with mixed media
Jewelry Boxes Encase Curtis Talwst Santiago's Elaborately Constructed Narratives of Nostalgia and Identity
Within the confines of a tiny jewelry box, Canadian-Trinidadian artist Curtis Talwst Santiago (previously) nestles miniature scenes imbued with in-depth narratives of home and intimacy, diasporic identity, and memory. The elaborately built dioramas are part of Santiago’s ongoing Infinity Series, which he began in 2008 and has since expanded to include dozens of pieces replete with lush foliage, architectural features, and minuscule figures preserved in time.
In recent years, the artist has referenced his childhood and family life in the mixed-media works, including in the “Soca in the Suburbs” collection that incorporates replicas of his parents’ basement complete with thick shag carpeting and a distinctly ’70s aesthetic. These environments, Santiago explains in a statement, reflect on the necessity of private gatherings in 2020 and the importance of sharing histories across generations:
This theme of ‘Soca in the Suburbs’ emerged during Covid with the closure of clubs in the contemporary sense, dancing at home, and quarantine discos at home started popping up, and I started thinking of the family members I couldn’t see, and the parties from my memory… I’m also thinking about what I want to pass forward to my son when photographs fail. I want him to have an archive of his family history, of his cultural heritage. I want him to know where his family came from, not just ancient ancestors but his grandparents, and see the clothing they wore, and those polaroids that a lot of Caribbean people have from their rumpus room adult activities.
Some of Santiago’s works are on view as part of the Atlantic World Art Fair through May 5. You can follow his practice that spans painting, sculpture, and drawing and see more of his process on Instagram.
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Tagged with graffiti and pockmarked with decay, the ramshackle structures by Simon Laveuve envision a disquieting safe haven in a post-apocalyptic world. The Paris-based artist (previously) creates miniature shelters on wooden support beams or atop grassy hills that soar high into the air, appearing to offer refuge from below. Constructed as assemblages of worn materials, vintage signs with peeling paint, and a stockpile of everyday objects, the mixed-media sculptures imagine a landscape where only the remnants of life remain. Laveuve writes about his 2021 work “The Island”:
There is the world of yesterday, but today destroyed it to build the world of tomorrow… This is where tomorrow lives, on Resurrection Island. In the heart of the abyss, we find refuges hoisted, like the banner of hope. Perched ever higher, with the secret ambition to reach the dreamy sky, the wandering clouds, and discover freedom.
A few of Laveuve’s vertical environments are included in the upcoming Small Is Beautiful exhibition in London—if you’re able to visit, you’ll also see artists previously featured on Colossal like Vincent Bal and Juho Könkkölä—and he also has a show slated for September in France. Until then, follow Laveuve’s practice on Instagram.
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Ebony G. Patterson’s multi-layered works are willfully superficial. The Jamaican artist weaves together a mélange of torn papers, tassels, appliqués, and feathered butterflies to create striking gardens replete with glitter and vibrant hues. “In many ways, I think of the work as the flower and the audience as the bees,” Patterson told Nasher Museum. “The bee is first attracted to the flower because of its color, but it’s not until you start peeling back the layers that you understand what’s happening with the nectar.”
Often set against wallpaper of her own design, Patterson’s mixed-media tapestries and smaller works are immersive and captivating, inviting study of both individual elements and how they interact. Hidden beneath the obvious allure of flora and fauna, though, are more complex, sinister messages of identity, violence, and death. Likened to “secret poisons,” these inferences relate to the anguish and perpetual mourning many women feel, and in her sprawling tapestry titled “the wailing…guides us home…and there is a bellying on the land…,” for example, feminine hands and limbs attempt to grasp for something beyond the entangled mass of jacquard and beads. “Each form bravely assumes a posture of distress, the onerous emotional and physical labor required to conduct acts of devotion, the soul care that grants permission to confront historic and inherited traumas,” a statement says.
Patterson lives and works between Kingston, Jamaica, and Chicago, and she’s included in multiple upcoming shows: What is Left Unspoken, Love opening on March 25 at the High Museum in Atlanta, a solo exhibition at Hales Gallery running from May 5 to June 18, and this November, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Until then, you can explore more of her elaborate works at moniquemeloche, where she’s represented.
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In a poetic new series of works on canvas, German-Pakistani artist Jasmin Siddiqui, aka Hera, nods to her background in street art with sweeping, spray-painted marks, chaotic drips and splatters, and snippets of text. The gestural pieces are rooted in narrative and feature wide-eyed characters who wear headdresses of long-nosed rats, wolves, and strange, hairless creatures. In each imaginative rendering, Hera positions the possibility and wonder of adolescence alongside wild animals often deemed nuisances to human society, with “I’m fine really” displayed next to a child whose finger is snapped in a mousetrap and the title of another work, “Love Her But Leave Her Wild,” accompanying a contorted figure.
“My affiliation is always with those who create beauty in the darkest of places. Because the gutter feels closer to my creative home than the artist studio. I come from graffiti culture,” says Hera, who’s also one-half of the street art duo Herakut (previously). “I used to be the vulture, the raccoon, the street rat, that rummaged through leftover paint buckets left on the curbs of home renovations, treasuring other people’s trash.”
The mixed-media pieces shown here are part of Hera’s solo show Here We Go Again, which runs November 6 through December 11 at Corey Helford Gallery. She currently has a limited-edition print of a fox-clad figure available through myFINBEC, and you can find more of her small- and large-scale works on Instagram.
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Using scraps of vibrant Ankara fabric, Lagos-based artist Marcellina Oseghale Akpojotor fashions intimate portraits that consider the fragmented and varied inner lives of her subjects. The intricately composed depictions rely on a cacophony of patterns arranged in loose ripples and tufts, creating a patchwork of color and texture. Although the textiles are Dutch in origin—they’re colloquially known as “African print fabrics”—they have a strong cultural significance, and by piecing together the assorted motifs, Akpojotor establishes a shared visual memory.
Set against uncluttered, domestic backdrops rendered in acrylic, the fiber-based figures are often disrupted with small spots of paint as a way to “speak to the influence our environment has in shaping us as individuals,” Akpojotor shares. “They represent the connections we have with our background and immediate society and how these often ignored elements form a part of our being.” Navigating the links between subjects and their surroundings is an ongoing concern for the artist, whose work delves into the effects of the current moment, in addition to the ways personal histories and the actions of previous generations have lasting impacts.
Akpojotor is represented by Rele Gallery, where her work will be on view later this month, and she’s currently working on pieces that explore how education affects women’s empowerment, which you can follow on Instagram. (via Women’s Art)
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From small shells and Amazonian beads, Brazilian-Mexican artist Fefe Talavera strings together elaborate masks that fuse ancient mythologies and contemporary urban culture. The mixed-media works are part of an ongoing series—Talavera shares more on her site and Instagram, along with vibrant silhouettes painted in acrylic and her large-scale murals—that embellish expressive faces with stripes, symmetries, and various geometric patterns. Sometimes spanning upwards of ten feet or featuring a long tuft of straw, the masks are an amalgam of color, motif, and material that blur cultural boundaries and the tenuous distinction between humanity and nature.
The São Paulo-based artist tells Colossal that the series “developed when my government opened the doors to cattle ranchers, when forest fires began, putting an end to Indigenous tribes, exotic animals, and trees,” and initial iterations used açaí seeds, shells, and mirrors to explore birth and death through a mystical lens. “When we looked at our reflection in the work, we would be seeing ourselves with respect and love, and it is this look that we should have with the Amazonia,” she says.
Currently, Talavera is working on a larger-scale piece using 20,000 beads, and she has a solo show planned for May 2022 at Paris’s Bandy Bandy Gallery.
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