A new menagerie of polar bears, stags, and kangaroos resemble typical wildlife except for the fact that they’re literally swept under the carpet, their features hidden from view. These towering sculptural forms are by artist Debbie Lawson (previously), who crafts animals that are cloaked in sweeping Persian rugs. Rather than being camouflaged by a forest, jungle, or snow-covered Arctic, Lawson’s creatures boldly protrude from the fabric and loom over the viewer.
In her process, Lawson sculpts the animals from a combination of chicken wire and masking tape. She then layers luscious carpets across them, creating the illusion that these animals are about to jump, walk, and prance out of the fabric. This method is derived from what Lawson describes as her ability to spot hidden images in floors, textured walls, and various patterns, an interest that’s mirrored in her perspective-altering sculptures that appear to leap out from the gallery’s walls.
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Artist Alexandra Kehayoglou (previously) creates exquisite pieces of flowing textiles that reference the rugged landscapes of her homeland, Argentina. In the creation of each tapestry, Kehayoglou transforms surplus carpet fabric into natural elements that range from a spectrum of Earth-colored mosses to clusters of trees and serpentine rivers that cut through the heart of her weaves. Entwined within each piece are fragments of the artist’s own memories, including witnessing waterways slowly recede and the alterations to Argentina’s grasslands.
Her latest works, a series called Prayer Rugs, depict animal footprints and small vegetative features of the Parana Wetlands located 50 kilometers from Buenos Aires. In recent years, the region’s biodiversity has been decimated by the wood and paper industries, which have facilitated the growth of non-native plant species that have since spread out of control. Additionally, human-made fires wreaked havoc during 2020, while livestock simultaneously trampled the once-luscious grassland.
Kehayoglou’s pieces document the foliage that has survived after years of this widespread exploitation and how, over time, local fauna has started to reappear: thistles grow through cracks in the dry Earth, deer leave mud-splattered tracks, and chirping insects dance upon youthful leaves. The artworks narrate the wetland’s change and growth, reflecting the pain caused by capitalism while turning the need for change into tapestries that reference Argentinians’ hope. Kehayoglou says:
Isolation made me think of my carpets as spaces where new forms of activism could be enacted. A type of activism that instead of focusing on paranoid conflict was silent, absorptive and, as I believe, more effective. My carpets, thus, became instruments for documenting ‘minor’ aspects of the land, which were otherwise overlooked as irrelevant. A focus on its micro-narratives that would open new doors for possible ecological futures.
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A moth-human hybrid, striped coral, and a smoking frog sporting a tracksuit inhabit Cat Johnston’s fantastical ecosystem crafted from paper, textiles, and sculpy or epoxy clay. The playfully bizarre creatures are inspired by monsters, mythology, and folklore, evoking deities and magnifying the strange qualities of plants and animals. Johnston created many of the lifeforms shown here shortly after moving to San Francisco and exploring the environment. “I was blown away by all the strange and lovely cacti and succulents and the animals I saw there (hummingbirds and pelicans and raccoons!) and wanted to create a landscape of plants and creatures that felt as alien and magical as California did to me,” she says.
Currently living and working in Portland, the illustrator and model maker first worked with paper for a stop-motion animation she did with Andersen M and Tundra studios and has been creating with the material since. She’s in the process of crafting two more characters, which she’ll be sharing soon on Instagram. You also might enjoy Roberto Benavidez’s piñatas and the felt storybook creatures by Cat Rabbit.
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2020 was a year of many realizations, but for Thomas Jackson (previously), the most profound was “proof of the adage that creativity thrives under constraints.” Known for suspending swarms of everyday objects on the rocky shores of the Isle of Man or desert locales across the southwest U.S., the photographer shifted his practice as lockdowns spread and limited his ability to travel beyond nearby landscapes.
The resulting series reflects these restrictions and focuses on a single location and adaptable material: swaths of colorful nylon float above the beaches and down the California coastline, creating compositions that juxtapose the natural environment with the bright, manufactured materials. “I chose tulle for its mutability—depending on how it’s arranged and how the wind catches it, it can morph from a solid to a liquid, to fire to billowing smoke,” Jackson says.
Shot on 4×5 film with little to no editing, the photographs convey a pared-down approach. Rather than hire people to help him install the sculptural objects in exact positions, Jackson utilized driftwood to prop up the lightweight textiles and the wind to infuse the fabric with movement. He explains:
On every shoot, Northern California’s offshore breezes were my collaborator, the force that transformed my installations from lifeless fabric to living things. As collaborations go it was a tumultuous one—of the twenty or so pieces I built and photographed last year, thirteen were failures—but along the way, I learned a thing or two about the importance of staying on nature’s good side. When I built pieces that obstructed or defied the wind in any way, I’d go home unhappy, but when my constructions respected and responded to the wind, interesting things would occur!
Jackson shares a wide array of his work that mimics the amorphous, self-organizing patterns of birds, insects, and other animals, along with behind-the-scenes shots and footage of his process, on Instagram.
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Fueled with a sense of rebellion, yards of colorful tulle cascade from windows and down staircases in site-specific installations by Ana María Hernando. The soft, pliable material breaches existing architecture and entwines trees in swaths of mesh, creating works that are both visually striking and subversive.
Evocative of ballgowns and garments that are traditionally worn by women, the tulle explodes into a flood of fabric as a way to break with social constructions surrounding feminity. “As a Latina, I explore how the feminine comes forward in strength and flexibility, in beauty and in (an) unstoppable abundance of generosity,” the Argentinian artist says.
Though she’s worked with a range of materials, Hernando shares that she always incorporates a textile element, which seems “to be an expansive conduit for my work” and references her childhood in Buenos Aires, where she observed the women in her family sewing, crocheting, and embroidering together every day. She explains:
The things they made from fabric and thread were expressions of their spirit. All the beauty—the hours of work, the washing and ironing—was made invisible once the table was laid and stained with food. I explore the unacknowledged feminine force of work as a prayer that I have known my whole life.
Hernando mainly works from Boulder, although she’s spent much of the year so far in a forest in Tennessee’s South Cumberland Plateau. She’s represented by Robischon Gallery, Shark’s Ink, and Moving Art. If you’re in Colorado, view the artist’s multidisciplinary projects in the coming months as part of Present Box at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art and in a September solo show at Denver Botanic Gardens. In 2022, you can find her at the Sun Valley Museum of Art and Denver’s Robischon Gallery. Until then, explore an archive of her tufted, textile-based projects on her site and Instagram. (via Cross Connect Magazine)
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“Family is intrinsic to my creativity,” says Ismail Zaidy about his photographic practice that’s grounded in color, emotion, and various aspects of Moroccan culture. In many of his conceptual images, Zaidy’s brother and sister serve as models positioned among swathes of pastel fabrics or balancing between taught ropes. Shot against the sandy backdrops of windswept deserts, each photograph amplifies movement and an interplay between light and shadow.
Pairing with the abstract and minimal aesthetic, Zaidy uses simple editing tools and only the camera on a Samsung Galaxy S5. He draws on his passion for color through silks, cotton, and other textiles that evoke the imagery of his upbringing. “When I was a kid, I used to live in a modest area in Marrakech where I was watching the way the women would wear their fabrics, hike and djellaba out on the streets. These women are still a huge inspiration for me today,” he says.
Although the involvement of Zaidy’s siblings began out of necessity when others weren’t available, they continue to offer direction and insight into the concepts, which the 23-year-old photographer explains:
I’m trying to shine a light on certain subjects. A lack of communication, distance between siblings and their parents, and family estrangement are problems that affect many but are rarely talked about. I am trying to treat this issue throughout my work in a poetic way, showing that family is one of the most valuable gifts in our lives.
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Editor's Picks: Photography
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.