Barbora Batokova’s Enthralling Photographs Vividly Capture the Gilled Underbellies of Fungi
Pittsburgh-based photographer and self-proclaimed nemophilist Barbora Batokova has cultivated a deep passion for fungi ever since her childhood in the Czech Republic. Growing up mushroom hunting and foraging for hearty meals, Batokova shares the cultural nuances linked to moving overseas as she explains that the “Czech Republic is a mycophilic country, which means people are not afraid of mushrooms, unlike people in mycophobic countries like the U.S.”
Yearning for her roots, Batokova created fungiwoman, an ongoing photography and cooking project that allows her to reconnect with nature. Venturing into the woods year-round, she explores new regions, hunts for mushrooms, captures images to learn about different species, and brings the fruitful yield home to cook. Her mesmerizing photographs show small orange caps springing up from mossy grounds and vibrantly fruiting polypores branching from trees. Devoted to protecting precious corners of the woods, she hopes to inspire others to look closely at the surrounding environment.
Batokova’s forthcoming book about mushrooms will be released in 2024, and she has prints and cards available in her shop. In the meantime, you can follow her Instagram to tag along as she traverses new thickets and shares her findings.
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The Astonishing Biodiversity of Fungi Blooms in Max Mudie’s Macro Photographs
“I’m not the first person to say it, and I’m not going to be the last, but when you find out how integral fungi are to our existence, it makes everything else feel insignificant,” says Max Mudie, whose foraging expeditions reveal the otherworldly elegance, diversity, and minutiae of the myriad denizens of the “wood wide web.” Documenting a range of fungi and slime molds living in the U.K., the Sussex-based photographer is fascinated by the sheer breadth of colors, sizes, and textures he encounters in both rural and urban spaces. “I like to try and find as many species as possible,” he tells Colossal. “The more obscure, the better.”
Mudie’s lifelong love for mushrooms blossomed when he moved back to a rural area around five years ago, and he couldn’t resist the opportunity to forage, document, and cultivate specimens. He regularly joins a local group of amateur mycologists on walks to find and identify different types, and a recent highlight included documenting a bioluminescent species. Even with more than 140,000 types of fungi on record around the world, new discoveries are made all the time. He loves the thrill of stumbling across species that are rare or aren’t listed in textbooks, which requires some sleuthing and team effort to identify. “I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of such a vast subject,” he says. “Many species out there are yet to be described, meaning there’s lots of work to be done—making this, for me, one of the most exciting subjects to focus on.”
In many cases, the specimens Mudie encounters are so tiny that powerful macro lenses are required to capture their intricate details. He often shares behind-the-scenes footage of his finds on Instagram, where you can also follow updates about upcoming print releases and events.
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Shaped Like a Mushroom Cap, This Sustainable Pendant Lamp Is Grown from Fungi
Fungi isn’t usually something we welcome indoors, but Estonian studio Myceen sees home decoration a bit differently. Focusing on furniture and interior design products, the team has found an enlightening application for mycelium, the fibrous root-like system produced by fungus that spreads below the Earth’s surface and gathers nutrients. “B-Wise” is a sustainably-grown pendant lamp (you read that right!) that combines one of nature’s most resilient materials with recycled byproducts into a light fixture that looks like it was just plucked from the soil.
The production of each piece begins with combining organic waste materials like sawdust and straw into a mold along with the mycelium, giving the organism five weeks’ worth of food to promote expansion. After that, the lampshade is removed from the mold and dehydrated to prevent any further growth.
You can see more work from Myceen on its website and on Instagram. (via Yanko Design)
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Deadly Plants Squashed Under Plastic by Artist Ant Hamlyn Question the Paradox of Preservation
The botanical works of West London-based artist Ant Hamlyn are studies of dichotomies and paradoxes. Polarities of the organic and synthetic, comfort and danger, and preservation and destruction emerge from his sculptures, which are comprised of playful, stylized interpretations of natural life pressed under sheets of acrylic.
On view as part of his solo show Tread Softly, Hamlyn’s most recent pieces include yellow daffodils, nightshades, and a pink flowering cactus that, although alluring for their blossoms, are extremely harmful if touched or ingested in real life. This sinister undertone pervades the body of work, which broadly addresses the precarious boundary between life and death. All of Hamlyn’s squished fabric specimens, for example, are depicted at their prime while being suffocated under a polyurethane coating and plastic panel. The artist shares:
When I think about the past time of ‘pressing flowers,’ I think about how when we crush a flower to preserve its beauty, we essentially destroy it to preserve it. These works are at once a celebration and a critique. The human relationship to flowers is a complex one in the way they symbolise love and loss simultaneously. For example, we give dying flowers to each other both in celebration and in grief.
If you’re in Norwich, you can see Tread Softly through October 8 at Moosey Art. Otherwise, head to the artist’s site and Instagram for more of his squished botanicals. (via It’s Nice That)
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Piece Together Nature’s Tiny Wonders with Miniature Jigsaw Puzzles from Nervous System
The innovative team over at the Catskills-based studio Nervous System (previously) released a new line of miniature jigsaws that match organic shapes with similarly natural subject matter. All spanning less than eight inches, a spotted mushroom, mottled moth, fern, succulent, and blooming begonia comprise the collection that’s a small but challenging display of the planet’s tiny wonders. Each puzzle is encased in a plywood frame and has approximately 40-45 pieces with one whimsy cut in the shape of the larger form. Nervous System plans to add to the series in the coming months, and you can shop the puzzles shown here on its site.
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Through Bronze Mushrooms and Gilded Cicadas, Xiaojing Yan Links Chinese Legend and Nature
The wide, reddish-brown fungi known as lingzhi, or reishi, has long been revered as the mushroom of immortality, said to grant eternal life to anyone who consumes one of its spores. This ancient belief founds some Chinese legends and is also a mainstay of Xiaojing Yan’s practice. Based in Toronto, the artist has created a body of work that’s broad in medium and subject matter, ranging from small sculptures installed in circular formations to bulbous paper lanterns with rotating parts. Each piece, though, hearkens back to Yan’s experience as a first-generation Chinese-Canadian and her interest in the way the formidable power of nature continually intersects with culture, art, and lore.
Displayed in precise patterns, both Yan’s 2014 work “Lingzhi” and 2020 installation “Fairy Ring” are comprised of bronze mushrooms finished with a turquoise patina. The texture is enhanced, the artist shares, to mimic concentric tree rings and prompt questions of aging and time. “I arranged them onto the wall in the way that bracket mushrooms would grow in steps in nature,” she writes. “Against the white wall, these hoary objects appear to float in space. Bronze is often associated with monuments, images of power, or eternity and creates tension with lingzhi’s delicate nature and mythology.” In conjunction with immortalizing the fungi in alloy, Yan also uses the actual spongy spores in other pieces, including in coating busts and sculptures with the fleshy growths.
Similarly focused on symbols from nature, Yan’s more animalistic works involve gilded cicada exoskeletons suspended as a winding staircase and an animated series of cocoon-like sculptures that twirl in a circular motion. “Tiger’s Embrace,” a recently carved wooden sculpture, nests alternating depictions of the cat and a human figure in diminishing forms. Commissioned by the Royal Ontario Museum where it’s on display through January 2023, the piece celebrates the Year of the Tiger and is the first in a series of all twelve signs in the Chinese zodiac. The hybrid work, which blurs the distinction between people and animals, “is also based on the Chinese custom of dressing children in tiger hats for good luck and protection,” she says. “The warrior’s lion skin hat turning into a cute baby’s tiger hat can’t stop me from pondering over self-transformation and adaptation.”
Yan has exhibitions slated for Paris, Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Nevada in the coming months, and she is currently working on a project supported by the Canada Council for the Arts. Explore a larger portfolio of folklore-infused pieces on her site and Instagram.
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