Lavish Scenes Glorify the Female Figure in Olivia De Bona’s Straw Marquetry
Through glimpses of elegant interiors lush with plants, Paris-based artist Olivia De Bona celebrates the beauty and contours of the female body. Her straw marquetry—the process of applying thin layers of material (usually veneer) to a surface—adds natural texture, variegation, and historical relevance to such intimate and decadent scenes. Referencing Romanticism and the Vietnamese wood carving traditions of her ancestors, the works require “patience, and an incalculable number of hours, that allows me to dive out of time and brings me back to something very concrete, real, far from the famous, facing myself and in tribute to all the women artisans to the forgotten work,” the artist says.
On view now at BEERS London, De Bona’s latest body of work reckons with voyeurism, implicating the viewer from the outset. Sensuous and heavily stylized, the pieces largely depict nude women unaware and in a moment of passing, shown through elements like “a hidden passage, a doorway, a transition from one state to another where we can peek at what is hidden and what is revealed,” the artist shares. The exhibition is titled Le Panache, a term that today indicates flamboyant confidence and that historically denotes an elaborate headdress, the latter of which is recalled in the fiery red feathers of “La Poule.”
De Bona is drawn to this sense of “reckless courage” that “transform(s) all women into goddesses. I put my loving and tender look for all her bodies, all her forms,” she says. Many of these recent works were inspired by the artist’s friend, a professional dancer who joined her in the studio to perform. “This has very little to do with voyeurism and is really about tenderness,” De Bona shares. “A connection between persons, between women, allowing space for discussion and creativity. There was a very raw connection between her movements in my space and my craftsmanship in relation to my work.” Each interior is lavish and ripe with plants, stone tiles, animals, and soft places to rest. Obscured by a half-opened door or fern front, these domestic spaces are fertile, offering room for contemplation, solitude, and imagination.
Several works shown here are included in Le Panache, which is on view through June 10. For more of De Bona’s marquetry, murals, and other projects, visit Instagram, and find prints in her shop.
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Mammoth Straw Creatures Populate Japanese Farmland in the Annual Wara Art Festival
If you visit Japan’s Niigata Prefecture during the region’s annual rice harvest, you’re likely to find enormous tarantulas, eagles, and dinosaur-like creatures stalking the bucolic landscape. The towering sculptures are part of the Wara Art Festival, a summertime event that displays massive animals and mythical creations fashioned from the crop’s leftover straw.
Traditionally, the byproduct is used as livestock feed, for compost that revitalizes the soil, and to craft household goods like zori sandals, although farmers increasingly have found themselves with a surplus as agricultural technology and culture changes. This shift prompted a partnership between the people of the former Iwamuro Village, which is now Nishikan Ward, and Tokyo’s Musashino Art University (known colloquially as Musabi) in 2006. At the time, Department of Science of Design professor Shingo Miyajima suggested that the unused straw be used in a collaborative art project between the university and local farmers, resulting in the first Wara Art Festival in 2008.
Today, students design the oversized characters—you can see previous year’s creations in this gallery—and artisans from Nishikan Ward construct the wooden armature and thatched bodies. The monumental figures stand as high as 30 feet, looming over the green landscape in a playful celebration of local culture.
Although the festival paused in 2020 because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s back for its 13th edition at Uwasekigata Park. This year’s motley cast includes insects, animals, and even legendary monsters like the Amabie, all on view through October 31. (via Hyperallergic)
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