Tag Archives: art

Art + Nature Collaborations

A piece from the Hakona Open Air Museum. Via A.K.A. Wayward.

I think within every artist are two desires that smolder alongside their fiery passion to create — mastery and immortality.

First, they want to be good at what they do, whether it be painting, writing, or playing the cello. They generally aspire to achieve an optimum level of expertise. This means mastering their skills, and conquering, mastering, controlling their medium, making pigments, words, or sounds obey and do their bidding. Even in spontaneity and exuberance, in improvisation and working on the fly, all such actions always tend toward taming the paint or marble, coaxing it into submission.

And then what artist doesn’t want to live on through their works? Even though they do tend to be their own worst critics, and want to banish from existence all works that are considered sub-par, the creations that survive this merciless judgment –these they want to live on — at least past their lifetimes, if not forever. These masterpieces are wrought from their minds and souls, brought forth from their depths not without difficulty, usually with much anguish. It is but natural instinct to want to preserve the perfection of their works and protect them from destruction.

For all these reasons I feel great admiration for the artists behind the installations featured in today’s post. They are hugely ambitious in scope and scale of their works, but they relinquish control of what their art will ultimately become. They give up any hope for their works’ longevity in engaging in a kind of partnership with a very unpredictable, temperamental and ever-shifting collaborator — Mother Nature. They do their part, and allow their partner the freedom to finish it, and to eventually take it apart and ingest it. It seems awfully counter-intuitive, to surrender the products of their efforts to the elements, but there’s something achingly beautiful and infinitely joyful and transcendent about the letting go, the embracing of the unknown, the acceptance that everything is fleeting and transitory.

Via Photography Heat

Yarn Bombing - by B-Arbeiten. Via Street Art Utopia.

There’s so much playful exuberance in this work of “yarn bombing”. I can imagine the joy that it brings to all who see it.

By Jonna Pohjalainen - In Turku, Finland. Via Street Art Utopia.

The logs turned giant color pencils, bring a touch of rustic whimsy to the landscape.

Via Le Cahier Josephine

More woodsy cuteness!

By Dimitri Xenakis via Around Homes

Via Photography Heat

Found this really funny and quite brilliant. Who says art has to be all serious?

By Jason de Caires via Inhabitat

By Jason de Caires via Inhabitat

These last couple of pieces deserve special mention. They started out as sculptures made of cement created by Jason de Caires. What they eventually became are coral reefs and homes for various species of marine life. De Caires has placed many of his works in the ocean, making a vast underwater sculpture garden, which Nature has indeed put its own spin on, adding color and texture to the sculptor’s various figures.


Posted in Culture, Design | Tagged , ,

Picking Up the Pieces: LEGO Design Projects

If you have had any exposure to children over the last few years then surely you have noticed the explosive renaissance that LEGO is enjoying amongst the smaller set. Packs have evolved from the simple combinations of bricks that I played with as a kid to complex set-ups like the Star Wars Death Star, which includes more than 3000 pieces (and a hefty price tag)!

Image: NBC News

There are stores dedicated to the stuff, catalogues to pore over and (as of last week) a hotel at the LEGOLAND Resort. I’m sure that many parents are sick of having all the bits and pieces underfoot but I must admit that seeing the bright little cubes brings out the kid in me. I just want to dive in and create.

Image: Nathan Sawaya: The Art of the Brick

I’m not alone. Artists and designers around the world are turning to LEGO as a medium of choice. New York-based artist Nathan Sawaya uses it to create dynamic sculptures.

Image: Dwell

French designers Simon Pillard and Philippe Rosetti, who work collectively as Munchausen Design, pulled off a colourful IKEA hack when they covered one of the company’s kitchen islands with over 20,000 LEGO bricks. Now there is a home improvement project that would keep the kids occupied over the school holidays!

Image: abgc

When Boys and Girls, an advertising agency in Dublin, approached the design and architecture gurus at abgc to redo their new digs, they had only one request: make the space playful but not juvenile. To inspire the team, Boys and Girls provided a Charles Mingus quote: “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” In the boardroom, the result was a stunning but sophisticated table crafted from over 20,000 brightly coloured blocks. How could one not be inspired sitting around this fantastic piece of furniture?

Image: My Modern Met

The folks at the graphic design company NPIRE in Hamburg did their own remodeling using sets from their childhood collections (as well as 80 new ones) to construct a dividing wall in their office space. And talk about dedication- it took over a year to complete! Check out the photos at My Modern Met for an overview of the slow, painstaking project.

Image: house of anaïs

Additionally, numerous designers and artists have been inspired to replicate the product in their own work. Lunatic Construction creates a variety of custom furniture pieces, from desks to coffee tables, using brick-like blocks in a rainbow of colours.

Image: If It’s Hip It’s Here

Swedish designer Staffan Holm taps into his childhood sense of fun, inspired by LEGO, to temper the gravitas of his CEO desk. He crafts the piece in solid beech and MDF coated in enamel paint to evoke the toy’s iconic shape; the result is a masterful combination of modern and baroque styles.

Image: Megx

Let’s face it- we all need a little more whimsy in our lives. I used LEGO to construct the architectural fantasies of my childhood and seeing it now makes me smile as I remember the hours of imaginative play that it inspired. Seeing these creations makes me want to dive back in and build something just as fun but on an adult-scale.

If you had the time (and the blocks), what would you like to make out of LEGO?


Posted in Design | Tagged , ,

Coffee Art

Image from Coffee Hunter

If you have a coffee habit like myself, chances are you take your morning (or mid-afternoon) brew very seriously, and are possibly regulars at the local cafe by your office or home. You’ve also probably been to some cafes that might have an added bonus to your preferred cup — in the form of coffee art.

Photo by Cairns Dining via Flickr

Coffee art can be a delightful surprise, and can add to the experience of enjoying your favorite beverage. While it presumably started in Italy (the land of espresso!), it developed and gained momentum in the 1980’s and 1990’s in the United States.

Image from DesignCrave

The artwork is created on the top most layer composed of an emulsion of foam and crema. Since these two components are unstable chemically, the art lasts only for a few moments before sinking back into the rest of the drink.

There are two widely known ways to produce latte art: free pouring and etching. Techniques and styles in producing latte art vary from region to region and on how the drink is prepared.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Free pouring is more common in American cafes, and usually does not require more preparation time compared to etching. While more complex patterns are possible through free pouring, the rosette and heart shape are the most popular designs.

Even with the simple base patterns however, baristas take liberty in developing a personal flair for their latte art, sometimes customising the basic pattern into something more unique.

This and preceding images by tonx via Flickr

Etching on the other hand requires a little more attention to detail. In order to create the detailed drawings and patterns, a small tool such as a coffee stirrer or a similar item is needed, sometimes adding some foam on to the crema as well. Since the foam dissolves more quickly, etched art typically has a shorter lifespan.

Depending on the skill and experience of the barista, the designs on coffee art can be more complex and detailed.

Images by Keiko Kojima (original)

I also found funny and unique designs.

Image from Trend Hunter

Image by Okelsiy Pikalo Invents

Coffee art certainly makes your drinking experience deliciously beautiful and interesting!


Posted in Culture, Design, Food | Tagged

Angels, Demons, Savages: A Tale of Art and Culture


Last week I attended a gallery talk at the Phillips Collection here in Washington. The Philips is a private art gallery with a focus on modern art, one of the first private museums to open to the public in the US.

Their current special exhibition hits very close to home — quite literally. The exhibit explores the relationship between three mid-twentieth-century modern artists, Jackson Pollock, Jean Dubuffet, and Alfonso Ossorio. Ossorio, the lesser known of the three, was Filipino-American.

Original image by Renee Alfonso

The relationship between Pollock and Dubuffet is somewhat known throughout art history, but somehow Ossorio doesn’t get as much mention. Some of the interpretation in the exhibit cites his focus on being more of a collector as a probable cause of this oversight. The narrative brought to life a cross-cultural story that spanned continents, cultures, and the cultural phenomenon that was the abstract expressionist movement.


Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist), 1950. Jackson Pollock 1950.
Image courtesy National Gallery of Art

The exhibit format itself was a traditional art gallery fine art show, with the large and dynamic abstract expressionist pieces hung on white walls. In some instances smaller works were grouped together, but the larger works seemed to be the clear focus, and in some ways represented the overarching idea of the exhibit most clearly.

During a special night event at the museum, I attended a gallery talk given by one of the curators at the Phillips. While the talk was insightful however, I felt that it had too much of a formalist approach – focusing too much on the technicalities of fine art practice and art in itself, with little else interpretation.


Red Family Alfonso Ossorio 1951. Image courtesy Phillips Collection.

Paysage métapsychique (Metaphysical landscape) Jean Dubuffet 1952.
Image courtesy Phillips Collection.

That was perhaps the greatest unease I felt about the exhibit. While it certainly did bring to light a story that enriches the existing history of modern art, so much more could be extracted from the complex relationship of the three artists. From a more traditional standpoint, how the personal story and journey of Alfonso Ossorio also affected his work could have been fleshed out more to provide deeper, more riveting interpretation.

Culturally and socially rich stories told through art create the most interesting types of fine art exhibits in my view, and this exhibit is certainly not lacking depth. The overall experience however was entirely lackluster, and I wonder if those who visited and were unfamiliar with Ossorio will even remember his role in this story after they leave.

I would still recommend seeing this exhibit to those interested in this unique cross-cultural narrative that allows us to rethink our ideas about modern art and abstract expressionism. At its core, it accomplishes what it sets out to do, opening a dialogue for questions about the intersections of art, cultural exchange, and our interpretation of history.


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A Living Man Proclaimed Dead and Other Chapters I-XVIII Taryn Simon at the Corcoran


Original image

Taryn Simon’s Complex exhibit entitled A Living Man Proclaimed Dead and Other Chapters I-XVIII made its way to the Corcoran Gallery of Art here in DC, after spending some time at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. I had the opportunity to see it a couple of weeks ago.

Original image

The exhibit is technically categorized as as photography, but it is definitely much more than just a simple photography exhibition. In a way each piece is a mini-exhibit in itself, comprised of portraiture, narrative, and objects that are carefully curated. Woven together, they explore stories that are all at once historical, contemporary, significant, and controversial.

Original image

Simon’s artist statement identifies the exhibit as being an exploration of “bloodlines and their related stories,” but each piece has much more depth than the explanation suggests. Needless to say, to explain in intricate detail how and what each “chapter” tells its particular story would certainly be a lengthy task.

Each piece comprises of three parts.

Image from MoMA.org, © 2012 Taryn Simon

First, one or more large frames on the left of each grouping shows a series of portraits of each bloodline the artist photographed over a period of four years, in almost every continent. Below is a family from China.

Image from MoMA.org, © 2012 Taryn Simon

The second component in her pieces is a text panel that identifies each subject photographed. From time to time there are blank frames or obscured subjects – all of which add intrigue to the story.

Image from MoMA.org, © 2012 Taryn Simon

Below the names is a narrative of the bloodline, and then below that, descriptions of the objects depicted in the succeeding large frame.The artist certainly did not limit herself to the traditional notion of the bloodline – and included groupings of animals as well as children in orphanages.

Image from MoMA.org, © 2012 Taryn Simon

The one grouping that was interesting to me culturally and socially as well, was one showing the bloodline of a Filipino man from the Igorot communitiy, who was brought over to the US for the St. Louis World’s Fair. The “chapter” was dense with issues that deal with history, cultural identity, xenocentrism, and could possibly also relate to more contemporary topics like immigration.

Image via Melissa Hooper's Tumblr

Artists like Simon certainly steer contemporary art in new directions, with her work becoming not just aesthetic compositions but also vehicles of discourse for relevant contemporary social issues. Her medium and methods might not be as spectacular as some other artists working today, but the stories and messages so deeply embedded in her work give them their own unique sense of brevity. You will definitely leave this exhibit curious, questioning, and wanting to know more.

The exhibition is on view at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC until February 24th.

See more about the exhibition:


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