Based in Miami, artist Morel Doucet imbues his surreal artworks with a reminder that the natural world is ripe with entanglements. Often monochromatic, the slip-cast and hand-built porcelain pieces merge flora and fauna into dense amalgamations: a series of naked figures sit with coral, safety pins, and starfish as heads, while other assemblages feature a singular arm or pair of legs jutting out from a mass of sea creatures.
Doucet not only considers how humans are damaging the environment but also who is most likely to suffer in the process. In the series White Noise: When Raindrop Whispers and Moonlight Screams in Silence, he responds to the impacts of the climate crisis and ecological disaster on communities of color in the Miami area. “The beaches are eroding into the sea, coral reefs are turning bleach white, and residents wait tentatively for seawater rise. Everywhere you look Miami is undergoing drastic infrastructure changes trying to gear up for a losing battle against land and sea,” he shares with Colossal. “I believe these communities will experience the greatest climate exodus within our modern times.”
Doucet’s recent endeavors include an upcoming series called Water grieves in the six shades of death that will respond to climate-gentrification and its impact on communities with lower incomes. Follow the artist’s sculptural considerations on Instagram. (via The Jealous Curator)
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Face Masks Hold Fish Tanks and Overgrown Patches of Botanics in Surreal Illustrations by Kit Layfield
A long way from the packs of blue, disposable masks many of us bulk purchased at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the face coverings Philadelphia-based illustrator Kit Layfield envisions are a bit more complex and otherworldly. He draws intricate contraptions featuring the traditional nose-and-mouth covering that then are connected to larger collars adorned with luxuriant shrubs, miniature ecosystems, and tiny fish tanks. The individual subjects all are situated within the diverse environments, providing the necessary structure to keep the micro-systems flourishing.
Layfield shares with Colossal that his surreal illustrations reflect a fascination with what he terms digital climate change. “I like to think of the various information ecosystems online in the same terms I would think of a natural ecosystem,” he says. “A fact can not exist alone, in the same way a flower can not exist alone. It needs to be rooted in something.” As media floods online, it becomes more difficult to wade through, which he expands on by saying:
The perfect example of digital climate change is the information ecosystem surrounding actual climate change. Every year, the information supporting climate change has become more and more undeniable, and simultaneously Americans’ belief in climate change has dropped. I think the information online backing up the truth of climate science is out there. However, the ecosystem that allows that information to survive and spread has been severely endangered.
Although Layfield’s illustrations are interwoven with fantastical elements, he hopes they inspire people to understand how connected they are to others and their environment. “Could somebody see a mask online, one that is so absurd it could never exist in reality, and make them think about wearing a mask in reality? I think it’s possible,” he says.
Find more of Layfield’s bizarre projects that merge social and environmental commentaries on Instagram.
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Maria Popova, of Brain Pickings, has released a series of face masks that bring a dose of history to the modern-day essential. Each fabric covering is adorned with a vintage natural history or astronomy illustration, including Ellen Harding Baker’s solar system quilt, Ernst Haeckel’s renderings of jellyfish, and irises and other medicinal plants originally painted by Elizabeth Blackwell in the 18th century. “Because of the mask’s particular folding pattern, some of the artwork came alive in a wholly new and unexpected way,” Popova writes in a post.
My personal favorite — the original design I made for myself and my most beloved human — is the total solar eclipse mask, evocative of the opening line of astronomer and poet Rebecca Elson’s magnificent “Antidotes to Fear of Death”: “Sometimes as an antidote, To fear of death, I eat the stars.”
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This week, Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu held its first performance with a live audience post-coronavirus, but it’s unclear whether the attendees were too green to appreciate Puccini’s “Crisantemi.” Seated in the red, velvet seats and among the gold balconies, 2,292 palms, ficus trees, and Swish cheese plants filled the iconic opera house to listen to the string quartet’s rendition.
A collaboration with Madrid-based artist Eugenio Ampudia and the Max Estrella gallery, the concert was meant to reflect on humans’ relationship with nature. “I thought why don’t we go into the Liceu like weeds, take it over and let nature start growing everywhere and turn it into something alive even when there are no people,” Ampudia said in an interview. After the performance, the leafy audience members were donated to healthcare workers who have been battling the virus during the last few months.
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Bringing a design-based approach to indoor gardening, Terraplanter ensures that even those lacking green thumbs will be left with a beautiful, minimalist vessel if their plant-care skills aren’t quite adequate. When it’s in use, roots grip the lattice-like outside, which imprints their dense entanglements with a geometric pattern. The vegetation reveals its tessellating design when it’s removed.
The soil-free growing system has four planting methods: rubbing spores onto the surface, germinating seeds in the grooves, wrapping an already blooming vine around the pillar, or propagating a rooted plant by attaching it to the side. Water stored in the center of the vessel then diffuses through the porous material, hydrating the roots and ensuring they require little maintenance.
Because of its unique design, Terraplanter exposes root growth as it occurs, while securing it on the exterior. “We believe in nature-inspired-technology, we love plants, and we see things differently. Bound together with a passion for natural material, plants, and ecological products, we combined our knowledge and experience to create a user-friendly product and an optimal solution for plants to thrive indoors,” the New York-based company said in a statement.
Terraplanter already has raised more than $2,800,000 on Kickstarter, and there are a few rewards still available. To see more examples of the hydroponic propagation, check out Instagram, Facebook, and the video below, which was directed and animated by Kobi Vogman.
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Sydney-based artist Mechelle Bounpraseuth crafts life-sized ceramics that explore her identity as a first-generation daughter of Laotian refugees. Her small and glossy ceramic artwork, which ranges from drink cans to widely known sauces, explores her connection with her past and how branded ingredients are rooted in culinary culture and rituals.
Bounpraseuth was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, and despite many fond memories of her family and childhood, her religion discouraged her from pursuing artistic pursuits. She left the religion in her 20s and got married, realizing that her dream of becoming an artist was possible and that she didn’t have to succumb to the person her religion had wanted her to be.
Her creativity initially began from drawing and creating zines, before Bounpraseuth enrolled in a ceramics course and began crafting functional objects. Noticing her talent for the medium, her tutor encouraged her to pursue work with more artistic flair. She began to expand on her drawings of household objects by recreating them in clay and glossy bright colors.
One of Bounpraseuth’s ceramics is a Heinz Ketchup bottle, a condiment found in many family fridges and cupboards throughout the world. For the artist, the sauce represents the memory of her family eating pho together, a ritual in which they would come together and make the recipe from scratch with a dollop of ketchup. These sculptural forms are meaningful symbols to Bounpraseuth as the pho was a labor of love and would take her family all day to make.
Through the creation of these domestic objects from her past, Bounpraseuth uses her artwork as a way to reflect upon and process her childhood memories and as a way to navigate her old and new identities. These pieces illustrate how some values remain passed down from generations, like Bounparseuth’s reference to her family’s shared domesticity, while some core aspects of family, like religion, are not always.
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Editor's Picks: History
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.