Jess de Wahls Uses Recycled Fabric In Colorful Portraits Of Inspirational Women

Chimamanda Ngozy Adichi

Chimamanda Ngozy Adichi

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo (detail)

Dr. Ronx

Dr. Ronx

Jess de Wahls is a London-based artist whose colorful multilayered and multifaceted textile works incorporate feminism, gender equality as well as recycling. Using a variety of fabrics, beads, and other materials, she creates 3D portraits that depict strong, inspirational women of all ages, shapes, and ethnicities. She sees her pieces as a way to raise awareness of gender inequality, explaining to TextileArtist.org, “…all the while celebrating great minds and artists of the past and present.

In her artist statement, de Wahls also goes on to say:

Their influence on myself as a modern woman, Feminist and Artist, on Feminism as a whole and on their position as Role models to young girls growing up in a society that has, no doubt, come a long way in liberating its women but has yet a great length ahead of it. Not to mention the work that needs to be done in other parts of our planet, where women are to date still oppressed, belittled and generally treated as second class humans.

So, by creating these pieces, she ensures that their legacy isn’t forgotten.

De Wahls unique style is the product of a self-made called Retex which is short for recycled textile sculpture. She explains:

For the medium of Retex Sculpting, old garments serve as fabric for the works and cushion filler  helps me to create a relief that raises the silhouette off the canvas creating greater depth.
The box-frame, in which the work is mounted, is integral to the piece and can be seen as a modern day relic box. (Via TextileArtist.org)

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Crystal Wagner’s Paper Sculptures Explore The Realm Between Familiar And Strange

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Encased in white-framed boxes are Crystal Wagner’s intricate cut paper sculptures. Like specimens meant for studying, parts of textured tentacles and honeycomb-esque patterns wrap around themselves as well as non-representational wavy shapes. Wagner’s work is meticulous, and each scalloped edge has its own slightly-curled edge. It’s reminiscent of a dragon or a reptile, but not one that we’ve ever seen before. The vibrant colors feature jewel-toned gradients that push her sculptures from quasi-reality into full-blown fantasy.

These works first made their appearance at the Hashimoto Contemporary gallery in San Francisco in 2014. Her exhibition was titled Synesthesia, and the intention was to explore the psychological realm between the familiar and strange. The gallery writes, “…combining screen printing, cut paper and various dollar store items, Wagner meticulously assembles her sculptures with a sense of organic growth. Allowing her materials to build upon themselves, layer by layer, each structure swells into a mass of movement, as if grown from the soil of another planet.”

If you’re a fan of Wagner’s work, check out her large-scale, site specific installations.

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Ashkan Honarvar’s Exquisitely Macabre Collages Of Colonialism

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Collage artist Ashkan Honarvar (previously featured here) creates intriguing paper works that are undeniably macabre, and eerily beautiful. He deals with the darker side of humanity, and how identity is formed through the human body. Usually taking images of faces, people or bodily forms, Honarvar splices images together and recreates an idea of how we perceive ourselves, or the role the human body plays in history. In this series Conquest 5, he is concerned with the idea of colonization and the idea of superimposing one culture on top of another. He takes this concept quite literally and overlays images of wealth (gems, jewels, precious textiles) and tools that would be used to colonize a culture over images of peaceful, relaxed indigenous people.

In Die Weissen Kommen (The Whites are Coming) Gert von Paczensky wrote: ‘If we delve into the core of colonialism then we see that the whole thing was one big plundering expedition, one continuous assault and robbery that involved massacres and mass murders, gold and bloodbaths, rapes, slave-trading and genocide’. Ashkan Honarvar has taken this subject and visualized various aspects of European colonial history. The hunt for wealth and power, the submission of the indigenous people, the abuse of religion as a justification and the animal-like behavior. (Source)

Honarvar is used to tackling complex issues – his themes have ranged from war victims, to the Israel – Palestine conflict, to Soviet forced labor camps. He isn’t one to shy away from uncomfortable subject matter, and has a knack for turning horror into something wondrous. He explains his motivation:

Imperfections play a big role in my work. I’m always looking to find beauty in places you don’t expect them to be. I think subconsciously I’m trying to find beauty/aesthetics in the extremes, just to be able to believe that everything is ok and there is hope. (Source)

Ye Hongxing’s Swirling Mosaics Are Made Up Of Thousands Of Cutesy Stickers

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Image via Art Lexing

YeHongxing-5

Image via Art Lexing

Photo via Oh Olive

Image via Oh Olive

From a distance, artist Ye Hongxing’s works on canvas appear like pointillism technique, as if it’s thousands of tiny painted dots occupying a single canvas. But, as you look closer, her images are much more than that. The small spots of color are actually decorative stickers! Cartoonish dogs, cats, fruit with faces, smiling raindrops, and virtually any cutesy design under the sun make up the complex compositions. They’re a collision of subject matter, and you’ll find pop culture icons, animals, flowers, and historical references are just some of the things you’ll find in these swirling works.

The dizzy mosaic are meant to fuse traditional Chinese imagery with contemporary society. Religious statues, for instance, flow into Darth Vader’s mask. This juxtaposition is the artist’s reflection on China and how its culture has been influenced by the West. “Using stickers is a conscious challenge to traditional and conventional mediums,” she writes in an profile for the Lux Art Institute. “A sticker has an enormous amount of information in it, they reflect the time we’re living in and they are fragmented and mosaic, so I can give them a new order in the landscape I’m creating.”

Anxious Worlds: Jordan Westre’s Collages Critique Modern Society And Sexuality

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Jordan Westre (Living Couch) is a Canadian artist who creates beautiful and critically engaging collages from amalgams of modern and vintage print media. While Westre’s works are all highly unique and nuanced, many of them share recurring imagery, including landscapes, space travel, war, and the feminine body. From a broader aesthetic perspective, her collages are seamless and evocative; Westre has a brilliant ability to weave together seemingly disparate images in a holistic way. The more you look, however, the more a deep — and often dark, or disconcerting — social commentary emerges, one that examines cross-generational anxieties regarding the state of society and its relationship to human sexuality.

Westre’s artistic process begins with a self-impelled assembly of aesthetically-pleasing images. As she explains: “I don’t set out with a definite vision, I just flip through magazines […] or books with vintage photographs or illustrations, [and] pull out anything that might serve as a good subject, background, or element.” From there, she lays everything down and seeks compelling combinations — “and that’s where the inspiration comes about.” Currently, she uses liquid glazes on canvas or canvas board, but is planning on experimenting with hot and cold-pressed papers and spray adhesives.

When it comes to the meaning behind her work, Westre says that most of it unconsciously materializes as “anxiety-riddled observation[s]” of society. The collages depict the world in an oscillating utopic/dystopic state; or indeed, as an oft-idealized place that is festering at its center. In Westre’s words: “[My work is] grappling with the awareness that a lot of our society and the path we’re on is utterly fucked — for lack of a better phrase — while we’re all smiling and laughing and consuming […]. Polish & the rot beneath.”

Westre also brings human sexuality into these critiques, exploring what she identifies as the “ultimate vulnerability and ultimate power” of sex. Desire — which is represented here by eroticized images of the female body — vacillates between states of seduction, submission, and destruction. It is unpredictable; hence why it might contribute to Westre’s fear of a world slipping into chaos. Check out Living Couch for more of her incredible work.

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Mydeadpony Creates Tragically Beautiful Portraits Through Experiments With Illustration And Typography

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Illustrator Raphaël Vicenzi, also known as Mydeadpony, combines watercolor, digital media, and typography in the creation of stunning and imaginative portraits. His female characters are a troubling (but fascinating) combination of darkness and light; washed in pastel colours, their seemingly innocent faces and figures are fragmented with images and words, from swords to jerrycans to obscure declarations of “wake up” and “wolves in the house.” These interposing objects cause the sensual apathy of the faces to fall away into a richer complexity.

When I asked Vicenzi about his creative process, he explained that it is very much driven by stream-of-consciousness: “my process is to start working on an illustration even if I am not sure where I am going.” He builds his pieces bit by bit, exploring and discovering them as if they were living entities. And while the results are beautiful and eclectic, Vicenzi admits that his art involves “a constant struggle, battling with myself about this or [that] decision.” However, the results are powerful, multimedia creations. “It’s worth it,” Vicenzi writes. “No pain no gain.”

Mydeadpony’s pieces speak to us with a familiar melancholy, as they explore the underlying nature of our emotional lives; beneath every face is an interplay of longing, pain, desire, anticipation, and nostalgia. The name “Mydeadpony” itself emerged from a photograph the artist found of himself: a child sitting on a white pony. Upon realizing the pony was long dead, this experience made him profoundly aware of the irreversible passage of time, and how we experience transformative loss and change at several points in our lives. This is the emotional, visceral core of Vicenzi’s work; hard to describe, but intensely palpable. Check out his website for a gallery of his pieces.

Matthieu Bourel’s Surreal Collages Are Quietly Strange

Matthieu Bourel - Collage

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Matthieu Bourel - Collage

Matthieu Bourel - Collage

Matthieu Bourel creates surreal collages that, despite their dream-like qualities, feel somehow rooted in reality. It might have something to do with his use of black and white photos, summoning up a specter of the past and lending a sort of mythic quality to his art.

In some of his pieces, it almost feels as though they’re still frames of a tall tale as opposed to utter fiction. They feel historically relevant, which, according to Bourel, is part of the intended effect. “When successful, all the elements fall together with irony and tension while all other realities are obliterated, leaving the viewer as participant inside the picture, with his own codes and connections,” Bourel explains. “The image then carries the weight of a personal reality.”

The phrase “personal reality” aptly encapsulates the quiet strangeness of his collages. Bloodless cross-sections of torsos and bodies are more contemplative than gruesome, as though they’re textbook diagrams.

Bourel describes his process as finding pictures and photographs that spark inspiration. He’s drawn to pictures that “evoke a fake history or inspire nostalgia for a period in time that never truly existed.”

“A piece often becomes about the search and desire to combine those emergent narrative symbols that seem charged with a familiar yet distant emotion,” Bourel says.