Tag Archives: sculpture

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?

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Gutai: Splendid Playground at the Guggenheim

I spent five days last week in New York City and, like most of my trips to the Big Apple, it was a bit of a whirlwind. I didn’t get half of what I planned to see and do, but I did manage to squeeze in a couple of hours at the Guggenheim before I left for the airport.

Image: Stage of the Art

I was content just to get to explore Frank Lloyd Wright’s magnificent building but the opportunity to see the new Gutai exhibit really made my trip. The Gutai Art Association was founded by Yoshihara Jirō in Ashiya, Japan in 1954; for 18 years its 59 members created some of the most influential avant-garde works of the postwar era.

Kazuo Shiraga, Wild Boar Hunting II (1963); Image: Guggenheim Museum

“Gutai” means “concreteness,” and the group’s name reflects its collective interest in explorations of materiality, in a manner similar to the contemporary western Abstract Expressionists. Kazuo Shiraga’s “Performance Paintings” illustrate this practice. The artist abandoned the brush and used his feet to smear crimson, blood-like paint on a bullet-ridden boar hide canvas, evoking the very slaughter of the animal though thick impasto.

Atsuko Tanaka, Electric Dress (1986); Image: Jamie Ratliff

Performance came into play in many of the Gutai Art Association’s pieces. Included in the Guggenheim exhibit is Atsuko Tanaka’s Electric Dress, an electrical costume meant to be worn in performance. When lit, it evokes the neon streets of postwar Japan and echoes the interest that several Gutai artists had in the intersection of art and technology. I was disappointed that the Electric Dress was not plugged in, as I have seen at other shows, and there wasn’t a video of her performances as there were for other works on display.

Yoshihara Jirō, Please Draw Freely (1956); Image: Guggenheim Museum

Gutai artists were interested in breaking down the barriers that kept art-making and display within the walls of studios and museums, which lead to numerous outdoor performances and installations, but they were also interested in involving their audience in their work. One such ground-breaking piece was Yoshihara Jirō’s Please Draw Freely, which invited visitors to Ashiya Park to participate in the painting’s creation and critiqued the Japanese government’s strict control on artistic expression of the time. This installation also captured Gutai’s interest in play and the untapped creativity of children.

Please Draw Freely (2013); Image: Guggenheim Museum via Facebook

One of my favourite features of the Guggenheim’s exhibit is the interactive elements. Please Draw Freely (2013) has been installed in the lobby, inviting its audience to contribute to the drawing just as visitors to Ashiya Park did in 1956; while it isn’t the defiant act it was 57 years ago in Japan, it brings a sense of fun and involvement that few contemporary exhibits include.

Image: Guggenheim Museum

On Saturday, February 16, children had an opportunity to work with Gutai artists and imitate their painting techniques. And weekday visitors can buy a postcard from the Gutai Art Box, a recreation of a 1962 installation. I only wish this was operational when I visited!

Motonaga Sadamasa, Work (Water) (2013);
Image: Guggenheim Museum via Facebook

With over 100 works displayed along the spiraling corridors of the Guggenheim, interspersed with videos, photos of installations, and displays of the Gutai Manifesto and the group’s print projects, this exhibit is the largest and most comprehensive showing of Gutai work in North America. For those with an interest in the avant-garde, and specifically contemporary Japanese art, this is not to be missed.

Gutai: Splendid Playground is on display at the Guggenheim NYC until May 8, 2013.

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Graveyard Shift

Man painting the gravestones in a cemetery near Malaga, Spain.

Preparing for All Saints' Day. Malaga, Spain. Photo by Jon Nazca. Via Kenitra.

The Feast of All Saints is celebrated in many cultures all over the world celebrate this feast by remembering, honoring, and praying for the beloved dead. On All Saints’ Day, cemeteries become places of light and color, as relatives light candles and decorate loved ones’ tombs with flowers.

Lima, Peru. Via Photo Blog.

Today, we shift attention from the costumes, pumpkins, and ghouls of Halloween, towards the time of remembrance that is All Saints Day. Halloween, after all, is a contraction of All Hallows’ Evening, the night that points to the next day,  All Hallow’s Day, or All Saints’ Day. This is the time of year when graveyards aren’t so somber, the one occasion wherein a blog post on tombs and cemeteries isn’t so morbid.


In Bilbao, Spain. Photo by Vincent West via Photo Blog.

Prep for All Saints' Day at Lostowicki Cemetery in Poland. By Michael Fudra via Demotix.

Cemeteries in Poland are a-glitter with a sea of candles in multicolored glass lamps come when night falls on All Saints’ Day, so that it looks a lot Christmas.

Cemetery in Poland. Image via Living in Trojmiasto.

Cemetery in San Gregorio, Mexico. Via Fishing in the Tiber.

In the Philippines too, people flock to the cemeteries with their candles and flowers. They typically do some cleanup and beautification on their relatives’ graves (if they haven’t availed of maintenance service), and then they set up for a picnic or even an overnight stay. They lay mats or erect tents, and unpack the food, playing cards or game boards, and yes, prayer books.

All Saints' Day in the Philippines. Via Flickr user Ric Casin.


Some folks forego the generic tombstones and epitaphs and choose to create something that may be more representative of the person underneath it. These ones are pretty amazing, ranging from breathtakingly beautiful to really gutsy choices.

Asleep by Peter Schipperheyn.

This sculpture in itself is jawdroppingly stunning. It is marks the grave of a Laurence Matheson and was commissioned by his widow from Aussie sculptor Peter Schipperheyn.

Italian writer Luigi Pirandello's grave. Via Dr. Janez Stare.

Jackson Pollock's headstone

No abstract drizzles in Pollock’s grave, just a carved boulder for this painter’s rock-solid artistic legacy.

Federico Fellini's gigantic headstone. Via Find a Grave.

Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini’s grave is a ginormous gravity-defying sculpture. It’s awesome!

Quirky Scrabble headstone. Via Tech in Lifes.

Can you tell this guy's a Star Trek and Transformers fan? Image via Tech in Lifes.

These last two are such unusual (geeky) choices and they lend a certain levity to the cemeteries that they are in.

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Art on the High Seas

On my first cruise, the last thing I was expecting was an “art experience.”  I pictured a tacky, Vegas-style floating hotel, complete with endless buffets and cheesy entertainment. To be fair, this is more or less what I found in terms of the shows and the food, but I was surprised to discover that almost every inch of the ship was decorated with museum-quality art.

I have since found out that cruise lines spend millions of dollars to amass impressive collections to adorn their fleet. And they contract curators to oversee each new ship, often commissioning new works to complete the themed displays that they create.

19th Century Kid (Sir Joshua Reynolds) by Yinka Shonibare; Image: Tracey Eckersley

On my 2011 cruise onboard the Celebrity Millennium, I walked through one of the lounges and came across an installation that looked a lot like Yinka Shonibare’s work, only to discover that it was! Since I have made special trips to museums and galleries to see his exhibitions, this was a pleasant surprise.

Love by Robert Indiana; Image: Tracey Eckersley

On the same ship, I came across a version of Robert Indiana’s iconic Love sculpture and one of Dale Chuhuly glass chandeliers.

Untitled by Dale Chuhuly; Image: Tracey Eckersley

Unfortunately, I only found out on disembarkation day that the ship had a self-guided iPod tour; Celebrity’s newer ships now have an iPad version available in several languages for individuals to enjoy.

Glassblowing on Celebrity Solstice; Image: Behind the Glass (CMOG)

For cruisers looking for a more interactive experience, Celebrity offers art classes and, on three of their ships, they have partnered with the Corning Museum of Glass (CMOG) to present live glassblowing demonstrations.

Brainwaves by Jan van Munster; Image: Tracey Eckersley

On my most recent cruise, I made more of an effort to spend some time examining the collection onboard.  And while Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas didn’t offer a comprehensive art tour or boast such famous artists, I found new favourites in their innovative exhibition centered on the theme of light. I was captivated by Jan van Munster’s Brainwave, which documents the human brain’s response to certain words in neon.

Sweet by Kim Koga; Image: Tracy Eckersley

While many of the artworks in the hallways were annoyingly anonymous, those in the main stairways had museum-style labels. Therefore, I was able to learn that the day-glow pickles that caught my eye were artist Kim Koga’s homage to her grandmother, who canned pickles and plums on her farm after emigrating from Japan to Northern California.

Infinite Abyssal by Miguel Chevalier; Image: Tracey Eckersley

If you take a cruise vacation, make sure to take a break from staring at the sea long enough to check out the ship’s art collection. What you find may surprise you!

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