her works and glimpses into her studio.
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Staining friend’s hands with dandelion heads and blowing their wispy seeds are a common childhood pastime and a simple joy that Shota Suzuki channels in his delicately constructed sculptures. The Kyoto-based artist painstakingly carves copper, brass, and silver into barbed leaves and feathery seeds to recreate the ubiquitous herbs in each state of bloom and decay.
To tarnish the textured metals and alter their colors, Suzuki uses combinations of vinegar, copper sulfate, and acetic acid to create purples and blues. For the black components, he oxidizes pieces in dissolved sulfur. Suzuki’s coloring techniques are rooted in traditional Japanese patina methods including niiro, which historically used daikon juices to alter the metal, and are the most demanding part of his process. “The chemical modification is very sensitive and is affected by everything from the weather conditions to the dirt on my hands. It’s hard to make the same color every time,” he says in an interview with Kyoto Journal.
Each dandelion is the product of hours of research, which begins while Suzuki walks around his neighborhood and spots weeds in sidewalk cracks or garden flowers. He then works from memory and occasional glimpses of photos of the chosen plant, forgoing sketches and models to create pieces that merge scientific accuracy with the artist’s vision, which he explains:
I’ve never practiced the art of ikebana, but there is an element of it that comes through. My work does not portray a plant as it would be in its natural environment. Rather I manipulate it in a way that I find to be beautiful. I think the composition especially, like the placement and length of the flowers and stems of the plant, is really important. So in that respect, it is rather similar to ikebana.
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Joshua Limon Palisoc draws on the tenets of Filipino Psychology to inform his life-sized figures that radiate from the inside. Using mesh-like forms of soldered metal, the artist conveys the idea that the physical body is simply a vessel for the soul. LED lights nestled within the anatomical sculptures emit a warm glow through the seams, blurring the boundary between inner and outer selves.
The illuminated forms shown here are part of Ephemeral Vessels, Palisoc’s first solo show on view through November 29 at Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo, Philippines. Composed of upright and seated figures, the collection focuses on personality and conscience (loob), the body (labas), and reason (lalim), ideas that the artist gleans from the particular branch of psychology originally helmed by Virgilio Enriquez.
Palisco, who shares insight into his techniques on Instagram, describes his process as ritualistic, noting that each artwork he solders together holds a part of himself that asks viewers to avoid “existing in this world passively.” Instead, he writes, “we should stir and affect others through our own genuine ways.”
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“There’s nothing unnatural about mechanical components,” Jeremy Mayer says. For decades, the artist has harbored a fascination with the repetitive, complex patterns of single-cell organisms and the delicately rendered illustrations of Ernst Haeckel, an attraction that manifests in his latest sculptures.
Spanning up to 65 inches, Mayer’s metal artworks are comprised of old typewriter parts mounted around a laser-cut aluminum frame with only the original screws, nuts, pins, and springs holding the mirrorlike pieces together. Formed around a central, circular element, the multi-unit assemblages splay outward. Each of the six points—which evoke starfish, despite having one extra arm—often resemble trilobites, pincers, and other creatures and organic elements, merging the manufactured and natural.
“The form and function are based upon our knowledge of the living world around us. I’m interested in making the machine look like a living thing, drawing inspiration from the relationships that the early designers of the typewriter had with nature,” he says.
Mayer purchases between 10 and 15 typewriters each year, which he sources from repair shops, thrift stores, and yard sales around the San Francisco Bay Area. “The more broken the better,” he writes. In the past, he’s gravitated toward the smaller components of the metal machines to assemble birds, skulls, and other figurative sculptures. After transporting the bulky leftovers from studio to studio for years, he gathered enough duplicate parts to construct the symmetrical sculptures.
The ongoing series was born out of a residency at Mumbai-based manufacturer Godrej & Boyce, during which Mayer was asked to create works from leftover typewriters. During his six months, he built mandala-like sculptures and a 13-foot-tall kinetic lotus that explored the connections between industry and biological forms.
Mayer finished the first sculpture of this most recent series at the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdowns and almost has completed five since. He has plans for ten in total, and you can follow their progress on Instagram.
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Just like a tree, the spindly branches that shape Sun-Hyuk Kim’s sculptures extend from a larger, sturdy limb—or in the South Korean artist’s case, neck or spine, too. Kim (previously) creates sprawling artworks that merge human anatomy and the root systems that crawl underneath the earth’s surface. Sometimes painted in neutral tones and others plated in gold, the sculptures are composed of stainless steel that trails out into figurative forms.
Imbued with metaphor, the intricate works consider our existence and their inherent incompleteness, Kim says. The “pandemic in 2020 clearly shows how weak the existence of a human being is,” he writes. “The human force encountered in this era, which has achieved many civilizations and cutting-edge science, reminds us of the collapse of the Tower of Babel, which was built to become like God.”
To follow Kim’s latest projects that explore the connection between people and the natural world, head to Instagram.
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London-based artist Barbara Franc (previously) upcycles materials that otherwise would be tossed into the recycling bin to create a quirky menagerie of metal creatures. Composed with scraps and copper wire, the lively sculptures generally are indicative of movement: owls lift a talon mid-waddle, two cats peer over their shoulders with surprised expressions, and a squirrel appears ready to scurry off.
The diversity of Franc’s creatures mimic the breadth of materials utilized. She often begins by creating a wire-netting form before attaching the found objects—which include a combination of windscreen wipers, dog leads, keys, cupboard handles, cutlery, biscuit tins, old spanners, metal clips, costume jewelry, and clock and watch pieces—that she sources from yard sales, thrift shops, builder’s dumpsters, and along the roadside as she walks. When attached to the body, logo-printed scraps form a bushy tail and chess pieces create ruffled chest feathers.
Franc notes that she creates to celebrate other species rather than out of sentimentality. “It is more about a very positive feeling of respect for the huge diversity of life on our wonderful planet and the knowledge that Life itself will always be there. Animals just symbolize that for me in an uncomplicated and direct approach as there is no human element to confuse the issue,” she says.
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