In her ongoing series Human Nature, Dutch artist Bella Ormseth paints lavish domestic scenes inhabited by central mushroom characters and a cohort of plants and oversized insects. The evocative subjects stem from those the artist encounters around her home in Puget Sound off the coast of Washington and are human-like in their gestures and poses, whether draped over a chair during a nap, embracing over wine and oysters, or staring out the window.
Each of the oil-based pieces is a study of Dutch genre paintings and their light, composition, color palettes, and techniques—Ormseth shares glimpses into her process and longer descriptions of specific references on her site. The ornate, tied-back curtains in “The Nap,” for example, mimic those in Johannes Vermeer’s recently restored “Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window,” while “The Conversation” (shown below) works within the subgenre doorkijkje, or look-through, that offers a view of one room while in another, with the intimacy of family bonds present in Pieter de Hooch’s “The Bedroom” and “A Woman with a Child in a Pantry” apparent, as well.
Although the works glean elements common in the Dutch Golden Age, Ormseth veils each with contemporary contexts, including the pandemic-induced loneliness that exudes from the character in “Waiting by the Window.” She explains further in a statement:
Dutch genre paintings, with their depiction of everyday scenes of ordinary life, marked a significant turning point in Western art, away from biblical and historical subjects. It stirs me to see this elevating of domestic life to a subject of art—of seeing not only beauty but something profound in the everyday business of life… While I look to history for guidance, my paintings depict my own time. The idea for a painting always starts with an emotional response to something that is happening in the world, either in my own life or the world at large.
“The Nap” is currently on view through October 2 at Copro Gallery, and Ormseth is working on another Human Nature piece for a January group show at Roq La Rue Gallery in Seattle. She’s also starting new series about an adventurous group of women in the 1920s and their connection to the intertidal life of the Salish Sea, which you can follow on Instagram. (via This Isn’t Happiness)
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We shared footage of the mesmerizing mycelium networks pulsing underneath our feet back in 2019 to mark the opening of Louie Schwartzberg’s Fantastic Fungi, and now the dedicated director takes viewers behind the scenes to show his painstaking process. Filmed throughout a 15-year period in his home studio, Schwartzberg’s timelapses zero in on myriad spores as they burst open, sprawl in every direction, and morph in color and texture. They’re a compelling visual representation of time and nature’s cyclical processes, which he explores in a new short film produced by WIRED.
Most of the challenges in capturing the footage center around predicting where an organism will grow to keep it within the shot and understanding the frame rates of different lifeforms. Schwartzberg explains:
For example, a mosquito on your arm, having a little drop of blood, takes a look at that hand coming towards it in ultra slow motion and has plenty of time to take off because its metabolic rate, its lifespan, is way shorter than our lifespan. And our lifespan is way shorter than a Redwood tree’s lifespan. This reality of real-time human point of view is not the only point of view, and that’s really the beauty of cameras and time-lapse cinematography. It’s actually a time machine.
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Alison Pollack’s preferred subjects are the tiny, inconspicuous organisms that are difficult to spot without a trained eye and microscope. The California-based photographer documents the minuscule fungi that spring from leaves and bits of bark with an extreme macro lens, exposing the rarely visible iridescent speckles, pockmarks, and feathered tissues that cover their fruiting bodies. “My goal is to reveal to people tiny mushrooms and slime molds that they might otherwise never see, or may never even have heard of,” she tells Colossal. “And also to reveal the beautiful intricate detail in these organisms.”
Although her earlier images captured the fleshy fungi in spectacular detail, Pollack has spent the last two years getting even closer to her subjects—which are often less than a millimeter tall—by using a microscope lens that magnifies her findings up to 20 times their actual size. The resulting images document even the smallest features, like individual spores, the veiny web structure encasing them, and the distinct texture and color of each organism.
Find Pollack on Instagram and Facebook to see what she spots next and to order prints of her photos. You also might enjoy this documentary about the vast underground network of mycelium that’s tied to all life on Earth.
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Dozens of Mushroom Characters Populate a Family Tree in Whimsically Painted Photographs by Jana Paleckova
An affinity for fleshy spores runs in the long line of ancestors laid out in a family tree by Jana Paleckova. The Prague-based artist layers antique photographs with playful oil paintings of spindly enoki or ribbed chanterelle, creating hybrid characters brimming with fungi-fueled personalities. “There are many types of mushrooms, all of which have different characteristics. Just like people,” she says.
In a note to Colossal, Paleckova says she was prompted to start the whimsical project when she was flipping through her family’s atlas of fungi. “Czech people are known mushroom hunters. It’s quite common for families to go out looking for mushrooms together,” she says. This atlas later served as a reference point for the 90 small portraits, which consist of the dozens of vintage photographs that the artist sourced from flea markets, that comprise the sprouted kin.
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Hong Kong-based illustrator Ceci Lam envisions a whimsical dream world of mushroom-headed figures, adventures through tropical landscapes, and cozy nights in. Her drawings feature anonymous characters who are full of personality, whether daring and bold as they peer up at towering cacti or more subdued in their plant-filled homes.
Lam shares with Colossal that her Miss Mushy series was inspired after she spotted white-capped mushrooms on the roadside one day during her commute, a surprise considering the pollution in the area. The next day, the spores disappeared, spurring the illustrator to imagine a fantasy world for the small fungi to occupy. Full of quirky characters, the series is comprised of individuals defined by the color and textures of their caps, details that match the interiors of their homes and their outfits.
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While traditional wood and velvet-lined caskets can take more than a decade to decompose in the earth, a new design by Bob Hendrikx is an environmentally friendly alternative that replenishes the soil. Breaking down in just two to three years, “The Living Cocoon” is composed entirely of mycelium, the thread-like part of the fungi that branches out underground to provide food to the rest of the organism. The decomposed coffins actually contribute to the soil health by neutralizing toxic substances and providing nutrition. Mycelium is “constantly looking for waste materials to convert into nutrients for the environment…For example, mycelium was used in Chernobyl, is utilized in Rotterdam to clean up soil, and some farmers also apply it to make the land healthy again,” Hendrikx says.
Generated without light, heat, or any sort of active energy source, the coffins are grown in one week by mixing a strain of mycelium and a substrate together and placing the combination in a mold. The fungi then absorbs the other substance and forms the box-like shape. Research by two funeral cooperatives, CUVO and De Laatste Eer, already shows that “The Living Cocoon” decomposes in soil within 30 to 45 days, and the design was used in a burial in recent weeks. “We are currently living in nature’s graveyard. Our behaviour is not only parasitic, it’s also short-sighted. We are degrading organisms into dead, polluting materials, but what if we kept them alive?” Hendrikx says.
A researcher at Delft University of Technology, Hendrikx designed a similar living pod last year for Dutch Design Week, which spurred the idea to create another vessel from mycelium. He’s working currently to implement light-emitting spores, which could serve as an above-ground marker of where a body is buried. To follow Hendrikx’s environmentally conscious designs, head to Instagram and YouTube. You also might enjoy this living pavilion made of agricultural waste and sprawling mushrooms. (via Dezeen)
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