Through Trompe L’oeil Bronze, Prune Nourry Fuses Human Anatomy and Arboreal Roots
At the end of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s baroque opera Atys, the titular character is transformed into a tree. This metamorphosis, the result of a spell cast by an agitated goddess, secures Atys’ Earth-bound fate, melding human and plant life into a single body.
French artist Prune Nourry draws on this mythological allegory in a series that visualizes the hybrid form. Standing several feet tall to be lifelike or larger, a trio of bronze figures emerges through intricate networks mimicking both veins and branches, “fractal shapes that we can find in different scales in nature,” the artist says. Each sculpture references the form’s roots in operatic performance, and Nourry painted the smooth metal in a trompe l’oeil style so that the works appear as if made of rope, used frequently in stage rigging. This illusory material also alludes to the connection between the infinitely large and infinitely small, a concept often described in the framework of string theory.
Nourry, who lives and works between New York and Paris, has long been interested in the body and the way it interacts with the environment. She recently completed a massive public work featuring a pregnant mother embedded in the land, and earlier projects include anatomical sculptures that similarly connect vein and branch. In her ongoing In Vitro series that began back in 2010, for example, Nourry uses laboratory glass to create delicate, sprawling renditions of human lungs and bodies. As a whole, her practice “questions the notion of balance and the ethical issues attached to it: the body and healing process, the dangerous demographic imbalance due to (the) selection of babies’ sex in some countries, the ecosystem, and (the) interdependence between living species,” a statement says.
Last year, the artist collaborated on a performance of Atys, and you can see the massive rope installation she created for that production in the video below. Find more of her corporeal projects on Instagram.
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A Mysterious Presence in the Forest Grapples with Change in Guldies’s Stop-Motion Animation ‘MITOSIS’
In his latest stop-motion animation, Alexander Unger, who works as Guldies (previously), presents an idiosyncratic tale set in a nighttime forest. “MITOSIS” follows the transformation of a pine cone into an anthropomorphized log, which in turn morphs into timber, crates, and an idyllic cabin in the woods. Yet an eccentric presence lurks amongst the trees that, frustrated by the changes, confronts their new neighbor and inadvertently prompt the entire cycle to begin again.
“MITOSIS” takes inspiration from the biological process by which a cell produces two identical nuclei in preparation for cell division. It took Unger one year to complete the work, which incorporates 4,425 individual photos. Find more of Guldies’s work on Instagram and YouTube.
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In ‘Uprooted’ by Doris Salcedo, a House Made from Hundreds of Trees Morphs into an Impenetrable Thicket
We use the phrase “to put down roots” to express a desire to make a place our own, whether purchasing a house or deciding to live in one location for many years. A sense of community, family, being surrounded by one’s belongings, and feeling safe and secure all help to form the idea of home, which evokes myriad emotions and associations—especially if any of those fundamentals are missing. In Colombian artist Doris Salcedo’s monumental installation titled “Uprooted” at the Sharjah Biennial 15, the concept remains nebulous.
Salcedo is known for sculptures and installations that incorporate quotidian, domestic objects like tables or garments. Her practice often takes historical events as a starting point, focusing on the effects of major political actions on people’s everyday mental and emotional experiences. “Conveying burdens and conflicts with precise and economical means,” she once cataclysmically cracked the floor of Turbine Hall in London’s Tate Modern and lowered more than 1,500 chairs between two buildings in Istanbul to address displacement caused by war. In “Uprooted,” the theme of migration continues in the form of hundreds of dead trees that have been shaped into the recognizable silhouette of a house, its meticulously constructed walls and pitched roof gradually morphing into a thicket.
Salcedo contemplates transformation and loss that can be interpreted in many ways, especially in the context of Russia’s ongoing assault on Ukraine and the devastating earthquakes in Syria and Turkey that have displaced millions of people. By utilizing trees that are colorless and lifeless, she also references a rupture between humans and nature, examining how our connection to the environment is dissolving.
Visitors can walk around the installation, but the impenetrable tangles of the wood prevent them from going inside. Gnarled roots protrude from all sides, densely clustered trees obscure the entrance, and in place of an inviting front door is a forebodingly dark and impassable juncture between the domestic structure and the wilderness.
“Uprooted” is on view in Sharjah Biennial 15: Thinking Historically in the Present at the recently converted Kalba Ice Factory in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, through June 11.
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Dense Autumn Trees Blanket a Mountainous Bavarian Forest in Bernhard Lang’s Aerial Photos
The motto for the Bavarian Forest National Park in southeastern Germany translates to “let nature be nature.” This sentiment grounds conservation efforts within the preserve, which boasts near-primeval areas, or regions that have had very little human intervention. It also means that dead or dying trees aren’t removed and are instead left for the earth to subsume as they decay.
As part of his ongoing Aerial Views collection that highlights how people have profoundly impacted environments, Bernhard Lang (previously) photographed the mountainous forest from above. Many of the images juxtapose evergreens’ verdant needles with the autumnal hues of deciduous trees, while others glimpse dozens of fallen specimens as they rot. “In the last years, the forest has recovered by itself from the bar beetles and wind-caused damages. Mushrooms, other plants, and young trees are growing again, having the dead wood as a basic fertile soil,” Lang shares.
Prints from the Bavarian Forest series are available on the photographer’s site, and he’s donating 20 percent of the proceeds to conservation efforts. Follow his latest aerial adventures on Instagram.
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Ornate Picture Frames Sprout Twisted Roots in Organic Sculptures by Darryl Cox
In Darryl Cox’s organic sculptures, gnarled tree roots or branches merge with the ornate grooves, patterns, and gilding of picture frames. The Bend, Oregon-based sculptor (previously) continues to explore the material possibilities of wood and its relationship to domestic interiors and the natural environment in the series Fusion Frames.
Cox begins each work by connecting pieces of reclaimed wood to the found decorative objects. “Typically—but not always—I begin the sculpting process at the point of fusion, and move in either direction from there, depending on the piece,” he tells Colossal. “Carving and modeling is a protracted process, so once I have a rudimentary joint, I work on segments at will.” To make formerly disparate pieces of wood appear as though they extend organically from one another, he spends hours meticulously carving, sanding, painting, and staining each piece. The artist retains some of the mosses or lichens that grew on the roots in the wild, further emphasizing the contrast between the finely hewn surfaces of the frames and the rough textures of the raw timber.
This summer, Cox will exhibit his sculptures at Cherry Creek Arts Festival in Denver in July and Oregon’s Art in the High Desert fair in August. Find more of his work on his website.
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Leafy Subjects Exemplify the Social Life of Trees of Shyama Golden’s Verdant Portraits
On the banks of the Martha Brae River in Jamaica, artist Shyama Golden noticed greenery that appeared like lovers embracing. She “started to see these anthropomorphic vine-covered trees everywhere, taking on the forms of various archetypes.” The scenes inspired a series of paintings titled With or Without Us that merges facets of landscape and portrait painting into verdant works expressing nature as a social entity.
The Los Angeles-based artist’s practice is influenced by myriad sources, especially literature and everyday experiences. “Sometimes the idea can come from reading, and sometimes I take inspiration directly from life, but I often do research to add more details as I go, even if the original idea didn’t come from anything I read,” she tells Colossal. With or Without Us takes cues from Richard Powers’ 2019 novel The Overstory, an evocation of the natural world comprised of interlocking narratives in which each character is deeply connected to trees.
For this series, Golden was fascinated by the invisible means in which trees communicate with each other using a network of soil fungi, an ecological survival mechanism that is under threat from deforestation and impacts of the climate crisis. By combining recognizable portrait imagery redolent of family photographs, headshots, or the art historical vogue for reclining female figures, Golden reimagines the leafy denizens of forests as individuals with distinctive personalities and relationships.
Find more of Golden’s work on her website and Instagram.
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