with social commentary
Woven throughout Selva Aparicio’s cicada veils and fringed floor coverings are the complexities of rebirth, transition, and beauty’s ability to endure. Organic ephemera—human hair, thorned branches, scavenged wings—become poignant installations and smaller artworks that ruminate on a myriad of global issues, including the climate crisis and the infinite failures of the medical establishment.
Aparicio shares that her explorations of life and death began during childhood when she watched the natural world cycle through growth and decay in the woods outside of Barcelona. This lasting fascination has crystallized in the artist’s body of work, particularly in pieces like “Velo de luto (Mourning veil),” which sews together 1,365 seventeen-year cicada wings with strands of hair taken from two generations of women. The shrouds typically are worn to honor a spouse who’s died, and Aparicio notes the material and form exemplify that “as the fragility of the veil of wings decay so does the patriarchal veil of history that it represents.”
Overall, the artist says that her “practice has evolved beyond the individual to encompass environmental, social, and political activism and evoke the change and rebirth I witnesses in nature.” “Childhood rug,” for example, merges personal memory and a domestic object with larger themes of covering and exposing trauma.
Similarly, Aparicio cites her own experiences in “Hysteria,” an installation that surrounds an antique gynecological table with a curtain of thorned branches. Commenting broadly on the unjust power dynamics inherent within traditional healthcare, the artwork draws a direct correlation between the invasive and painful processes of medicine for women and their ability to bring new life into the world.
Although she spends half her time in Barcelona, Aparicio is currently in Chicago and has work on view at two locations: her piece “Hopscotch” is part of MCA’s group exhibition The Long Dream, while her solo show Hysteria is at the International Museum of Surgical Science, where the artist is in residence. Both are slated to close on January 17, 2021. Head to Instagram for glimpses into Aparicio’s process, as well.
Share this story
Jamaica-born artist Nari Ward bases his practice in found objects and their inherent mutability. The Harlem-based artist has scoured New York City’s streets for 25 years gathering house keys escaped from a ring, discarded glass bottles, and clothing tossed season-to-season. Through sculptures and large-scale installations, the scavenged objects find new meaning, whether explicitly scribing a phrase from the United States Constitution or creating more subtle historical connections.
While commenting broadly on themes of race, poverty, and rampant consumerism, Ward is cognizant of the varied meanings burned wooden bats or shoelaces hold for different populations. No matter the medium, many of his works are site-specific in form and fluid in context, allowing the narratives to take new shapes as they travel from community to community.
His 1993 installation “Amazing Grace,” for example, originally was presented in Harlem in response to the AIDS crisis. The artist gathered lengths of fire hose and approximately 300 baby strollers to line the space’s perimeter, with some piled in a central area, as well. In New York City, houseless populations sometimes use the childcare item to carry their belongings, imbuing the objects with a specific message within that milieu. When “Amazing Grace” later traveled around Europe, the strollers were interpreted anew.
In a 2019 interview, Ward expanded on the inherent fluctuations within the symbols and objects he employs:
History tells a particular story, and I’m trying to say: ‘Yeah there is a particular story, but there are many stories that aren’t visible within that one created narrative.’ I think that it’s about bringing mystery into the conversation more so than facts. So the whole idea is bringing this marker, image, or form to the forefront, but at the same time destabilizing it so that it acts as a placeholder for other possibilities or somebody else’s narrative.
Ward is incredibly prolific, and in 2020 alone, his public artworks and installations have been shown in Hong Kong, Denver, New York City, Ghent, New York, and Ridgefield, Connecticut. To explore the artist’s projects further, check out his site and pick up a copy of Phaidon’s 2019 book, Nari Ward: We the People, which accompanied the 2019 New Museum retrospective of his early works.
Share this story
Shelters of People Experiencing Houselessness Are Photographed within Affluent Residences to Demonstrate Inequality
Whether opulent or minimalist in style, the houses that Jana Sophia Nolle photographs are displays of wealth. Plush rugs cover hardwood, hardback editions line built-in bookshelves, and tall windows reach from floor to ceiling. Even the stark rooms with few sculptures and seats signify a choice, rather than a necessity, and demonstrate the ability to furnish a room with just significant objects.
Within these residences, though, Nolle reconstructs a contrasting shelter to illuminate a growing disparity. In her series titled Living Rooms, which culminated in a book published by Kerber Verlag, the artist situates the shelters of those experiencing houselessness within the dwellings of affluent folks in San Francisco. (Houseless refers to lacking a specific kind of structure, while homeless does not.) The single-occupancy structures often are formed with rain-resistant tarps, cardboard boxes, shopping carts, and other small objects.
Nolle started the affective series as a way to raise awareness about disparity, gentrification, and income inequality by explicitly comparing differences in living spaces, wealth, and security. “Art cannot, unfortunately, solve problems or change society: at least one work on its own cannot. It does not provide solutions, but it can wake up people,” she says. Although the photographs shown here were shot throughout 2017 and 2018, income inequality has only worsened. Recent reports state that while the wealthiest Americans have seen significant gains during the last few months, people with lower incomes have not rebounded to even pre-pandemic levels. According to the Federal Reserve’s data collected through the end of March, the richest 1% of Americans own 31% of wealth.
Nolle’s project is also empathy-driven, serving as a reminder of our shared humanity. “While working on Living Room, I noticed that unhoused people said that they feel invisible to the housed residents of the city,” she writes. “For most Americans, homeless people are barely visible, somehow on the edge of our vision in most urban areas.” Her time working in San Francisco was both arduous and gratifying and inspired her to join the Coalition for Homelessness. She formed bonds with about 15 people, who she later witnessed being forcibly removed by officials. “This was one of the hardest parts of the project. It is about people. It is about individuals’ lives.”
Prior to the pandemic, Nolle planned to replicate the project in Paris and Berlin. Her time photographing the French city was cut short by the lockdown measures, sending her to Berlin, where she’s been building relationships with people who are experiencing houselessness and those who aren’t. “While housed people can ‘go home’ and close their doors and do everything possible to protect themselves, I met many unhoused individuals who described how their networks and support structures changed dramatically due to the pandemic,” she writes. People who are experiencing houselessness are increasingly worried about being infected with the virus and struggling more because they report receiving fewer monetary donations.
Nolle also tells Colossal that she’s noticed differences in the materials people across the globe use to build their homes. While the structures in San Francisco generally are covered, those in Berlin tend to be open on top and use more mattresses for bases. She attributes these differences to both weather conditions and to the varying rules and landscapes of the cities. In terms of photographing large, lavish residences, Nolle says that due to the pandemic, a lack of connections, and other reasons, she’s had more difficulty finding wealthy people willing to open their living rooms to her in Germany. “Sometimes I get the feeling they do have money and wealth in the background but they seem to have trouble admitting it. Being wealthy/privileged seems sometimes also linked to feelings of shame,” she says.
The San Francisco-based series is currently on view through October 24 at Torrance Art Museum in California, while those captured around Berlin will be part of a solo show at Haus am Kleistpark staring in March 2021. Until then, follow Nolle’s work on Instagram. (via It’s Nice That)
Share this story
Lisa Törner repurposes the front pages of The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the French weekly Le Canard Enchainé into inky canvases for her expressive creatures. For each edition, the Stockholm-based artist offers insightful commentary on the day’s events: a pensive monkey masks an article about bankers on Wall Street, a turquoise peacock adorns the coverage of Karl Lagerfield’s death, and a slinking leopard is rendered alongside a heartwrenching story about a mother and child, who were separated more than 50 years ago. “The panther symbolize(s) the son’s escape from North Korea,” she tells Colossal.
Törner, who is the daughter of Swedish sculptor and illustrator Bernt Törner, grew up in an artistic household and learned to paint at a young age. In her own practice, she sketches the evocative animals directly on the front pages. Her technique includes a combination of blank ink, acrylics, and oil paints to complete the wild creatures.
Share this story
Illustrator Eiko Ojala (previously) tackles complex topics with masterfully simple images. Though his work often appears to be made with layered paper, the artist clarifies on his website that he works digitally, building each image from scratch. Cleverly using negative space, mirroring, and raking angles, Ojala conveys nuances of the human experience within tight creative constraints. The Estonian illustrator works with clients around the world to provide imagery on articles ranging from loneliness to climate change: recent publications include Oprah Magazine, Harvard Business Review, and The New York Times. Explore more of Ojala’s illustration portfolio on Behance. Select works are also available as fine art prints on Saatchi Art.
Share this story
The 19th Edition of Pioneering Street Art Festival NuArt Challenges Participants to Consider the Old and the New
For the 19th consecutive year, the quaint Norwegian town of Stavanger hosted another edition of the internationally known NuArt Festival. What started in 2001 as side programming at an electronic music festival has evolved into one of the most influential street art festivals worldwide. In addition to the production of public artworks, Nuart also includes a series of academic talks, debates, and movie premieres/screenings, all working towards greater definition and recognition of the street art movement. Its concurrent indoor exhibition also provides the artists an opportunity to create indoor works and installations without limitations or censoring, providing a unique blend of street art attitude showcased inside a gallery-like setting.
One of the works painted last week in Stavanger was the image of a girl taking a photo of a painting in a thick ornate frame. What seemed like an eye candy composition that creates a simple interaction of the character with an object on the wall is actually a harsh critique of the way the general public and the art world are dealing with the global refugee crisis. “On one side there is the passive position of the observer, on the other side, there is the position of the artist. Both acts as beholders of the critical situation,” the artist Jofre Oliveras (previously) stated about his poignant piece, titled Beholders. The artist further extended his critique of the art world with an indoor installation and live performance work presented in collaboration with the members of the 1UP CREW. As a way of protesting against the speculation of the art dealers based on the artist’s name, Oliveras painted a series of large works on canvas, which were then crossed over and destroyed by the notorious international graffiti crew.
Not far from this mural Argentine muralist Hyuro (previously) created her vision of the crisis and the way it is affecting the lives of individuals. Using hands as the universal symbol of individuality and closeness, Valencia-based artist depicted two hands interacting with a straight line between them. Symbolizing arbitrary manmade borders, the hands are both crossing over or being crossed over by the strict mark. Also talking about important social issues, Paul Harfleet introduced the concept of the ongoing Pansy Project, planting a single pansy flower on the location of homophobic abuse. Not being able to find the actual plants due to their seasonal nature, for the first time Harfleet painted these fragile flowers on multiple locations through the city and inside exhibition spaces.
Working around the festival’s theme “Brand new, you’re retro,” Julio Anaya Cabanding (previously) painted a series of smaller interventions which free a classic artwork by Norway’s Lars Hertervig in unexpected places. On the side of a staircase, at the end of a dark hallway, and finally, as part of the exhibition, his work is successfully merging the worlds of art history museums with street art.
This sensitive merging of two similar movements is an ongoing subject of the work by the Portuguese artist Nuno Viegas who painted a large mural showing a head masked with a shirt. Portraying the classic image of vandal graffiti writers with their makeshift disguise costume, the artist wanted to pay tribute to his graffiti past. “I see graffiti as the retro and street art the brand new,” the artist explained to Colossal. “But it is important that people realize the difference between both and don’t get them mixed up. Let’s respect graffiti and not try to appropriate it, let’s be proud of the “new” movement we are part of. We are writing history and it is important that we write it right and make sure we respect and do not distort what has been done before we got it to the game.”
Share this story
Editor's Picks: Craft
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.