In Valerie Hammond’s series of wax drawings, protection is two-fold: the artist (previously) encases dried flowers and ferns in a thin layer of wax, preserving their fragile tissues long after they’ve been plucked from the ground. In outlining a pair of hands, she also secures a memory, or rather, “the essence of a gesture and the fleeting moment in which it was made.”
Centered on limbs lying flat on Japanese paper, the ongoing series dates back to the 1990s, when Hammond made the first tracing “partly in response to the death of a dear friend, whose beautiful hands I often found myself remembering.” She continued by working with family and friends, mainly women and children, to delineate their wrists, palms, and fingers. Today, the series features dozens of works that are comprised of either hands tethered to the dried botanics, which sprout outward in wispy tendrils, or others overlayed with thread and glass beads.
Although the delicate pieces began as a simple trace, Hammond shares that she soon began to overlay the original drawing with pressed florals, creating encaustic assemblages that “echoed the body’s bones, veins, and circulatory systems.” She continued to experiment with the series by introducing various techniques, including printmaking, Xerox transfers, and finally Photoshop inversions, that distorted the original rendering and shifted her practice. Hammond explains:
The works suddenly inhabited a space I had been searching for, straddling the indefinable boundary between presence and absence, material and immaterial, consciousness and the unconscious. For me, they became emblematic not only of the people whose hands I had traced but of my own evolving artistic process—testimony to the passing of time and the quiet dissolution of memory.
Hammond’s work recently was included in a group show at Leila Heller Gallery. Her practice spans multiple mediums including collage, drawing, and sculpture, all of which you can explore on her site and Instagram.
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Packed with texture and depth, Song Kang’s ink-based drawings begin with “I wonder…I wonder how this will look compared to that, or I wonder if I can mix this and that,” she says. The Atlanta-based illustrator renders rich labyrinths populated by elements from land and sea that are depicted in an otherworldly manner: candy-colored liquid drips from a bonsai, fish and butterflies coexist in the same dense ecosystem, and a maze of M.C. Escher-style lizards sprawls across the page.
Each illustration is infused with ideas of evolution and the connection inherent in nature, themes that present themselves in both subject matter and Kang’s process. Often prompted by a loose idea, she starts with a sketch and works organically, drawing the intricate and minute details from one corner to the next. Her process is intuitive, which she explains:
In one moment, I feel like I’m building a distinct environment one crosshatched pebble at a time. The next moment, I’m clueless with only an impulse and a gut feeling to add something somewhere. One of these spontaneous decisions was choosing to add color. I was always using black ink, avoiding bright colors out of habit and uncertainty. But during quarantine, I found several colorful ink pens and became curious to see how it would look in my texture-heavy, fine-tuned crosshatched style.
Kang’s work is currently part of Wow x Wow’s Mindweave, a virtual group show that runs through February 26, and originals, prints, and smaller items are available in her shop. To see more of her meticulous process, watch this recent tutorial with Art Prof and head to Instagram.
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Through ethereal oil paintings, artist Amy Laskin juxtaposes decorative fashions and organic beauty. Thick bunches of hydrangeas, lilies, and wispy ferns spring from elaborate, beaded dresses and corsets, which swell into fully formed garments and shroud the works with an unearthly and enchanting aura. Each piece is figurative but non-representational, a decision Laskin shares stems from the idea that “nature is anonymous. She needs no name. She is everything.”
The artist’s studio is located in the Blue Mountains in Jamaica, the place she’s drawn inspiration from since moving to the island as a Peace Corps volunteer years ago. You can find more of Laskin’s work that’s brimming with the flora native to the region on her site and Artsy.
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Whether rendered as a snapshot of the ocean floor or a few drops of water under a microscope, the densely inhabited paintings by Robert Steven Connett (previously) are brimming with vitality. The Los Angeles-based artist probes the planet’s bodies of water, unveiling a range of flora and fauna that populate the mysterious and sometimes psychedelic ecosystems with exacting detail.
From jellyfish and seaweed to microbes, the organisms memorialize Earth’s dwindling biodiversity. The onslaught of news concerning the climate crisis informs how Connett understands the urgency of his works—they evoke Ernst Haeckel’s illustrations but diverge from the German biologist’s drawings in color palette and foreboding elements—which serve as both earnest studies of aquatic creatures and “a tribute to life as it was before the great extinctions began.”
Even so, Connett shares that he focuses on the immense beauty and his curiosity about the natural world. “I don’t want to sully the pictures I paint with death and ugliness,” he says. “I’m afraid the news of the real world will supply plenty of that.” He explains further:
In the shadow of a withering planet, I create worlds that are lush and thriving. I hope my work can encourage and uplift those who are disheartened by the climate crisis. However, creating a memory of a time when our world was stable is not enough. We all must do everything we can to lessen the causes of the crisis.
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Spread across a thick field of leeks in the Netherlands is Daan Roosegaarde’s new installation that illuminates the practice of modern farming, highlighting the plants that feed us and their plights. In “Grow,” the Dutch artist and designer, who’s known for glowing, interactive exhibits, implanted the rows with red, blue, and ultraviolet lights that shine vertically across the crop and shift in entrancing motion.
Spanning 20,000-square-meters, the multi-faceted project is both aesthetic and practical: the radiant landscape is visually stunning, while the embedded elements enhance plant growth and cut pesticide use in half. Roosegaarde worked with existing photobiological technology and distinct “light recipes” that are thought to improve crop resistance and their metabolisms without added chemicals. “It gives a new meaning to the word ‘agri-culture’ by reframing the landscape as a living cultural artwork,” the studio says in a statement.
In a conversation with Dezeen, Roosegaarde noted that a trip to a local farm spurred the project, which the designer now hopes will act as a blueprint for similar works. The Netherlands is the second-largest agricultural exporter in the world—the U.S. is first—and is known for innovating more sustainable technologies. With some shifts in the combination of lights and placement, this singular project could have wide-reaching implications for crop production around the world.
“Grow” took Roosegaarde’s studio about two years to complete and is part of Rabobank’s artist-in-residence program. It’s slated to tour 40 countries in the coming months. For more of Roosegaarde’s work that falls at the intersection of art, design, and science, head to Instagram.
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Moscow-based fiber artist Rosa Andreeva crafts quaint gardens complete with tufts of moss, floating pollen, and cracked teacups made of silk. Teeming with whimsy, the dense embroideries balance tight stitches with loose ends that form the three-dimensional thistle heads, violet pansies, and various florals. To create the fairytale scenes, Andreeva first sketches the flora and fauna onto her fabric and then layers the textured details in thread and beads. As works are complete, she sometimes makes them available for purchase on Instagram. (via Lustik)
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