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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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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Toronto-based artist Micah Adams uses a jeweler’s saw to cut out the embossed animals, figures, and objects from coins of different sizes and denominations. The metal cut-outs are used to create tiny readymades and fun collages. From a growing pile of copper leaves taken from Canadian pennies, to intricate birds and flowers borrowed from foreign currency, each of Micah Adams works are hand cut using the same basic tool. Working at a smaller scale is something that the artist came to in art college while making sculptures and spending his free time in the jewelry and metal smithing department. The practice of cutting coins evolved out of using other materials.
“I was making small assemblages from things I’d collected over the years, tiny things like toys, bottle caps, beach finds and even teeth,” Adams tells Colossal. “Then I cast them in metal. They were like tiny bronzes or miniature monuments. That lead me to look for tiny things that were already metal that I could use. So I looked at coins and their designs for things I could cut-out.”
Micah Adams is currently working on another solo exhibition of his coin collages and other works which will open at MKG127 in Toronto in February 2020. He also has an Etsy shop where he sells earrings, tie tacks, and other keepsakes. For future updates and to see more of his art, follow Adams on Instagram.
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Toying with the concept of what a book can be, American designer Ben Denzer (through his publishing house Catalog Press) binds unusual collections of objects to create humorous volumes that you’re unlikely to find in a library. The limited edition books have been sold in the Whitney Shop, landing in the hands of a few lucky collectors. The unique objects have also found their way into the collections of museums and universities around the world.
A graphic designer with a degree in Architecture and Certificate in the Visual Arts, Denzer has created books of bound cheese slices, ketchup and sweetener packets, napkins, sequentially numbered dollar bills, and other books. The covers and spines feature the Catalog Press logo as well as well bold text announcing what the “reader” will find inside. In an interview with Its Nice That, Denzer shared his stance on books as “both content and object; simultaneously sculpture and catalog, singular contained multitudes.” He added that through Catalog Press he can “use the idea of the book as a catalogue to explore these wackier ideas while at the same time experimenting with more constrained design moves.”
Ben Denzer’s exploration of books can also be seen in his Ice Cream Books project which pairs real books with their ice cream complement. To see more of his work, check out his online portfolio and follow Denzer on Instagram.
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Feminine Hairstyles From Popular Folklore Embroidered on British and American Currency by Noora Schroderus
Finnish artist Noora Schroderus embroiders classic hairstyles inspired by well-known female characters of European folktales and Disney films onto the leaders featured on US and British currency. The hairstyles are reminiscent of Cinderella’s ball-ready bouffant or Rapunzel’s endless braid and examine the passive beauty associated with feminine characters in contrast with the masculine power of wealth. The banknotes also explore aspects of industrialization, pinning the production of money and capitalism against the slow process and gesture of handmade embroidery. You can see a wider range of hairstyles sewn on currency from around the world on Schroderus’s website.
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From climate change to capitalism run amok, street artist Blu (previously) pulls no punches in his soaring multi-story murals on the streets of Italy. While mixed with a healthy dose of sarcasm and humor, the inspiration behind each artwork is anything but funny as he translates searing critiques into aesthetically beautiful paintings. For instance a 2016 piece criticizing housing problems in the Celadina district of Bergamo, Italy depicts cramped residents as a brightly hued rainbow but leaves a small group of authorities in the lower right completely devoid of color. Collected here is a selection of murals from the last year, you can see more detailed shots by flipping through his blog. You can also get an idea of how he works—perched on a tiny suspended seat—in this short GIF.
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Editor's Picks: Craft
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.