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Art

Bodies Breach Water's Surface in Ethereal Paintings by Artist Calida Garcia Rawles

June 8, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Lost in the Shuffle” (2019), acrylic on canvas, 36 X 24 inches. All images © Calida Garcia Rawles, shared with permission

Five years ago, Calida Garcia Rawles learned to swim by joining a team dedicated to the exercise. The sessions were “therapeutic and spiritually uplifting,” the Los Angeles-based artist shares with Colossal. “I found that I felt emotionally lighter after leaving the pool, no matter what issues I was working out before I jumped into the water. This led me to begin using water as a visual language… a way to heal and address difficult and divisive issues.”

Through a serene body of work, Rawles renders figures floating through bright blue waters. Generally outfitted in white or pastel, the subjects are surrounded by glinting ripples and bubbles. “When I am in the water and I see the light glistening off of it in certain ways… it just looks so magical. The way the body appears to break, splinter, and flow in moving water appears other-worldly to me,” she says.

Beginning with research, reading, and the occasional interview, the artist searches for subjects, who then are submerged in water and captured through hundreds of photographs. “It’s kind of like quilting… with the images. I use this as a springboard to start the paintings,” she says. Rawles gleans concepts of the supernatural from writers like Octavia Butler and Ta-Nehisi Coates—who in 2019, released his first novel, The Water Dancer, which features Rawles’s work on the cover—that inform the ethereal qualities of her paintings.

Some of the artist’s work is on view through July 4 as part of a group exhibition at Various Small Fires Seoul. For a deeper look into her restorative paintings, head to Instagram. (via Juxtapoz)

 

“Transcend” (2018), acrylic on canvas, 48 X 60 inches

“Pulse” (2020), acrylic on canvas, 24 X 18 inches

“Radiating my Sovereignty” (2019), acrylic on canvas, 84 X 72 inches

“New Day Coming” (2020), acrylic on canvas, 48 x 120 inches

“Reflecting my Grace” (2019), acrylic on canvas, 84 X 72 inches

“Echo my Moonlight” (2020), acrylic on canvas, 30 X 24 inches

“Soar” (2020), acrylic on canvas, 24 X 18 inches

 

 



Art

Remarkable Portraits by Artist Amy Sherald Render Subjects in Grayscale Against Vibrant Backdrops

June 5, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Precious jewels by the sea” (2019), oil on canvas, 120 × 108 × 2 1/2 inches. All images © Amy Sherald

Amy Sherald grew up in Columbus, Georgia, which shaped her conceptions of identity and fundamentally influenced her artistic practice. “Acknowledging the performative aspects of race and Southernness, I committed myself to exploring the interiority of Black Americans,” the artist told Smithsonian Magazine in December 2019. “I wanted to create unseen narratives.”

Now living and working in Baltimore, Sherald paints distinctive portraits set against bold, vibrant backdrops. She renders each subject, who stares directly at the viewer, in her signature grayscale. “A Black person on a canvas is automatically read as radical,” she said. “My figures needed to be pushed into the world in a universal way, where they could become a part of the mainstream art historical narrative. I knew I didn’t want it to be about identity alone.”

When considering how Sherald titles her works, it’s not surprising that she reads voraciously: “She had an inside and an outside now and suddenly she knew how not to mix them” is a line from Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God; Gwendolyn Brooks wrote “She was learning to love moments, to love moments for themselves” in Maud Martha; and “The lesson of the falling leaves” is a Lucille Clifton poem. Each explores the relationship between interiority and exteriority and the experience of Black Americans.

Notably, too, Michelle Obama chose Sherald to paint her official portrait, which was released in 2018. To see more of the artist’s portraits and follow her upcoming projects, head to Instagram.

 

“She had an inside and an outside now and suddenly she knew how not to mix them” (2018), oil on canvas, 54 x 43 inches

Left: “Try on dreams until I find the one that fits me. They all fit me” (2017), oil on canvas, 54 x 43 inches. Right: “Innocent You. Innocent Me” (2016), oil on canvas, 54 x 43 inches

“If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it” (2019), oil on canvas, 129 15/16 x 108 x 2 1/2 inches

“She always believed the good about those she loved” (2018), oil on canvas, 54 x 43 inches

Left: “The lesson of the falling leaves” (2017), oil on canvas, 54 x 43 inches. Right: “She was learning to love moments, to love moments for themselves” (2017), oil on canvas, 54 x 43 inches

“What’s precious inside of him does not care to be known by the mind in ways that diminish its presence (All American)” (2017), oil on canvas, 54 x 43 inches

 

 



Art

Children's Imaginations Materialize as Cartoon Chaos in Paintings by Artist Kayla Mahaffey

June 3, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Picking Up the Pieces” (2019), acrylic on aluminum panel, 36 x 36

Chicago-based artist Kayla Mahaffey captures the vivid reveries occupying young minds. She juxtaposes realistically rendered figures with chaotic scenes of two-dimensional cartoon characters as they emerge from amorphous clouds and pastel commotions. Each central figure wears a distinct expression that’s reflected through the fictional world.

Many of Mahaffey’s pieces portraying children’s imaginations shown here are part of the series Off to the Races, which serves as a hopeful narration of change, she said in a statement.

As we travel through life we experience the daily trials and tribulations that help shape us into the people we are today. During this journey, we may end up hitting some bumps or may experience some rough terrain, but it’s how we deal with those situations that make the difference. We are all on the journey to greatness, each individual racing to the finish line in hope of reaching goals and prosperity. With the race may come with it mistakes and regret, but not taking part in the race leads you nowhere.

The artist shares many of her playful works, in addition to a virtual tour of her recent solo show titled Deconstructed at Thinkspace in Culver City, on Instagram.

 

“Safety First” (2019), acrylic on board panel, 36 x 46

“Stranded” (2019), acrylic on wood panel

“Race to the Finish Line” (2019), acrylic on wood panel, 16 x 20

“Short Fuse” (2018), acrylic on wood panel, 12 x 12

“Enjoy the Ride” (2019), acrylic on aluminum panel, 36 x 36

“Take Action” (2019), acrylic on aluminum panel, 36×36

“Daily Distractions” (2018), watercolor and acrylic on Arches watercolor paper, 18 x 24

 

 



Art

Spirited Narratives Drive Whimsical, Patterned Paintings by Monica Rohan

May 23, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Kate, awkward” (2015), oil on board, 31 1/2 × 23 3/5 inches. All images © Monica Rohan, shared with permission

Whether unwrapping themselves from textile folds or balancing atop spindly stools, Monica Rohan’s figures are perpetually in motion. The painter depicts adventurous subjects set amongst whimsical worlds of overgrown bushes, vibrant seas of fabric, and cloudless skies rendered in patches blue. “The figure brings tension, the possibility of a narrative,” she tells Colossal. Rohan envisions each character as the impetus for action in her playful landscapes and thickly decorated domestic scenes.

Each piece begins with the artist exploring a photographic catalog she maintains with imagery of nature, interiors, and self-portraits.

These are developed through photo sessions which last anywhere between 10 minutes to an hour. I then translate this content into sketches and studies, finding different ways to pull patterns out and manipulate the figure before moving forward with the painting proper…The first marks on the board are a transfer of a sketch for the figure. I’ll then start painting and slowly work my way across the surface in a single layer, constantly making micro-decisions and balancing the image as I go. The figure in this way acts as a sort of anchor that the rest of the painting moves around.

Often drawing from texts she’s reading—Charlotte Brontë’s Villette is one—the artist imbues fictional tales into her works. “I’m interested in when real life and fiction bleed into one another. I’ve always been an avid reader, but happily, nowadays I can read and paint at the same time thanks to audio-books. Often whatever I’m reading filters through into titles for works and indirectly into the paintings themselves,” she says. 

To see more of Rohan’s densely patterned paintings, head to Artsy and Instagram, where she also shares progress shots and some of the original photographs that inspire her dreamlike pieces.

 

“Of course not” (2019), oil on board, 31 1/2 × 23 3/5 inches

“Deliberating” (2015), oil on board, 31 1/2 × 23 3/5 inches

Left: “Unshrinking unthinking” (2019), oil on board, 31 1/2 × 23 3/5 inches. Right: “Turn me down” (2019), oil on board, 31 1/2 × 23 3/5 inches

“Re-appear” (2019), oil on board, 31 1/2 × 23 3/5 inches

Left: “Flung” (2015), oil on board, 31 1/2 × 23 3/5 inches. Right: “Peak drag” (2019), oil on board, 31 1/2 × 23 3/5 inches

“Humming” (2019), oil on board, 31 1/2 × 23 3/5 inches

“Polite decline” (2019), oil on board, 31 1/2 × 23 3/5 inches

 

 



Art

A Three-Story Tree Acts as a Scaffold for a Growing Community in a Mural by Ethan Murrow

May 20, 2020

Grace Ebert

“The Garden” in Seattle. All images © Ethan Murrow, by Julia Featheringill and Stewart Clements

In a 53-foot mural of exposed roots and tangled branches, Boston-based artist Ethan Murrow (previously) situates an energetic construction site manned by human workers, who heave their materials and balance across taught ropes. “The Garden” is replete with scaffolding, small tool sheds, and suspended orbs of sod and lumber among the sturdy boughs. With flags staked on its top, the tree serves as an organic backdrop for the humans’ manufactured expansion. Evidenced by the figure raising a tree branch to the sky in the top left corner, though, the workers’ actions often appear peculiar and inconsequential.

In a statement, Murrow explains that his scenic works are rooted in United States history and culture. Whereas traditional narratives are founded on the idea that progress and human superiority are natural, the artist works to subvert those assumptions.

As our world leaks and creaks forward, landscape can act as the ultimate term and representation of the joys and foibles of our actions. Landscape is an aesthetic ideal, an edited view of reality that suits the maker—in essence, a fiction. For me, the word has come to define our use of images and stories to convince ourselves of who we are, what we know to be true, and what we wish was fact.

Rendered in high flow acrylic and paint pens, “The Garden” is installed at Expedia Group headquarters in Seattle. Many of Murrow’s projects that are concerned with historical narratives and human progress can be found on Instagram.

 

 

 



Art

Home MuralFest: 67 Artists Simultaneously Painted Murals in Their Homes and Gardens While Quarantined

May 7, 2020

Grace Ebert

“O Cavalo Preto” (2020) by Alex Senna. All images couretesy of Void Projects, shared with permission

Similar to other muralists, Copenhagen-based artist Jacoba Niepoort was preparing for a busy period full of travel and public projects when COVID-19 canceled all of her plans. “I had been dreaming of methods for connecting individual, like-minded creatives who share common dreams within this multi-layered/directional world of art in the public space,” she tells Colossal. “When quarantine hit, I wanted to use the spaces we were in to create parallel individual works.”

Niepoort connected with Axel Void (previously), a Miami-based artist who leads a cultural platform designed to bring art out of conventional spaces. The pair and the Void Projects’ creative team curated Home MuralFest, a collective initiative that inspired 67 quarantined artists around the world to paint their latest artworks on blank walls in their living rooms, studios, and garden sheds. Each worked simultaneously throughout April to create pieces that range from monochromatic birds inked on windows to vibrant geometric expanses.

By bringing them out of the public sphere, Home MuralFest subverts how viewers typically engage with these artworks. “What interests me about this project is the new unexpected connections across time and space—using this digital world in some potentially more productive way, letting it grow, seeing what unexpectedness comes out of this,” says Niepoort, whose contribution is shown below.

Because only the residents inside the building have the opportunity to view each mural, technology and social media serve as integral and sincere methods of connection. “Being cooped up has presented an opportunity to come together in new ways, both as coordinators and as artists,” Niepoort says. “To share visuals of the space and time we’re standing in now, created in solitude, but with the solidarity and simultaneousness being an important value-factor.”

See the full Home MuralFest collection and process videos on Void Projects’ site, and watch for the 35 murals being rendered throughout May on Instagram.

 

“New Horizons” (2020), Chinese ink on window and shutter of a house in Montevideo, by David de la Mano

“New Horizons” (2020), Chinese ink on window and shutter of a house in Montevideo, by David de la Mano

“Indoors” (2020), Helen Bur and Erin Holly

“Loading” (2020) by Icy and Sot

 

 

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