with mixed media
Obscured faces peek through tangles of leaves and stems in the ethereal portraits of Toronto-based artist Christine Kim. Her mixed-media collages layer textured graphite gradients and mesh-like cuttings into splintered depictions of her subjects. “‘Fragmentary’ is one word that I return to again and again because I think portraiture is an act of catching glimmers of a person,” she tells Colossal. “I like the idea of not being able to see everything. Having multiple layers partially conceals but the patterns of foliage, (which) also act like a kind of shelter.”
For each work, Kim first illustrates a single figure—the subjects shown here are models Yuka Mannami and Hoyeon Jung—and then digitally draws a corresponding botanical pattern. Those motifs are cut with the help of a Silhouette Cameo machine before they’re built up sheet by sheet. Graceful and at times surreal, the resulting portraits portray fractions of faces and hands that are duplicated or filtered through colorful webs.
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Sinuous branches half-submerged in water, fish swimming through the treetops, and plant life spearing small birds compose the intricate entanglements rendered by Teagan White. Through gouache, watercolor, and colored pencil, the artist merges plant and animal life in delicate scenes that focus on the interconnectedness and beauty of the natural world.
Having just moved to the Pacific Northwest, much of White’s work draws on their years spent biking throughout the Midwest and viscerally experiencing life and death on the region’s roadways. The artist describes their recent series, Things As They Are & As They Could Be, which includes many of the mixed-media pieces shown here, as “meditations on peril and possibility; what has been lost and what remains; dystopian presents and improbable futures.” It’s on view now through May 3 at Nucleus Portland.
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Expressive Portraits, Line Drawings, and Foliage Are Superimposed into Rich Illustrations by Ana Santos
At the center of Ana Santos’s practice is a commitment to discovery. The Salamanca-based illustrator fuses multiple mediums—her work ranges from watercolor, ink-based drawing, and digital painting to embroidery and ceramics—into portraits superimposed with clusters of foliage, birds, and small, black-and-white renderings, a technique she’s developed through experimentation. “Enjoying the process is very important and being open to error has given me unexpected results, which I really appreciate,” she tells Colossal.
Santos begins the layered works on paper, which she then scans to complete digitally in Photoshop. The resulting portraits are expressive and complex, weaving in elements of emotion, fantasy, and nature. “I don’t like to explain or give a concrete narrative to my work,” she says. “It seems magical to me that the viewer is open to a free and personal interpretation and that the viewer feels that it is their own.”
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Allison May Kiphuth (previously) shrinks the expansive landscapes found throughout the eastern United States into picturesque dioramas brimming with natural life. Through layered watercolor and ink renderings, the Maine-based artist creates a mix of quiet forest scenes and ocean habitats often under a dark, nighttime sky. She then stacks the outfitted wooden boxes, blending the marine and land-based pieces in varying positions that create new ecosystems with every combination.
Although Kiphuth derives much of her subject matter from the area around her home, she shares that experiencing new scenes is essential to her practice. “I haven’t been outside of Maine in over a year, and while this landscape is usually so expansively beautiful to me, without the contrast of other landscapes for perspective, it’s been feeling incredibly small,” a feeling that’s amplified by her living and working from a tiny home that’s just 8 x 20 feet.
The artist will have work at Paradigm Gallery in Philadelphia in May and has a solo show slated for August at Antler Gallery in Portland. Limited edition prints of the piece above are available from Nahcotta. Get a glimpse into Kiphuth’s process and views of the scenery she references in her works on Instagram.
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“As a product of an American father and a Mexican mother, I am influenced by the conflicting expectations I have received as a woman within my two cultures,” says artist Nicole McLaughlin. From her studio in Marion, Massachusetts, McLaughlin combines historically domestic crafts—ceramics and fiber art—into striking sculptures that explore identity and heritage, particularly in relation to gendered expectations, traditions, and the changes that occur as generations pass.
In her mixed-media works, the artist contrasts the soft, pliable fibers with the fragility of the plates painted with blue-and-white motifs. Dyed in subtle gradients and earth tones, the loose threads are woven through the sloping ceramic edges and knotted in the center. McLaughlin explains how it’s important that the utility of both elements is removed once combined:
(The vessels) serve as vehicles for fiber. As the fiber flows from, weaves into, or frames the ceramic, it distorts the functionality but becomes a meaningful component as plate and cloth merge. The vessels contain an expression of femininity and an essence of personal and cultural history.
These dichotomies in the materials also reflect the artist’s experience eschewing “the feminine ideals of my Mexican identity,” she says. “I am a force, and I think I tend to push the boundaries of what might be within the female expectation in Mexican culture.”
Currently, McLaughlin is serving as a teaching fellow at Tabor Academy. She sells some smaller ceramic pieces in her shop, and you can follow her work on Instagram, where she also shares glimpses into her process.
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Subversively Elegant Portraits of Indigenous People Drawn on Repurposed Ledgers by Artist Chris Pappan
In his mixed-media portraits, Chicago-based artist Chris Pappan draws on the tradition of ledger art, a practice that flourished among Native populations throughout the Great Plains from around 1850 to 1920. Rooted in narratives, the renderings depicted the ways of life of Indigenous people and the nuances otherwise left out of mainstream conversations. “The mid-19th Century was a tumultuous time for the Indigenous peoples of America; the doctrine of Manifest Destiny brought deep pain and suffering but it also introduced new modes of expression,” says Pappan, who is a citizen of the Kaw (Kanza) Nation and of Osage, Lakota and mixed European heritage.
Using graphite, colored pencils, ink, and water-based media, the artist illustrates black-and-white portraits on a variety of intentionally sourced materials, like municipal ledgers and mining certificates. One artwork (shown below) features five mirrored figures imprinted on Boy Scouts of America neckerchiefs that offer commentary on the destructive practices of the youth organization by recreating appropriated imagery. A similar piece, “Of White Bread and Miracles,” evokes the illustrations in the manual Here Is Your Hobby: Indian Dancing and Costumes, which the group often used to teach its members. “The book is an example of cognitive dissonance as it erases any vestiges of contemporary Native people and homogenizes all Native American cultures while making casual remarks such as ‘…get a local Indian to teach you singing and dancing if you can…,'” Pappan writes.
Despite invoking historical references, the artist imbues his figurative renderings with visions for the future. The lowbrow movement—particularly the melding of technical ability with taboo subject matter—influenced much of his earlier work. More recent projects have honed in on issues of systemic racism and appropriation of sacred objects, which Pappan hopes inspires viewers to question their own complicity. “I’ve always felt it important to understand boundaries (or rules) so that one can break them and then be able to redefine culture in our own terms. (Native American) Culture is living, and we have the responsibility of its continuity,” the artist says. He expands on the idea:
Through the medium of indelible ink, I am asserting our identity and our continued existence in the face of attempted erasure and negating the centuries of racist misrepresentations… In the re-appropriation of an object that may have been considered sacred to some, I hope to impose a sense of what Native people feel when we’re confronted with sacred objects or the bones of our ancestors displayed as macabre entertainment for capitalism.
Pappan is represented by Blue Rain Gallery in Santa Fe. If you’re in the Chicago area, his ledger art is on display in the windows of 1100 Florence in Evanston through December 4, and “Scout’s Honor” is part of the group show, The Long Dream, which is on view at MCA Chicago through January 17, 2021. Otherwise, stay up to date with his subversive projects on Instagram and his site.
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Editor's Picks: Illustration
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.