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Art Documentary

A Visit to Wangechi Mutu's Nairobi Studio Explores Her Profound Ties to Nature and the Feminine

July 23, 2021

Grace Ebert

Kenyan-American artist Wangechi Mutu made history in 2019 when her four bronze sculptures became the first ever to occupy the niches of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s facade. Stretching nearly seven feet, the seated quartet evokes images of heavily adorned African queens and intervenes in the otherwise homogenous canons of art history held within the institution’s walls.

The monumental figures are one facet of Mutu’s nuanced body of work that broadly challenges colonialist, racist, and sexist ideologies. Now on view at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor is the latest iteration of the artist’s subversive projects: I Am Speaking, Are You Listening?  disperses imposing hybrid creatures in bronze and towering sculptures made of soil, branches, charcoal, cowrie shells, and other organic materials throughout the neoclassical galleries. The figurative works draw a direct connection between the Black female body and ecological devastation as they reject the long-held ideals elevated in the space.

 

No matter the medium, these associations reflect Mutu’s deep respect for and fascination with the ties between nature, the feminine, and African history and culture, a guiding framework that the team at Art21 explores in a recently released documentary. Wangechi Mutu: Between the Earth and the Sky visits the artist’s studio in her hometown of Nairobi and dives into the evolution of her artwork from the smaller collaged paintings that centered her early practice as a university student in New York to her current multi-media projects that have grown in both scope and scale.

Whether a watercolor painting with photographic scraps or one of her mirror-faced figures encircled with fringe, Mutu’s works are founded in an insistence on the value of all life and the ways the earth’s history functions as a source of knowledge, which she explains:

I truly believe that there’s something about taking these bits and pieces of trees, and animals and completely anonymous but extremely identifiable items and placing them somewhere that draws their energy, wherever they were coming from, whatever they did, whatever molten lava they came out of a million years ago, that is now in my work and that little piece of energy is magnified.

Dive further into Mutu’s practice by watching the full documentary above, and see a decades-long archive of her paintings, sculptures, collages, and other works on Artsy and Instagram.

 

 

 



Science

A Rare Sighting of a Glass Octopus Reveals its Nearly Transparent Membrane in Extraordinary Detail

July 16, 2021

Grace Ebert

On a 34-day expedition around the Phoenix Islands Archipelago, marine scientists from the Schmidt Ocean Institute captured exceptionally rare footage of the elusive glass octopus. With a speckled, iridescent membrane, the aquatic animal is almost entirely transparent—only its optic nerve, eyes, and digestive tract are visible to humans—and sightings like these are so infrequent that scientists previously resorted to studying the species only after pulling it from the stomachs of its predators.

Along with successfully capturing this footage, the research team also identified new marine organisms and recorded the sought-after whale shark swimming through the Pacific Ocean during the expedition. For similar underwater reveals, check out a blanket octopus unveiling her membrane.

 

 

 



Photography

21 Years of Noah Kalina's Daily Self-Portraits Are Compiled in a Two-Minute Montage of Aging

July 15, 2021

Grace Ebert

More than two decades ago, Noah Kalina started taking a daily self-portrait, a ritualistic practice that’s culminated in a few timelapses collating the images as part of his Everyday project. His most recent manifestation in that ongoing series melds together photos from the last 7,777 days in a striking two-minute compilation that vividly shows how he ages over the 21-year period.

A collaborative effort with sound designer Paul O’Mara and programmer Michael Notter, the timelapse uses five of Kalina’s facial features—his eyes, nose, and corners of his mouth—that Notter aligned in all of the photos to ensure smooth transitions from one to the next. Not all 7,777 portraits make it into the final video, though, because they opted to use the average of 60 faces in each frame, meaning Kalina ages two months every second.

Check out the earlier iterations of the Everyday project on YouTube. (via Kottke)

 

 

 



Animation Photography

An Otherworldly Animation Adventures Across Galactic Landscapes Recreated in Miniature

July 13, 2021

Grace Ebert

In the first two parts of his Miniature Landscape series, director and animator Clemens Wirth (previously) celebrates the vast, awe-inspiring terrain of the earth by adventuring through snowy caverns, across pebbled beaches, and to the green glow of the Northern Lights. With a focus on color and textured elements like rocks and bubbling liquids, Wirth’s short films traverse tiny models built in his studio that mimic real-life landscapes with an uncanny twist. The final piece of the animated trilogy travels beyond Earth to explore outer space, journeying through fields of meteorites, across sand pocked with craters, and toward a volcano spewing lava.

Wirth tacked a short making-of segment onto the end of the galactic short film, which you can watch along with the first two episodes, on his Vimeo.

 

 

 



Design

An Enormous 3D Calico Cat Greets Passersby at Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station

July 9, 2021

Grace Ebert

It’s not uncommon to run into a friendly cat on the streets of Tokyo, but one particular calico is making an outsized impression on passersby. A billboard ad for Cross Shinjuku Vision that was created in partnership with MicroAd and Unica, the hyperrealistic 3D feline lives outside the bustling Shinjuku Station, where it meows, wiggles its ears and tail, and stretches in its perch. As expected of any cat, the calico makes brief appearances throughout the day and is typically active between 7 a.m. and 1 a.m. when it retreats for a short nap. Get a sneak peek at the giant creature above before it officially launches on July 12. (via Laughing Squid)

 

 

 



Art Craft

A Dreamy Fiber Installation by Vanessa Barragão Transforms a Medieval Bridge into a Patch of Oversized Orchids

July 6, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Vanessa Barragão, shared with permission

In the small town of Paderne, Portugal, a whimsical valance of crocheted leaves, dangling tendrils, and petals dyed with subtle gradients encircles the stone archways of a battered medieval bridge. Titled “Algarvensis,” the dreamy installation is by Portuguese artist Vanessa Barragão, who’s known for her large-scale textured tapestries that recreate landscapes and gardens with tufted fibers. The bowed entanglement recreates oversized orchids native to the region with wool from nearby sheep and recycled yarn, resin, and other materials in a celebration of the local environment where the artist spent much of her childhood.

“Algarvensis,” which the municipality of Albufeira commissioned to help elevate the Geoparque Algarvensis to the status of a Worldwide UNESCO Geoparque, will be up until September 12, and you can the process and installation behind the piece on Barragão’s Instagram.