In Valerie Hammond’s series of wax drawings, protection is two-fold: the artist (previously) encases dried flowers and ferns in a thin layer of wax, preserving their fragile tissues long after they’ve been plucked from the ground. In outlining a pair of hands, she also secures a memory, or rather, “the essence of a gesture and the fleeting moment in which it was made.”
Centered on limbs lying flat on Japanese paper, the ongoing series dates back to the 1990s, when Hammond made the first tracing “partly in response to the death of a dear friend, whose beautiful hands I often found myself remembering.” She continued by working with family and friends, mainly women and children, to delineate their wrists, palms, and fingers. Today, the series features dozens of works that are comprised of either hands tethered to the dried botanics, which sprout outward in wispy tendrils, or others overlayed with thread and glass beads.
Although the delicate pieces began as a simple trace, Hammond shares that she soon began to overlay the original drawing with pressed florals, creating encaustic assemblages that “echoed the body’s bones, veins, and circulatory systems.” She continued to experiment with the series by introducing various techniques, including printmaking, Xerox transfers, and finally Photoshop inversions, that distorted the original rendering and shifted her practice. Hammond explains:
The works suddenly inhabited a space I had been searching for, straddling the indefinable boundary between presence and absence, material and immaterial, consciousness and the unconscious. For me, they became emblematic not only of the people whose hands I had traced but of my own evolving artistic process—testimony to the passing of time and the quiet dissolution of memory.
Hammond’s work recently was included in a group show at Leila Heller Gallery. Her practice spans multiple mediums including collage, drawing, and sculpture, all of which you can explore on her site and Instagram.
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60,000 Bees Recreate the Nefertiti Bust and Other Classic Sculptures in Wax with Artist Tomáš Libertíny
Tomáš Libertíny prefers to collaborate when recreating iconic busts and sculptures, although his chosen partners don’t join him in the studio. The Slovakia-born artist tasks tens of thousands of bees with forming the porous outer layers of classic artworks like the “Nefertiti Bust,” Michelangelo’s “Brutus,” and a large jug based on the “Nolan amphora” at The Met.
Encased in honeycomb, the resulting sculptures generate a dialogue between the newly produced organic material and art historical subject matter. Libertíny’s “Eternity,” for example, is based on a 3D model of the original portrait of Nefertiti and is “a testament to the strength and timelessness of the ‘mother nature’ as well as its ancient character as a powerful female reigning against the odds.” Similarly, the artist’s “Brutus” rests on a Coca Cola crate, a reference to Marcel Duchamp’s readymades, although his iteration diverges from the original as it questions “the fragility of fate and finding salvation” in modern times.
Currently based in Rotterdam, Libertíny provides professional beekeepers with a frame that the insects then colonize during the course of months and in the case of “Eternity,” two years. “I have to guide the building growth like you would with a bonsai, slowly string(ing) the workflow into places where you deem ideal,” he says. “The final result is always a surprise as it is not something you can completely predict like would with traditional craft techniques. It happens that I have to look at the finished piece for a couple of days in order to appreciate it fully.”
Beeswax as a material is inherently contradictory, the artist notes, because of its simultaneous ephemerality and durability—Libertíny’s sculptures have the potential to remain intact for thousands of years if maintained properly—a duality he’s been exploring since he began the Made by Bees series in 2005. “A beeswax candle is for me the best example of pure design. Absolutely nothing is styled about it. Everything about is a science of keeping the flame burning,” he says, explaining that the candle served as a catalyst for the ongoing series.
If you’re in Amsterdam, “Eternity” is currently on view as part of Libertíny’s solo show at Rademakers Gallery through January 30. Otherwise, follow the artist’s sculptures that explore contradiction and ephemerality on Instagram. For a similarly collaborative project, check out Ava Roth’s honeycomb-encased works. (via designboom)
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There’s one question looming over Keetra Dean Dixon’s designs: “To color or to keep?” Based in rural Alaska, Dixon is behind the bespoke crayon manufacturer, Retoolings, which has been melding primary hues, muted tones, and black-and-white waxes into asymmetric chunks and spiraled cylinders that are as much design pieces as they are creative instruments.
In a note to Colossal, Dixson writes that she first thought of the scaled-down objects after creating large sculptures with her partner. “While making the works, we followed the wax’s lead, letting the nature of the material guide the final form. So many beautiful bloopers happened alongside the main sculpture. It was difficult to keep myself from chasing the potential of those moments,” she says. The result is a quirky collection of crayons with distinctly contemporary aesthetics: terrazzo-style pillars, marbled crescents, and the now-ubiquitous squiggle.
All styles currently are out of stock, but Dixon plans to release more—along with a ballpoint pen—at the beginning of 2021. Follow her progress on Instagram.
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The sweet and the sinister commingle in Rebecca Stevenson‘s wax sculptures that depict humans and animals bursting open to reveal flowers and fruits. Classical busts and seemingly deceased animals are surrounded by ribboning cascades of plants. To create her sculptures, Stevenson starts by modeling the animal or figure in clay, and then moulds and casts the model with layered resin and wax. Stevenson then cuts open and reworks the sculpture, a process both surgical and artistic, as she decides which elements to dis- or re-figure, and which to leave alone. “These actions supplant or corrupt the object’s original meaning…a desire both to reveal and to mask the inside of things derives from my student experiences of drawing from cadavers and dissections,” the artist explains.
“Creating ‘wounds’ or openings in the work undoes the sense of a clear boundary between object and viewer,” says Stevenson. “The viewer may be invited to gaze deep inside the object, a ‘non-sculptural’, intimate experience of looking.” This experience subverts the traditional narrative of sculpture as a vessel for heroism, crafted from the hard media of stone and metal and meant to be admired from afar.
Stevenson tells Colossal that she began working in wax as a student, fascinated by its translucence and its ability to closely mimic other materials and textures. “Over time, its material properties of fluidity and mutability, as well as its historical associations, have become intrinsically linked to the meaning of my work,” she says.
“Wax is traditionally associated with the creation of doubles or stand-ins for the human body,” the artist explains. “Whether used to create votive objects, funeral effigies or life size simulacra of contemporary celebrities, wax is so explicitly visceral that it not simply represents flesh: it is transubstantial.” Stevenson cites the anatomical wax figures of La Specola, Florence’s zoology and natural history museum, as a particular influence on her early practice.
As her work progressed, Stevenson also began to draw inspiration from Baroque sculpture and Dutch still life painting. “While remaining fascinated by the interplay between interior and surface, I also began to explore the visual experience and the meaning of excess, of sensual overload, of ornament and detail as a means to attract and repel the viewer.” The initially alluring decorations become somewhat sickly upon closer examination, sparking reflections on transformation, generation and decay.
If you’re in Berlin, catch her work through October 31, 2019 as part of a group exhibition at the Wunderkammer Olbricht. The artist also has work on display at Kunstmuseum Villa Zanders as part of the 50 Years of the Kraft Collection, and in So Beautiful it Hurts at James Freeman Gallery in London. Explore more of Stevenson’s sculptures on her website and Instagram.
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Breathtakingly colorful textures pop out when viewers first witness Dylan Gebbia-Richards’s large-scale paintings which appear to escape from their canvas. His rugged works mirror the structure of natural forms such as molten rock or coral. “I see my works as their own landscapes,” Gebbia-Richards tells Colossal. “I allow chance, the driving force behind all natural phenomena, to sculpt the structures of my paintings.”
Gebbia-Richards gains his inspiration from the vastness of the natural world and his artworks explore aesthetics that merge between the microscopic and macroscopic. “I find the enormity of the natural world awe-inspiring,” he esplains. “Landscapes which are immense seem intimate simultaneously; counter-intuitively these large spaces create the feeling of an embrace.”
While Gebbia-Richards’ paintings vary in size, all are built to engulf the viewer. “Sometimes this is very literal like in my room-sized installations which encompass those inside,” he says. “But even with my smaller pieces, I’m looking for the work to expand outwards, attempting to generate the feeling of a place which is much larger.” Like observing a mountain range, the scale of his paintings inspire and delight, while his use of a bold color palette adds a hint of magic to each creation.
The artist’s works appear as if they have been created through a volcanic eruption. To imitate this process, he constructs his paintings by using colored pigment and droplets of melted wax. “I initially found dripping and splattering melting wax very satisfying,” says Gebbia-Richards. “I was interested in the qualities of the marks the melted wax produced, specifically the chaotic patterns of the splatters which sprung from the drip’s impact with the paper I was melting over.”
His paintings emerge by separating the dripping marks from their splatter. It is these random interactions between the various pigments, drip gestures, and the splatter which creates Gebbia-Richards’s layered textures that are signature to his practice. You can see one of the Colorado artist’s paintings at Looking For U at Unit London which runs until August 26, 2018. To view more of his work visit his website and Instagram.
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Self-taught artist Laura Moriarty‘s sculptural paintings appear like long lost geodes, geological mysteries layered with multi-colored rings. The asymmetrical pieces reference the earth not only in their appearance but also their process, as Moriarty heats and cools pigmented beeswax in a way that references erosion, weathering, and subduction.
“Layers of color form the strata of a methodology in which the immediacy of the hand can translate a sense of deep time,” said Moriarty in her artist statement. “Working and reworking molten, richly pigmented beeswax, I build each painting/object through a slow, simple yet strenuous physical engagement, which often becomes a metaphor for the ephemerality of life and civilization.”
Moriarty’s work is included in the group exhibition A Stratigraphic Fiction at the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art in Collegeville, PA through March 19, 2017. You can see more of her work on Artspace and Instagram.
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