In: art

“I just got to Brooklyn Bridge Park, where do I go?” Not a single sign to be seen anywhere.

“Photoville is at Pier 5.”

“Where?”

Ten minutes later and I am still walking down the pier watching couples go by hand in hand, children playing along the mini sand beaches, groups playing basketball and soccer in the large recreationally converted piers. “Damn, this is a ways down.”

imageThis happens to me everytime I go to Photoville. You would think that after two years of going I would have the walk down by now. But every year it gets me. The only people who seem to know how to get down to the river effectively, most likely live in the area and scoff at all the tourists and Manhattan-ites who come over on select weekends for special events such as this one.

However, the walk is a very scenic and lovely late-September stroll. Photoville is open until the late evening, so the best time is to go at sunset and get the perfect view of the setting sun over the Hudson. The Statue of Liberty is illuminated in a hopelessly romantic kind of way while the warm glow causes the skyscrapers of the Financial District to sparkle.  

Photoville 5I walk along a fence covered in large photographs and then see the containers… FINALLY, I’ve made it to Photoville.

Every mid-September for the past four years United Photo Industries has come together at Brooklyn Bridge Park to create a small village out of shipping containers, fill them with photographs and share the fun [for free] with all of New York City. It’s a simple concept and absolutely fantastic.

As described in the Photoville Chronicle this year, “UPI has solidified its position in the public art landscape by consistently showcasing thought-provoking, challenging, and exceptional photography from across the globe.”

Photoville 3This year Photoville lasted from September 10th-20th and had over 400 artists participating with more than 80 partners. Companies and organizations such as Instagram, National Geographic, The New York Times, The Peace Corps, EveryDayClimateChange, Getty Images, Crusade for Art Brooklyn, NYC Salt and many more funded and organized the exhibitions within their respective containers.  Universities showcased their senior thesis projects and department projects; included were Tisch’s Photography & Imaging at NYU, FIT’s BFA program, the BFA Photography and Video Department at SVA, and Parsons the New School.

The festival has a great variety of photography to offer –from documentary style, to experimental, street scenes, natural landscapes and portraits. As I made my way through I noticed that some containers have heavy and somber messages such as New York Times’ “Scenes from the Ebola Crisis,” “Blast Force Survivors,” “American Exile: Detained, Deported, and Divided,” and “The Geography of Poverty” to name a few. Photoville’s smart though and knows that while socially trivial topics such as these need to be addressed, documented and seen, people who come to a festival also want to see some cheerful things. National Geographic also had an outdoor exhibition “Presenting: Weed,” which detailed the daily cycle of marijuana and affords you a nice chuckle, because everyone loves art about weed. “The Mash-Up,” a graffiti work done by two celebrated street artists took up two containers stacked on top of one another. The bright colors, swirling letters and cartoon-esque figures offer a fun, upbeat relief from image overload. “Luminaries” gave all of us comfort as you approach the container and see Uzo Aduba’s (aka. Crazy Eyes) ecstatic face beaming out at you. What other goodies could be inside? The familiar faces of Pharrell and Snoop Dogg, Nicki Minaj, Peter Dinklage, Meryl Streep, and others greeted us. Who doesn’t love to see a striking headshot of Peter Dinklage?

Photoville 1

Apart from photographs and containers, Photoville also has a host of special events, activities and workshops for everyone to engage with the images. Panel discussions, presentations and conversations with well know photographers went on everyday. This year David Burnett was featured. Visitors were able to swap prints with each other, learn how to spot great image shots in the Street Photography workshop, have a fun family photobooth [dog included, of course] and learn the basics with the Science and Tech Expo.

Photoville 2Even though I’m quite the photo-enthusiast, half-way through the photo village my eyes were starting to glaze over the images. It was time to reboot. Oh, what’s this right here, a beer garden? SCORE. After some Brooklyn Lager and delicious treats from the adored vendors of Smorgasburg, I was brought back to life and ready to take on the remaining containers. One of my favorites by far was “En Plein Air,” featuring Edoardo Delille and Gabriele Galimberti. This series showed images from Rio de Janeiro shot from an aerial perspective, illustrating that “sports are life and life is not a spectator sport.” From the Photoville Chronicle.

So, if you’re ever in NYC during September make sure to head over to Brooklyn and check out Photoville. It’s educational [but not in the annoying, overbearing kind of way], eye opening, inspiring and a great social event for a group of friends or just you and bae.

http://www.photoville.com

 

Walter Swennen, who is now a very successful painter, is a great family friend of mine. In an era of young beatniks in Brussels in the 1960s, my grandmother and Swennen spent their days in a crowd of poor young artists driven by their need to create. They lived off of very little and were each other’s sources of inspiration. They would introduce each other to foreign art pieces from the United States, and would discuss within themselves late at night over a drink while brewing up new ideas. My grandmother wrote poetry and, being that she was much younger than the rest, around the age of 16, learned and grew from this group of artists who had adopted her into their circles. Various members of this social scene adopted alcoholism and other issues that stemmed from the fundamentals of this very social and experimental community, and therefore did not make it very far in their careers, but left behind great shared memories and inspiration for the others.

Walter Swennen

Swennen was much more fortunate and has continued to paint since. He has recently come into the public eye after a couple of successful exhibits in Belgium. He is now showing at the Gladstone Gallery in New York City – a very well known gallery. His work utilizes visual aspects inspired by Pop Art and abstract expressionism; some pieces more so one than others. Swennen might not agree to these sources of inspiration, but either way these are the art movements his work is reminiscent of. He also often incorporates poetic writing into his work. To this day, his work portrays the essence of the young group of artists that created and struggled together.

Walter Swennen- 2Another large theme throughout his work is an evocation of childhood. Figures seemingly appropriated from cartoons or comic books have been an undying subject of his throughout his career. Belgium is a country overwhelmingly full of comic books, about two comic book stores per block, therefore this imagery, that has been most definitely drilled into Swennen’s head, is unsurprising. Yet it is very effective in evoking recognition and a sense of shared nostalgia for most of his audience.

Swennen works in a way not uncommon to his generation of artists. One could summarize it by saying he lets the ideas come to him, and he does not seek them out. By this point in his career as a painter he knows what interests him and what does not. Some of the things that do interest him, which is evident when looking over his work, are cartoons, poetry, labels and philosophy. Some of these subjects are also commonly found in Pop Art, which is why his work is so reminiscent of this art movement. However, some of his subject matter will not fall into any specific category because he will literally let it come to him naturally. For example, he once based his subject matter off of a drawing made at school by his daughter when she was very young. Swennen is not much interested in the meaning behind his pieces, but is instead very preoccupied with the aesthetics, the process and the stories behind how his subject matter came to be. It is interesting to look at his work and attempt to guess the sources of inspiration for a specific subject in a piece.

Already follow the Whitney, Artforum and Hyperallergic? Looking for some new art world instagram accounts to add to your following list? Check out these five instagram accounts you may not know about:

1. Brett Gorvy (@brettgorvy)
As the Chairman and International Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art at Christie’s, Gorvy’s instagram is something to drool over… and will make you turn slightly green with envy. His life, and the art he interacts with on a daily basis, is extraordinary. However, Gorvy’s instagram demeanor is down-to-earth. His passion for art leads to long narratives for captions that feature tidbits of information only an insider like Gorvy could know. Beyond giving his followers a first look at some of the most incredible Post-Modern and Contemporary Art locked behind the doors of the world’s richest collectors, Gorvy often shares glimpses of his personal life, such as his fantastic summer home on Tuxedo Lake only 45 minutes from the city.

2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Photo Studio (@metphotostudio)
Honestly, this account is way better than the Met’s regular @metmuseum instagram. Followers get to see artworks from the Met’s archive that aren’t on view in the galleries, as well as behind-the-scenes photos of the collections, special exhibitions, and how it all comes together.

3. Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz)
This may be the most familiar name on the list, seeing as how Saltz has seemingly dominated the art world and beyond with his in-your-face attitude and sarcastic take on just about everything. When he isn’t making fun of the Far Right, Donald Trump or the art world itself (his posts during Art Basel tagged #BaselSaltz insulted every major person attending the fair and entertained us to no end), Saltz gives his followers small insights into his life as an art critic, always accompanied by a dose of sarcasm. Note—if you are easily offended, you may want to stay away, as Saltz has a habit of posting some NSFW content (think Medieval pornographic works on paper…)

4. Andrea Rosen (@andrearosengal)
The dealer, ever-recognizable with her long bleach white curls, posts a lot from her personal life, which is interesting enough in itself. However, our favorites are her #style posts, in which Rosen snaps (stalker style) pics of unaware pedestrians dressed in crazy get-ups… and this is New York so you know they have to be really pushing the limits here. Sometimes, they aren’t really dressed in anything at all. Rosen even blessed her followers during art fair season this past spring with an #artfairstyle hashtag edition. It was a winner, that’s for sure.

5. Scott Indrisek (@uniandchloe)
Executive Editor for Louise Blouin Media, Indrisek’s name is all over Blouin’s many publications such as ArtInfo and Modern Painters. While you would think his instagram would be art and more art, Indrisek entertains followers with his on-going #mattressesofnewyork series, lots of cat photos and dry sense of humor. He also doesn’t hesitate to throw in a selfie every now and then. Oh, and some art.

As far as art goes, Eli and Edythe Broad rule LA (by the way, Broad is  pronounced BROH-de like ‘yo bro’). The billionaire-philanthropist couple has been buying up important works of modern and contemporary art since the 1970s, and ever since then they have been generous in lending out those pieces to museums and exhibitions. However, the opening of this museum marks a special occasion as they have decided to showcase their personal collection to the public.

The Broad, located in Downtown Los Angeles, opened its doors to the public on September 20th, 2015. And I, as your resident ride-or-die art enthusiast, was able to score the insider’s look and do the busy work so that you could have the best visit ever. Here is a breakdown of what you need to know about this new museum.

The Tickets 

Oh boy. So, ticketing to this museum is free (thanks Eli and Edythe!) and can be reserved in advance here. However, all online tickets have been reserved through mid-October. BUT! Worry not, because that is not the only way to get into the museum.

If you are ready to work a little bit, you can get to the museum door early in order to pick up a standby ticket (limited numbers available). I did this at 7:45AM on a Sunday morning because suburbia has dulled me and I jumped at the chance to feel alive again I care about you, dear reader, and wanted to make absolute sure that I got a ticket on opening day so that I can tell you all about it.

The tickets are grouped into half-hour time slots. Mine was for the 10:30AM entrance and I would highly suggest you to go no later than 11AM if you want to make the Yayoi Kusama exhibition in good time.

The Building

The Broad Museum. Exterior Shot. A beautiful building by Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

 

The Art

I felt very happy amongst these galleries. Many works were familiar to me since the Broads have a habit of lending them out to other museums. The lighting was exquisite and the space vast. There were quite a few well-known pieces:

Jeff Koons, Blue Balloon Dog. 1994-2000

Jeff Koons, Balloon Dog (Blue), 1994-2000. Mirror-polished stainless steel with transparent color coating.

 BasquiatRoomful of Jean-Michel Basquiat. I feel like this could definitely be a Jay Z lyric.
Murakami

Murakami, In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow, 2014. Acrylic on canvas.

murakami_2
Murakami, In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on the Tail of a Rainbow, 2014. Acrylic on canvas.This is a huge mural. It runs 25 meters across (80 feet) and it has great detail work. I believe it was commissioned especially for this museum.
One of the aspects that I really appreciated about this exhibition was how it struck a great balance between the popular and the obscure. It is a show that unabashedly displays its roomfuls of Koons, Murakami, and Basquiat while still retaining quieter niche pieces, like these works by Cy Twombly:
Cy Twombly - The Rose

Cy Twombly, The Rose (V), 2008. Acrylic on wood panel.

The most popular work at the Broad is, of course, Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Room. In fact, this is usually the most popular work at any exhibition. This room, back in 2013, inspired a mob outside of David Zwirner on its last day and people waited in the New York cold for up to five hours just to catch a 45-second glimpse of it. Thankfully, the Broad came up with a better management system than a physical queue. You make your reservation to the room with your cellphone number, and within 10 minutes of your reservation, the system texts you. My wait time was about an hour, which gave me the perfect amount of time to roam the two floors of art.

infinity_room_photo

Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, Yayoi Kusama, 2013. Wood, metal, glass mirrors, plastic, acrylic panel, rubber, LED lighting system, acrylic balls, and water.

This is my second time seeing the Infinity Room, and I must say that the pictures are often more beautiful than the experience itself. 45 seconds is not nearly enough time to enjoy it, and typically you will spend all of it taking photos. I wish that I could’ve spent a few minutes in there.

Overall, the Broad is a solid museum and it is worth a morning of strolling through if you happen to be around the LA area. Additionally, MOCA is offering a free year of membership and a free Lemonade soda if you present your Broad ticket!

Driven by my art-inspired soul, find below a list of things, I personally think are essential when looking at art. Apart from stating some undoubtable art-historical principles, I have mixed in a few personal favorites.

  1. When, What, Who, How. First things first – read the label. This most banal thing most of us overlook and just don’t read it. These details are the most important, as they situate a work of art into a specific time period, already creating a sense of what it might relate to, look similar to, explain or even criticize. When – DATE, What – TITLE, Who – ARTIST, How – MEDIUM.
  2.  

  3. Subject Matter. What is the work of art about? Is it a portrait? A battle scene? An abstract piece? An icon?
  4.  

  5. Composition. How do parts of the piece relate to each other? Is there a perspective?
  6.  

  7. Color. One of the most important way to feel the work of art. What artist felt, what the traditions were, what paint was available, what compliments one color and another. Is there chiaroscuro?*
  8.  

  9. Shapes. Are the shapes rounded, triangular, squared, rectangular etc? Symmetric or asymmetric? Regular or irregular? Fat or thin? Concave (turned in) or convex (turned out)?
  10.  

  11. Lines. Are the lines horizontal, vertical or tilted? Short or long? Straight or curved? Smooth or sharp?
  12.  

  13. Size. What is the size of the work of art? Is it small or large? Though not always a fact, small objects could have been created for private use, private houses, whereas large ones, for public entertainment.
  14.  

  15. Texture. Is it smooth or uneven? Is it a painting, sculpture, performance piece?
  16.  

  17. Personal response. What do you THINK about it? What ATTRACTS you to the piece? What does it make you FEEL? Does it REMIND you of anything? (A place, person, memory, story or another work of art?)
  18.  

  19. Talk. It is essential to speak about your thoughts and ideas with whoever is with you at a gallery, park, museum or theater. Getting cultured in your own company? Talk to people around you! Not only will you help them understand art better, but will also compare your impressions.

 

These are just a little of much more to consider while looking at art. Professionals in the field say that one should spend at least 15-20 minutes looking at one single work of art in order to get a truthful first impression of it. Even if you don’t have that time on your hands (and let’s be real, not many of us do), try singling out just a few works of art that catch your eye instantaneously and go look at them. Trust me, it is worth it. After all, you may always use this knowledge later on.

*Chiaroscuro – (from Italian “chiaro” – light, “scuro” – dark) an art historical term, meaning the strong contrast between light and dark, usually affecting the whole composition.

 

Alright, here’s the thing. No matter what you think about art, you should have some idea about it. Why could be a relevant question. If it didn’t pop up in your mind, then, you possibly don’t need to read this. But then,  you probably still should.

A known misconception is: those who study art history cannot really do anything else, anything more valuable by society. *Gong* You’re wrong! I am not trying to advertise a new faith to you, but rather help you show off your cultural side when a situation arises. And it will.

Now imagine you got invited to a gala ball. The owner of the place decided to show off his art collection (and it is a rather realistic situation). He asks for your opinion. And….

  1. Be always curious. At least seem this way. Speaking from a personal experience here, if I go to a museum with my friend, or a theater, I want to share my thoughts and ideas, my feelings about the piece. So no matter whether you get it or not, show your interest in what the other person is thinking and saying. Best first line: “What do YOU think (feel) about it (art piece, performance, film etc)?” will save you from answering first and you can always form your opinion based on other person’s response.
  2.  

  3. Don’t say that you could draw better. Or your kid could draw better. Or the work reminds you of kids doodles. Seriously, don’t. This is the most common reaction we get towards contemporary art (or mostly any abstraction) and, boy, it is also the most frustrating one! A person hearing that, let’s pretend he likes art, could get offended and reserved. Not that many people would have the character to start explaining the opposite, and, to tell you the truth, insulting the art usually never works. So even if this thought flashes in your mind the next time you see something overwhelming in the art piece, calm yourself down, and ask people for help. “Do you understand this piece? I get an emotional vibe from it, as it is deeply psychological,” — hey, that might work magic!
  4.  

  5. Don’t say something is boring. Art and culture aren’t for everyone, right? False! If you find yourself in an opera house and fall asleep (it’s happened to the best of us), don’t complain about how boring and awful the production was. People around you might, first, think you’re way out of their social environment and even start an argument. You can, nonetheless, say: “The melody and the singing of performers reminded me of Alexander Borodin’s Prince Igor! Such long and calming sounds, I even closed my eyes for a minute!”
  6.  

  7. Speak the truth, but verbalize it in the right way. Don’t try to look smarter than you are. You might disagree, but it usually never ends up well. You don’t want to just learn names of a few artists and drop them in all conversations here and there to appear all knowledgable and such. Wake up. People love sincerity. Tell them: “I didn’t understand that part, did you?” You will not seem stupid, you will seem interested and eager to learn. (Refer to the point 1 of this list.)
  8.  

  9. Show off what you know while discussing an unknown subject. Connected to previous points, we all are products of our societies, however, there are a few figures everyone knows about. Let’s take Jennifer Lawrence as an example (or any other well-know figure). You know she acted in the Hunger Games, won an Oscar and, well, is a wild one. Now, you go to a museum and see a painting by Barnett Newman – Vir Heroicus Sublimis, 1950-1951. Red dominates the composition. You think: “Red is force, red is rebellion, red is red carpet, red is vulgar, red is sexy, red is…anything.” I am not assuming all that is true, the point is, you can use personal experiences, memories, unrelated knowledge to talk about art. It is that simple! Just say: “This color reminds me of … , because … .” And you’ll show how sharp-minded and witty you are.


This is it!
Professional or not, whether you know it or not, these simple ideas are indeed important. Perhaps, all you need to do is approach the question of understanding and appreciating art from a different perspective.

Recently, visiting the Five Myles gallery located on St Johns Place, just off of Franklin Ave, I witnessed a group of young musicians and visual artists converge on a singular opportunity to occupy a space, inviting the viewer to slip into an immersive audio-visual experience. At Five Myles, the group of artists behind the aptly named, “Ashcan Orchestra,” opened up the show; on the main-stage would be what the composer Jonah Rosenberg labeled as an “electro-acoustic chamber opera,” under the title of “Ode to Jackeen.”

Ode to Jackeen, Opera Singer

Ode to Jackeen, Opera Singer

The chamber opera, consisting of four musicians on various instruments, including percussion, flute, acoustic guitar and violin, combines the Ensemble Sans Maître, with the composer’s vision for a performance based on counter-cultural, beat author Kenneth Patchen’s “The Journal of Albion Moonlight.” But, you may ask, a bit facetiously, where does the opera come in? Well, accompanying this tribe of art school experimentalists is a singular feminine figure, tall, lithe and hauntingly evanescent; from this figure, the operatic tremolo issues, charging the entire piece with a shocking Gothic flare of tradition, in the service of a neo-expressionist cacophony. More on this later, but first to give a little more detail on the opening performance and the inspired Five Myles program that makes events like this possible.

Five Myles gallery, as they express in their mission statement online, works with the local community in midtown Brooklyn where they are situated. Local artists and musicians during the summer season are allowed to invade the gallery space with absolutely no charge, putting on unique, experimental performances, exhibits and concerts for anyone who shows up. This is something that they call the “Space Program,” and it was this program that brought this extraordinary group of young artists together.

Ashcan orchestra

Ashcan orchestra.

Now to go into further detail on the opening performance, the Ashcan Orchestra,” takes this traditional label at its very root, to orchestrate, what they achieve is a simultaneous orchestration of sound, light, rhythm and movement. In this performance one first encounters the totemic like structure that they’ve crafted for the show: a cubic piece, rising to around four feet constructed with wood, lights and wire. Around this structure the artists group themselves with a collection of bells, xylophones, toys and objects, and so the sound begins and the lights fire off on the totem like some monstrous traffic light given consciousness. Producing a panoply of dissonant chords, vibrations and notes they build the sound to moments of discomfort, shocking the listener as if to shatter an innocent moment of childhood nostalgia. The entire performance ripples with dreamlike incongruity and creates strange audio-visual combinations that both stimulate and unnerve the viewer, an experience that I highly recommend.

Following the Ashcan performance, there comes the next re-evaluation and subtle deconstruction of traditional highbrow elitist cultural music formats, this was witnessed in the “Ode to Jackeen.” The performance began and it was immediately clear that this was not going to be a smooth harmonic display, a display of virtuosity by the musicians, yes, but in dissonant chords and jarring climaxes where the instruments seemed to almost shriek and jabber in unison with the persona of Joe Bobo. Images were projected onto a screen doubling as backdrop and stage set, as the ensemble played around the poetry inspired by the composer channeling wild beat lyricism. But aside from this, constant bits of narrative interlude would fall into place between operatic bursts and the convulsive notes of the ensemble.

This is where my interest was piqued, for on the whole there was an abstract and almost universalizing quality to the piece that rendered impressions of inner psychic torment, the surreal torpor of unconscious dreamscapes. However, this use of a narrative overlay pulled the piece together and gave it a substantive ground and context. Then it came to me, before me was a necessary continuance of Dada Theater, the amalgam of Dada’s symbolist poetics and anarchic style, overlaid into the beat generation’s project, driven by a wild denunciation of bourgeois morals and restrictive normative codes. Originally, this anarchic theater that took confusion, irrationality and the de-hierarchizing of fine art, feeding directly into an epistemological crisis over what art could be and who was authorized to produce it, was born of post-war tension and trauma. Here, we see that war has continued by any other means, for now it is the war of the self against the socialized norms encoded within, psychic trauma writ large.

Ultimately, this particular muse from the beat generation emerges from Burroughs’ dark corridors of the movement, that prose which attempted to capture the raw reality of mid-twentieth American subjectivity, a subjectivity constantly put upon by an ever more institutionalized and bureaucratized social-landscape. Joe Bobo our hapless character within the narrative skit is a Kerouacian “dharma bum,” a “desolation angel” simply trying to get a meal, get some kicks and explore the American roadways, but he is beset upon by sinister and sterile medical personnel representing the terror of the juridico-medical discourse that labels and apprehends all those that do not conform to a call for ceaseless productivity and middle-class norms. In this way, the sublime crescendos of the ensemble become Bobo’s psychological discontent, his strange medicated visions, and distorted hysteric hallucinations made manifest. This is an authentic channeling of the beat project and a worthwhile experience, if the ensemble reunites make sure to be in the crowd.

WARNING: this is a total fan-girl post. Furry Little Peach is one of my ABSOLUTE favorite Instagram accounts, top 10 hands down. But don’t worry–you’ll love her too.

I stumbled upon Sha’an d’Anthes aka Furry Little Peach during one of my late-night insta-creeping sessions and was immediately captured by her vibrant use of color and fun representations of flora and fauna motifs. Her feed is filled with unique sketches and watercolors of forest critters, cacti, sea creatures, portraits, and tons more.

The 22 year old Sydney based designer, illustrator and storyteller’s work speaks to a whimsical aesthetic that evokes pure childhood imagination. D’Anthes incorporates natural and space-inspired elements, such as forests, trees, constellations, nautical imagery, and much more. Like a true artist and instagrammer, she shows us her full creative process. Her feed is filled with her merchandise, sketches, cluttered work space, and the only other thing important to Instagram: food. Every now and then she’ll gives us a #onthetable snap of the yummy meal she’s having.

[gallery_bank type=”images” format=”thumbnail” title=”true” desc=”false” responsive=”true” display=”all” sort_by=”random” animation_effect=”” album_title=”true” album_id=”2″]

D’Anthes always keeps me entertained and scrolling with her variety of images and documented dedication to her craft. Instead of only posting finished works she almost always includes a sketched version or multiple variations of her design. This lends a closer look into various elements of her image–a detail shot of an intricate drawing, what kind of materials she’s using, how many sketches she’s done before finally deciding on a style, etc. It’s refreshing to see the creative process behind her beautiful works. Not only does it make me like and appreciate her art even more but I feel that I am getting to know her on a more personal level.

She gives us even more clues to who she is with posts from her everyday life adventures. When she isn’t drawing and painting she travels around Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand and Japan, posting stunning nature and landscape shots. And of course, making us all jealous and hate our day jobs even more.

Who would’ve thought that a cactus could look so cute and cuddly?!?

With succulents being all the rage these days, they’re popping up all over different creative mediums. D’Anthes gives her own take on these prickly plants with her most recent project, Prickly, from this past July. Presented at Goodspace gallery in Sydney, Prickly is her second successfully exhibited solo show.

Unlike d’Anthes previous bodies of work, this show is formed around a plant oriented subject matter. Bringing fun and freshness to this nature-inspired aesthetic, she remains true to her signature watercolor medium. Goodspace describes her approach to this exhibit as “focusing solely on the audience’s reactions to colour, texture and visual devices…The artist’s new collection evokes the feeling of nostalgia, stimulates the imagination, and upholds her use of ‘childhood’ as a theme.”

Her cacti are truly inspirational…as weird as that sounds. They’re simple in form yet d’Anthes creates them with a subtle complexity that is simply mesmerizing. After all, a cactus is a very strange looking plant. Actually, they’re completely un-aesthetically pleasing. They’re also sharp and can physically hurt you. But d’Anthes paints them as charming, playful and even delicate. In some works they are crowded together like one happy cuddly cactus family and in others they stand alone, as proud representatives of their oddball plant species.

Perhaps Prickly lends the message to embrace what is unconventional and that everything can be beautiful, all preconceptions and stigmas put aside. Or maybe d’Anthes just really like cacti and thinks they’re fun. Either way the exhibit is unique, vibrant and happy–an emotion that is at times underrepresented in galleries.

One of my favorites from the show is a three-part timelapse series where d’Anthes depicts Dawn, Noon, and Dusk with canvases crowded with cacti in three different hues: purple-pink, green-blue, and red-orange.

When d’Anthes is not producing art in her studio and working on Prickly, she works for Cypha, a self-described “boutique Creative Technology studio” as a designer.

Here are my personal favorites: foxes, whale-constellations, and bears.

D’Anthes sells prints, totes, bedding and other fun stuff on her Etsy.
Check out her Instagram (most important), Tumblr, and Twitter.
I promise they will brighten up your day.

While attending the Laguna Beach Arts Festival this August, I was introduced to the work of Eric Gerdau. A Rhode Island School of Design alumnus and New Yorker gone rogue, Gerdau is now a Laguna local. He was displaying two paintings at the annual Laguna Beach Arts Festival, held in an outdoor venue that is nuzzled into the bowl of a canyon with the ocean only a short distance away. The large oil paintings stretch vast across the small space allotted. From afar, they appear as simply bands of rich color, fusing with one another at the edges. However, as I approached I saw that they were paintings of the sea. The sky in both works is in the moment of transition from day to night—the water reflecting the horizon’s transformation.

Eric_Gerdau_Sapphire_Sunset

Eric Gerdau, Sapphire Sunset
Courtesy of Eric Gerdau

The two pieces on display, “Late Bloomer” and “Marmalade,” show a calm ocean; the ripples in the foreground catch the last gleams of light. In “Late Bloomer,” the ocean extends into the background, becoming a deep blue that strikes the intensely vibrant magenta of the horizon so that the meeting point of the two seems to vibrate. I was reminded of a Rothko.

“Marmalade” is the same composition, but an entirely different experience. The ocean in the foreground is dark, shadows accentuate the small ripples spanning the length of the piece; burnt orange light licks the peaks. As the eye moves up the painting, the ocean turns from rose to a light apricot hue, and rather than the horizon clashing against the water, they fade into one another seamlessly. The sky at the horizon is pale, for a moment yellowed and then a muted blush, which melts into periwinkle blue by the time you’ve reached the top of the painting.

Eric_Gerdau_Marmalade

Eric Gerdau, Marmalade
Courtesy of Eric Gerdau

At a glance, Gerdau’s paintings may be just simple seascapes. However, odd distinctions arise that diverge from the norm of reality. The scenes portrayed are beautiful, but there is something unsettling about them. In both, it seems as if the light emanating from the sunset comes from the entire expanse of the horizon rather than one point. There is no saturation of color in the sky that indicates the location of the sun; it is equally distributed across the horizon. The sensation of viewing the works is a strange one, the subconscious seems to pick up on this unnatural uniformity in light and color before the mind can catch up. The pictures are too pristine, the chaos induced by the sun’s dipping below the surface has been cleaned up, smoothed out so I almost feel like I’m looking into a scene from The Truman Show. Upon the surface, everything seems just fine, but if you pay attention, you’ll see something is rotten in the state of Denmark.