Surrounding Black children with jumbled masses of cartoon characters, doodles, and explosions of color, Chicago-based artist Kayla Mahaffey (previously) imagines adolescent daydreams and an array of playtime inventions. She infuses her acrylic paintings with a longing for carefree summer days, mornings spent watching the foibles of favorite animated characters, and hours left open for adventure, capturing feelings of joy and curiosity. Vividly rendered and layered with squiggles and globs of color, the large-scale works find “value in the sugar-coated nostalgia,” which Mahaffey explains:
There have been numerous occasions where we omit the truths of our past to only be met with the disappointments of the future, a never-ending cycle that has influenced our current era for the best and the worst. Even though we’re currently going through a very troubling era, let’s take a moment to remember those times where we felt the most safe or where we felt the happiest. Many of us wish to go back to that life, but not to change anything, but to feel a few cherished things, once again.
If you’re near Culver City, you can see the pieces shown here as part of Remember the Time at Thinkspace Projects from September 18 to October 9. Otherwise, find Mahaffey on Instagram to see where she’s headed next.
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Wrapped within the piecey curls surrounding Miho Hirano’s subjects are twigs, vine fragments, and clusters of pink blossoms. Using a cool color palette tinged with blues, the Japanese artist (previously) paints ethereal, introspective portraits of women enveloped in movement whether through small fish swimming around their torsos or branches growing from under their hair. Hirano tells Colossal that she tends to center her oil-based works around finding harmony and the inevitability of change, particularly in relation to life’s fragile nature.
Many of the pieces shown here are on view at Beinart Gallery in Melbourne, and Hirano is currently preparing for a solo show in London next year. You can see more of her dreamy paintings on Instagram.
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At once adorable and unnervingly surreal, the fantastical creatures rendered by Naoto Hattori (previously) seamlessly meld the myriad textures and colors found in nature into unusual hybrids. They’re often fluffy, equipped with horns in surprising spots, and bear eyes so inordinately large and glassy that they reflect full-scale landscapes. Whether a furry sea horse-like character or a large bulbous head floating mid-air, the figures are musings on Hattori’s experiences. “When I (am) lucid dreaming, I imagine myself as a floating hybrid creature or something in harmony with nature,” he tells Colossal.
Primarily working in acrylic, the Japanese artist keeps his paintings small in scale, opting for miniature boards that generally don’t stretch more than six inches. He welcomes the technical challenge of such tiny spaces, although the size constraint originally developed when he was diagnosed with severe cervical spondylosis about 10 years ago. “When I tried to draw with my elbows and shoulders, my fingertips became numb and I couldn’t control the brush,” he says. “If it’s about the size of a notebook, I can draw without moving my neck or shoulders… So currently, I’m painting a smaller size that allows me to draw freely with the movements of my wrists and fingertips.”
Hattori, who lives in his hometown of Yokohama, Japan, will be part of The Blab Show opening at Santa Monica’s CoproGallery on September 11. You can glimpse his process on Instagram, and shop originals and prints on his site.
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A years-long restoration undertaken by the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden has entirely altered the understanding of a 17th-century painting by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. What was once thought to be a somewhat glum depiction of a young girl reading near a window is now an amorous portrayal thanks to the unveiling of a naked Cupid hanging in the background.
Conservators knew the image of the Roman god of love existed after a 1979 X-ray, although it was assumed that Vermeer had altered the piece himself. Only after they performed a series of infrared reflectography imagings, microscopic analyses, and X-ray fluorescence examinations in 2017 did they realize that the Cupid was covered decades after the painter’s death, even though they still aren’t sure who marred the original piece or when. This dramatic of an alteration is rare during restoration, considering standard processes generally involve simple cleaning and repairs.
“When layers of varnish from the 19th century began to be removed from the painting, the conservators discovered that the ‘solubility properties’ of the paint in the central section of the wall were different to those elsewhere in the painting,” a statement says, explaining further:
Following further investigations, including tests in an archaeometry laboratory, it was discovered that layers of binding agent and a layer of dirt existed between the image of Cupid and the overpainting. The conservators concluded that several decades would have passed between the completion of one layer and the addition of the next and therefore concluded that Vermeer could not have painted over the Cupid himself.
The new restoration—dive into the lengthy process in the video below—is just one of the mysteries that’s surrounded “Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window” since its creation between 1657–59. Originally attributed to Rembrandt and later to Pieter de Hooch, the artwork wasn’t properly credited until 1880. The piece is evocative of another one of Vermeer’s works, “Lady Standing at a Virginal,” though, which similarly features a painting within a painting by showing a solitary figure standing near a window with Cupid on the wall behind her.
“Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window” will be on view in its original form for the first time in centuries as part of an expansive exhibition dedicated to the painter running from September 10, 2021, to January 2, 2022, at the Dresden museum. (via Kottke)
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A Poetic Book Illustrated by Tiffany Bozic Explores the Vast Diversity of Trees with Childlike Curiosity
In her first body of work geared toward children, artist Tiffany Bozic (previously) showcases the naturally occurring whimsy and wonder of the outdoors through saturated color, texture, and unusual perspectives: An upward glance frames towering redwoods with rugged bark, elusive flying squirrels cling to a branch, and dried leaves, fungi, and berries form a thick, colorful layer of groundcover. “I wanted to inspire children to notice how beautiful and important nature is and recognize that we are also animals, a part of nature. We only protect what we love. Trees are a great place to start because everyone has access to them, even in urban areas,” she tells Colossal.
In the last two decades, the Marin, California-based artist has created hundreds of paintings on maple panel, often leaving the wood grain fully exposed or peeking through a thin veil of acrylic. Bozic’s detailed interpretations highlight the singularity of individual plants and animals as she adeptly applies a surreal twist to her otherwise faithful portrayals—her earlier books Drawn by Instinct and Unnatural Selections show the breadth of this style—while Trees relies on a more realistic approach. Paired with a lyrical story written by Tony Johnson, the illustrated book is a reminder to celebrate the earth’s diversity with a sense of childlike admiration and curiosity.
Trees is available for pre-order on Bookshop. You can follow Bozic’s new works, some of which will be informed by her research into the ways fire affects biodiversity in Tahoe earlier this summer, on Instagram. Find limited-edition prints and originals on her site.
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Textured Patchworks of Sequins, Plastic Beads, and Oil Paint Comprise Trevon Latin's Dazzling Portraits
Through a patchwork of glitzy sequins and humble cottons, New York-based artist Trevon Latin renders a fantastical world fit for an equally nuanced ensemble of characters. His mixed-media portraits and stuffed sculptures, which uniquely contrast color, texture, and medium in striking collaged pieces, draw their founding characteristics from queer nightlife, virtual reality, and mythology.
Having completed an MFA in painting and printmaking at Yale in 2020, Latin expands on his classical training by utilizing various found materials, including swatches of patterned fabric, multi-color beads, plastic barrettes, and sequins. His portraits center on spliced, abstracted figures stretched on a round frame or couples mid-embrace, with lush, rolling fields occupying the foreground. These green expanses evoke the landscapes of southeastern Texas, which the Houston-born artist and performer knows well, and offer a contrast to the otherwise ostentatious subjects.
The plush sculptures highlight the more mythical qualities of Latin’s practice, portraying shimmering hybrid characters elevated on pedestals. His 2021 work “I Break Too Easily” is similarly fantastical, featuring an aqua 3D-printed mask with long beaded tendrils hanging from its mouth. Whether depicted on canvas or as a fully-formed figure, each of the works is a flamboyant and elaborate embodiment of Shaturqua Relentless, a non-binary character the artist has performed in recent years. The resulting works reveal an inherent intimacy and idiosyncrasy, marking an entry point into an evolving narrative.
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Highlights below. For the full collection click here.