Thousands of Fresh and Artificial Flowers Overrun an Abandoned Convenience Store in a Small Michigan Town
Port Austin, Michigan, is a picturesque village on the Lake Huron shoreline lauded for its beaches, water sports, and vegetable-shaped rock formations. With a population in the hundreds, the small community relies heavily on tourism to fund its economy, a reality Detroit-based botanical artist Lisa Waud contended with in a recent pop-up installation in one of the town’s abandoned convenience stores.
Titled “Party Store”—this colloquialism refers to a small shop selling snacks, alcohol, lottery tickets, and other cheap staples—the immersive project transforms a dilapidated space into a lush garden of fresh-cut flowers grown in Michigan and artificial replicas sourced from resale shops around the state. A water-damaged drop ceiling, stained carpeting, and wood paneling peek through the colorful botanicals, which envelop a commercial coffee machine, crawl across shelving, and bulge out of dimly lit coolers.
Similar to her other site-specific works like her 2015 transformation of a condemned duplex in Detroit, Waud describes “Party Store” as a “cleansing reset,” one that uses the tension between life and decay as a prompt to consider cultural understandings of permanence and disposability. She references pieces like Robin Frohardt’s grocery store stocked with plastic food and Prada Marfa as influences, two large-scale projects that criticize consumerism through their satirical imitations of common and luxury goods. “In spending time in Port Austin, I recognized a similarity between its tourism culture and that of my hometown of Petoskey,” Waud writes in a statement. “The local economy relies on the tourists, but often the folks who come can have a ‘disposable’ quality to their visit, exemplified in the increase of consuming convenient items—often packaged in single-use plastic.”
“Party Store” was dismantled after its July 16-18 run, when many of the materials were recycled or reused. “By installing flowers that will ultimately be composted into a space that historically sells items that cannot be biodegraded, I hoped to bridge a connection for responsible choice-making in its visitors’ future,” the artist says.
Share this story
Artist Sui Park (previously) zips together simple nylon cable ties to create sprawling biomorphic sculptures and site-specific installations that resemble heaving nighttime seas, prickly moss, and vibrant amorphous creatures. Park, who was born in Seoul and currently lives in New York, started hand-dying the uniform fasteners a few years ago to deepen the contrast between the mass-produced material and her spiky organic masses. “Each has a subtle difference in shape and angle, and when grouped and connected together to develop into a larger form, the subtlety creates a dynamic and a characteristic of my work,” she says.
Whether suspended in a gallery or staked into a patch of grass, Park’s abstract pieces are porous, each revealing the surrounding environment through its body. This focus on permeability “opens the inner space of my work and makes the inside visible. At the same time, I think it opens and creates a moment to pause, reflect, and ponder personal imageries surrounding nature. Different shapes and angles of modules provide various perspectives of the inner space,” she shares.
Park has multiple upcoming exhibitions, including shows running August 11 to November 27 at Cahoon Museum of American Art, September 7 to December 11 at Suwon Museum of Art, September 2021 to August 2023 at the Site-Responsive Art Biennale at I-Park Foundation, and another at Poikilo Museot starting in September. Until then, explore more of her sprawling installations and standalone pieces on Behance and Instagram.
Share this story
Sarah Sze Implants a Fragmented Installation of Individual Mirrors in a Lush Hudson Valley Landscape
Artist Sarah Sze (previously) is known for precisely arranging unique images like photos, paintings, projections into massive sculptural constellations that collapse time and space, and one of her newest installations works in a similar manner, drawing on the tensions between the individual and collective and past, present, and future. Nestled into the lush hillside of Storm King Arts Center in New York’s Hudson Valley, Sze’s “Fallen Sky” is comprised of 132 distinct pieces of polished stainless steel arranged in a fragmented circle.
The sloping, slightly hidden installation, which is now part of the center’s permanent collection, reflects the landscape, shifting the mirrored images it displays depending on the time of day, season, and the location of the viewer. All of the grasses surrounding the metal components were chosen and planted by hand, creating a contrast between the sleek tops of the steel and the natural growths.
Spanning 26 feet, the amorphous, segmented forms evoke the process of erosion and the ways elements change and deteriorate over time. Sze pairs “Fallen Sky” with an immersive collaged installation titled “Fifth Season,” which will be on view inside the center through November 8, an accompaniment that speaks to her vision for the pieces. “The relationship of the human to landscape is this age-old exploration of artists, but both works I’ve made are much more about how the landscape is fragile, it’s in flux, and our relationship to it is fractured,” she said in a recent interview. “I think this has to do with our generation. Our relationship to landscape is not one of owning it.”
Share this story
Whether nestling an iridescent tunnel inside a Georgian-style church or encircling a concrete walkway with multicolor ribbons, Liz West transforms whatever space she approaches into a dynamic field of kaleidoscopic light and shadow. The prolific British artist (previously) is known for her large-scale pieces that use reflection and refraction to create dazzling immersive environments. Often utilizing translucent panels and a combination of natural light and LEDs, West’s intention is to enhance sensory awareness, showing the potential the full spectrum of color has to impact both psychological and physical reactions.
On view through August 21 at Canary Wharf in London, “Hymn to the Big Wheel” (shown above) is an architectural installation comprised of two concentric octagons that cast layered jewel-toned shadows depending on the viewer’s position. The piece draws its name from Massive Attack’s “Hymn Of The Big Wheel” and has what West calls a “sun-dial effect” that changes how the light streams through the panels depending on the time of day.
Other recent projects include “Aglow,” which arranged 169 fluorescent bowls in a hexagon outside of the Musee Nissim de Camondo in Paris. The individual elements were designed to catch rainfall, which once pooled in the base, added an extra layer of color and illusion to the patterned grouping. Similarly deceptive is West’s 2021 piece titled “Presence” at Christ Church in Macclesfield, which produced an obscured and prismatic path through the historic site that presented the existing architecture through the lens of colorful panels.
West is currently working on two permanent installations launching in August and September in Salford, while “Hundreds and Thousands” (shown below) will be taken down this fall. You can follow her vibrant constructions on her site and Instagram.
Share this story
Brazillian artist Ernesto Neto (previously) is known for his enormous, fiber-based installations that plunge viewers into a multi-sensory landscape of organic elements: people are encouraged to walk through canals of stretched yarn and grasp the structural weavings, while spicy scents like turmeric and cumin are often diffused throughout the room.
Similarly immersive and imposing, Neto’s latest work at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is one of his largest to date. “SunForceOceanLife” is a hand-crocheted, walkable maze of yellow, orange, and green threads that stretch 79 feet across the gallery and spiral 12 feet in the air. The pliable installation centers around “fire, the vital energy that enables life on this planet,” the artist says, sharing that each polymer string utilized is burned at the end to further infuse the piece with sacred, meditative rituals. “I hope that the experience of this work will feel like a chant made in gratitude to the gigantic ball of fire we call the sun, a gesture of thanks for the energy, truth, and power that it shares with us as it touches our land, our oceans, and our life,” he writes.
Plastic balls also fill the pathway and shift underfoot, which forces those passing through the suspended structure to intentionally maintain their balance. Neto explains:
It directly engages the body as does a joyful dance or meditation, inviting us to relax, breathe, and uncouple our body from our conscious mind. The sensation of floating, the body cradled by the crocheted fruits of our labor, brings to mind a hammock: the quintessential indigenous invention that uplifts us and connects us to the wisdom and traditions of our ancestors.
Share this story
Street artist Escif (previously) utilizes muted color palettes and straightforward motifs to convert walls around his home city of Valencia and other locations throughout Europe into perceptive ruminations on capitalism, politics, and society. He paints sparse scenes and objects with ties to their environment and current events, often relying on humor and wit to convey an underlying message. Although the Spanish artist has spent much of the last year in his studio working on drawings with his two-year-old son, some of his more recent artworks include a brick shattering an already damaged window, a military officer armed with a vaccine like a bazooka, and a touching tribute to the late street artist Hyuro, who died last November.
Share this story
Editor's Picks: Illustration
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.