Toshihiko Mitsuya is artist who undoubtedly proves that it’s not the quality of materials that creates great art—it’s the way those materials are used. Mitsuya’s medium of choice is aluminum foil, which he cuts, shreds, and folds into astounding representations of medieval battles, mythical creatures, and undead warriors. Taking advantage of the foil’s malleability and reflective surface, the armor and weaponry look deadly; conversely, it also has been manipulated to convey the softness of feathers and hair. Mitsuya has brought to life an everyday, ordinary material that is often viewed as trash. In some of his installations, he has created epic battle scenes in ordinary rooms, so lifelike that you can almost hear the crash of miniature weapons. The foil, while appearing deceivingly formidable, represents the fragility of life.
In September of last year, Mitsuya participated in an exhibition at Studio Picknick in Berlin. Titled The Aluminum Garden, the show involved rooms full of plants made out of aluminum foil; Mitsuya turned a material that was born in a factory back into the semblance of an earthly organism. You can read more about the exhibition here, and learn more about Mitsuya on his website. (Via Booooooom)
Amy Douglas is an English artist who restores old Staffordshire figures into eccentric recreations. Staffordshire figures were found throughout British homes in the 19th century, often bought at county fairs and collected as “toys” for the mantelpiece. When they arrive to Douglas—broken and eroded away by time—she modernizes the pieces by adding touches of present-day quips and scenarios. Each one has been given a title that makes them humorously unique; for example, “I Lost My Head” depicts a beheaded man joyously swinging a wreath decorated with various craniums; “Chicks Rule” features a chicken-headed figure riding a horse with a human face.
The humor of Douglas’ work is often subtle, fostered in the cultural disparity between past and present. Part of the fun is also tricking the viewer into believing they are seeing a bizarre original work. Douglas works with the destroyed objects to seamlessly blend modern relevance with a traditional, domestic art object. “Many of the techniques, materials, and recipes I use have been in the hands of the craftsman for centuries,” she writes on her About page. “In our more increasing, intangible, fleeting, [and] modern existence, I think people do not look properly and do not acknowledge the craftsmanship of work. I like the idea of making people look twice” (Source).
In April, Ward van Gemert and Adriaan van der Ploeg of the Rotterdam-based design studio Nightshop will be showcasing their unique “décor” at the Robert van Oosterom Gallery: large-scale rugs made out of colorful foam. Each one is created from the artists’ unique blend of urethane foam, which they put into syringes and squeeze out into spiraling and cross-hatched designs. Once the foam dries, it fuses to the adjacent “thread” and thereby creates a solid piece. There are currently seven carpets completed, and the artists plan to finish three more by the exhibition.
While the rugs appear functional (and comfortable—perhaps due to that soft, clay-like appearance), the artists have stated that they’re “they’re more objects without a clear use,” intended to be viewed as art pieces (Source). As colorful curiosities, they blend the traditional art form of carpet weaving with modern kitsch; the are reminiscent of everything from playroom décor to a carpet as seen during a psychedelic trip. On their studio’s About page, Nightshop professes to “bring aspects of ‘low-culture’ into their designs,” thereby “investigating the boundaries between good and bad taste” (Source). The foam rugs bring our attention to everyday objects, highlighting their innate design characteristics and artistic, culturally-relevant merit.
Artist Lauren Gallaspy creates unique and dynamic ceramic sculptures that play with notions of fantasy and duality. Her work, beautiful, adventurous, and full of a sense of wonder, invokes magical moments of nonsensical, yet somehow perfected, chaos. Her intention lies in finding balance in seemingly irrational binaries. She explains, “the things that I love and the things that I fear refuse to balance out. They scrap like cats, cloak and conceal like kudzu, terrify and delight, like a large, shaky lake or a dog swimming hard towards a floating ball.” The artist uses this tension to create creative and inventive ceramic sculptures, which are not only experimental by nature, but break boundaries of traditionalist methods of pottery. Experiencing Gallaspy’s work is like an investigation. Each color, each angle, each new treatment of material is expressive and fascinating. Her work screams out for a quiet attention, being open ended yet intimate. Her work emphasizes the complexity of humanity, the ups and downs of just simply being. She explains;
“My work is about that imbalance: the vulnerability of living things and the sometimes violent, sometimes pleasurable, almost always complex consequences that occur when bodies and objects in the world come into contact with one another. I use ornamentation, obsessive mark-making, and decorative imagery as a kind of devotional or transformational act, a way to render interior spaces and intense psychological experiences physically.”
Dan Bannino is an Italian photographer who translates ideas into visual stories, often through the creation of eclectic still lifes. Featured here is a new series titled Niche of Wonders, which explores the lives of musicians throughout history. From Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to Alice Cooper to Taylor Swift, Bannino has constructed “shrines” that explore their individual quirks and hobbies. We discover (among many other things) that Roger Daltrey is an avid fisherman; Nikki Sixx uses photography as a creative outlet; and Grandmaster Flash collects mugs as souvenirs.
Niche of Wonders makes us wonder how musicians live every day, outside of the talent and stage presence that has made them famous. In a statement provided to Beautiful/Decay, Bannino encourages us to imagine what they are like “when the show is over,” so that we can consider them as unique individuals who channel their personas and ambitions into other projects. If we imagined niches for two recently-deceased artist, for example, we would perhaps see chess pieces for David Bowie, and a collection of Nazi memorabilia for Lemmy. In a playful call to curiosity, Bannino states, “Be prepared to change your thoughts about your favorite rockstar, and perhaps next time you could even consider to buy them the right Christmas present.”
Sculptures made out of moss and lichen. The organic foam that grows on rocks and trees and that are usually considered repellant. Lina Hsaio uses these unwanted and rejected elements to create fantasy faces. Whether painted or textured, the portraits depicted by the artist seem to always be comprised of flora.
The face shapes are perfectly balanced. The major features appear distinctly; nose, mouth and cheeks. It almost seems like the plants grew directly onto the human faces. The fuzzy components were perhaps not chosen coincidently by Lina Hsaio. Moss and lichen are different in their form of life. One is a plant, breathing and living; the other is a composite organism but not a plant. Intertwined together, they symbolize life and death. The purpose of Lina Hsaio is to question the human condition. According to her work,it’s all being summarized in the green, bushy portraits. Behind each individuals is hidden a force stronger than themselves.“Lina’s series of mixed media portraits displaying erratic forms of the human condition with elements that are not to be confined to universals symbols”
Shelley Heffler is a mixed media visual artist and educator based in Inglewood, California. Interested in globalism and the shifting of political and social boundaries, she creates “Altered Paintings,” painted sculptural objects that resemble road networks and natural topography. Using sharp lines mixed with layered tones, her works invoke everything from urban sprawl, to forested hills, to reinterpretations of famous landscape paintings (readers will be able to identify Van Gogh’s The Starry Night above).
In the following artist statement provided on her website, Heffler describes territory as at once fluid and ideological:
“Cartography and abstraction are two languages used in my work. I am interested in engaging the viewer on a journey that preexists language and generates ideas and messages that relate to the viewer personally and metaphorically. The works explore global concerns and shifting boundaries of society and politics. Imagery is derived from a variety of resources such as transit systems, ancient ruins, floor plans, city grids, topography and geography; time and space coexist in a compressed world.” (Source)
From a geological perspective, the structure of the earth is determined by strata, tectonic plates, and natural changes over time. Human society has overlaid these formations with urban habitats and demarcations of nation and identity. What Heffler seeks to explore in her work is the interplay between these natural and artificial concepts of terrain, deconstructing borders and thereby opening a discussion about our spatial relationship with each other and the lands we inhabit.
Aspen Valley based multimedia artist Tania Dibbs has created an epic series of barnacle infested sculptures. Her work, generated with various materials such as resin, paint and found objects, acts as a timeless collection of discovered underwater treasures. The beauty of her pieces lay in the simultaneous precision and playfulness within the materiality. Each sculpture demands a second look, an investigation, a questioning of origin and time. Dibbs‘ work, which ranges well beyond sculpture, also touching media such as oil and encaustic, holds a constant theme of questioning nature and man’s relationship to it. With pieces such as her denatured alcohol containers, rusted waste cans, and bottles being infested by, if not entirely submerged, in tentacle-barnacle-algea reminiscent formations, she forces perspectives on how and why. Where it is the made man objects that take on the action of being disturbed and manipulated, it is, in fact, the object that does not belong. Dibbs transforms every day garbage into fragile and precious works of art, concurrently creating an environmental debate. Her work, she describes, portrays an “unstoppable nature, creeping along and encrusting and covering” (via Hi Fructose).