Category: Art & Life

Get Lost

Why does the “remix” quality of collage strike fear into the heart of many art “traditionalists”? I think it’s because COLLAGE ART is REVOLUTIONARY — it helps us to see familiar images in new and interesting ways that can potentially destabilize the status quo. In short, it reminds us to GET LOST in order to find ourselves again and again.

Dark Moon Woodcut, Paget Fink 2021

Collage in its simplest form is a piecing together of our individual experience of reality. Our thoughts and perceptions are in a constant state of change and rearrangement, so it makes sense that art which reminds us of this impermanence can sometimes be perceived as difficult or unsettling.  Getting lost or “losing ourselves” through art and in the world takes on a whole new transformative meaning.

This is what excites me about collage illustration art, especially in the realm of interior decor and surface design — it has the potential to increase our awareness of our environments and to reconsider the images in the world that we often take for granted. I discuss these ideas more in the piece I wrote for the Art & Science issue #50 of UPPERCASE Magazine

Everyday we engage with patterns and images of the natural world. However, this natural symmetry and beauty is often taken for granted due to either its macroscopic universality or its microscopic invisibility to the human eye. 

My recent collage illustrations aim to interrupt this tendency by transforming images from vintage scientific illustrations, charts, and diagrams into surreal dreamscapes. The research, selection, and manipulation of data that goes into each artwork mirrors that of the scientist as they observe, categorize, and document processes of transformation and change. 

Working with imagery from botany and biology resources in the public domain, my art strives to enact the process of defamiliarization, a literary term that means to “make the familiar unfamiliar in order to see it in a new way.” Protozoa resemble mid-century vases, microbes and insect wings emerge as flowers, shells and echinoderms transform into fabulous hats, and dreamy fungi and waterfall landscapes reimagine scientific observations into worlds that are both familiar and new. 

A common foundation of collage, pattern design, and science is the promise of discovery inherent in new combinations of the smallest of things. By piecing together seemingly random bits, an artistic composition or a scientific study can reveal new meaning, inspire possibility, or dramatically impact our relationship with the natural world. 

56th Biennale, All The World’s Futures

The long black drapes and ominous neon sign “Blues Blood Bruise” that adorn the front of the Central Pavilion make the 56th Biennale look distinctly somber. Not surprisingly, the collection of art chosen by curator, Okwui Enwezor, to coincide with this year’s theme, “All the World’s Futures” is pretty serious and disturbing at times.

Central Pavilion, Venice Biennale

Central Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale, works by Glenn Ligon (neon at top) and Oscar Murillo (drapes)

The non-profit Venice Biennale organization appoints a new head-curator for each exhibition. This person is responsible for articulating an overarching idea for the curated exhibitions, identifying artworks and artists that echo that theme, and formally inviting those artists to exhibit in the Giardini’s Central Pavilion and the main space of the Arsenale. These curated spaces are distinct from the art exhibitions organized by individual countries in the national pavilions. The curator chosen for the 56th Biennale is Okwui Enwezor, a Nigerian-born art critic, poet, and educator who is the director of the Haus der Kunst in Munich, Germany. Enwezor is the first African-born curator in the exhibition’s 120-year history. He describes the “All the World’s Futures” theme for this year’s exhibition as “a project devoted to a fresh appraisal of the relationship of art and artists to the current state of things.” This broad scope of an idea seems relatively tame, but in reality the art works he selected for the curated portions of the 56th Biennale are anything but.

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The Biennale Giardini and the National Pavillions

The Giardini gardens hidden on the eastern outskirts of Venice are where the Biennale was born. This tranquil park offers an oasis of possibility where the international world of art encounters the past in the present.

Green lush trees line the wide pedestrian dirt pathways that meander through shady tunnels filled with the sounds of birds and breezes. The expanse of the lagoon offers distant views where your eyes can wander the horizon. A garden oasis from the confusion of the crowded waterways and claustrophobic alleys of the city, the Giardini offers not only one of the most “natural” excursions in Venice — it also has been the center for one of the largest contemporary art exhibitions in the world since 1895.

Giardini della Biennale

View of the Giardini della Biennale from the Venice lagoon

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Venice Biennale: Contemporary Art as Experience

biennale logoAnd if Venice isn’t disorienting enough, there’s always the Venice Biennale waiting to transport you to an alternate reality every two years.

An international contemporary art extravaganza for the senses, the Venice Biennale fits right in with the disorientation provoked by the city itself.

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Venice as Performance

Venice canal

Venice is disorienting and of course, it’s sinking.

Venice requires you to give in to a state of being temporarily always lost — lost in a maze of water and bridges, not to mention literary and historical references.

It’s virtually impossible to resist, even for the most experienced of travelers. The number of famous artists, authors, musicians, and actors who have been inspired by the city’s foreboding beauty while wandering its narrow streets is too exhaustive to list. Venice is never just a backdrop, it is always part of the story itself.

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Transcendence & the WITCH

70s Zambian band, the WITCH

the WITCH in concert at Matero stadium, Lusaka, 1974

There is nothing that compares to the exhilaration of discovering music that truly moves you.

More intense is hearing for the first time a group from almost 40 years ago that you immediately connect with. Even more shocking is when that band is hugely unknown and unrecognized. Most recently all three of these mind-blowing experiences happened to me all at once with the psychedelic rock 70s band from Zambia the WITCH.

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