Articles by Laura Smith

"i am the project, experience is the tool, life is the plane. i do not separate art and life—both are a series of progressive projects during which time, energy, and space are expelled and occupied. i am an artist. i am a writer. i am a performer. i am a liver.*" *as in an individual participating in the act of living, not the internal organ that secretes bile."
Art

15+ fanciful caricatures grounded by realism

Identifiable by their large-headed figures, Helena Frank’s black and white renderings, selectively highlighted by regions of subdued color, are interesting, humorous and unique. Grounding her imaginative characters in a realistic style, Frank often mounts animal heads on human bodies lending an idiosyncratic personality to each figure. Currently based in Copenhagen, Frank works as a freelance Illustrator for both national and international clients. Some of her work depicts brief humorous observations, like an elephant/human hybrid using a shopping cart to support its trunk. Others carry a deeper narrative, like the image where two children hold their shrunken sullen smoking parents on their knees, comparing the maturity of some children with the childishness of some adults. ...
Art

Stunning reflection photographs taken with a smartphone

Photographer known as guigurui on his Instigram page opens up a striking array of parallel worlds and mirrored scenes captured in the reflections of puddles in various cities around the world. He notes, “Many people don’t like rain, but the puddles left behind can be more than magical.” One notable characteristic of his images are their clarity and detail, which is surprising because all of guigurui’s images are taken with his smartphone. In fact, one intention of the photographer’s Instagram page is to prove that one doesn’t need a high tech fantasy camera to take impressive interesting photos. ...
Creativity

Truly amazing peanut shell art

Steve Casino, known as the nut artist due to his impressive peanut sculptures, is a former caricaturist, who works for the toy company Bang Zoom Design. Whist eating a handful of peanuts, Casino was struck by one’s resemblance to himself, "I have a shaved head and glasses, so I look like a peanut.” Quickly sketching a self-portrait across its surface, not only earned a colleague’s chuckle but sparked his line of playful peanut sculptures capturing celebrities, characters, monsters, bands and even objects. “Half of the caricature I do is finding the right peanut,” he says. “So I have my daughters — they’re 7 and 11 — helping me in the basement.” After finding the perfectly shaped peanut, removing the meat, gluing the shell, creating arms and legs, using wood fill and paint to finish the surface. The peanut completely transcends its nutty ancestry, except for the back which Casino intentionally leaves unfinished. ...
Art

Capturing the Omo people’s sophisticated tradition of body art

Hans Silvester’s photographs documenting the nomadic Omo peoples’ sophisticated tradition of mark making and body-painting sharpen our tragic sense of loss as exquisite cultures like these are lost to globalization. The L’Omo Valley lies on the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan. From young to old, male to female it seems everyone in the community participates in the art of body decoration. Anything and everything in their natural environment is assimilated into their designs, from the brightly pigmented soil, to the endlessly inventive arrangements of fruit and local vegetation transformed into headdresses and body ornamentation. Silvester’s Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa compiles these images into a book. The NY-based photographer travels the world, specializing in documenting endangered cultures and traditional life. ...
Art

Elegant stuffed snake sculptures

Polly Morgan’s innovative sculptures were mentioned in a previous Design Faves article. Not liking how critics were attaching unintentional meaning to her earlier ornate narrative sculptures, Morgan is turning toward pure form rather than symbolic and representational work. Commenting on her recent work with snakes, “I have found a way to make something I would like to own.” Morgan’s work attempts to escape from symbolic and literary associations with snakes, and even from the larger life and death context engendered by the nature of her taxidermy process. For Morgan, the snake is a medium like clay, wood or any other material. Indeed, when looking at Morgan’s snakes arranged in loosely tangled coils, and tight knots her sculptures seem more closely related to thick ropes than organic creatures. ...
Digital

Disney princesses depicted without makeup

Disney’s happy endings and songs mark childhood memories all over the world. This is why Buzzfeed’s Loryn Brantz photoshop-satires urge media to start taking responsibility for the way they depict females, “As children we may not realize these images in the media affect us, but they definitely do.” A former project of Brantz depicts Disney princesses with normal waistlines, where Brantz latest series strips these same heroins of their makeup. Taking away the sensualized fluff produces confident, gorgeous down-to-earth beauties. “As a woman who loves Disney and has dealt with body image issues, [Disney’s portrayal of females] has been something I’ve always wanted to comment on…”  ...
Funny

Depicting smartphones’ negative effects

Smartphones have an excellent capacity for taking us out of the physical world. Those boring waiting-in-line moments can be filled staring through that sleek window into tantalizing worlds of information, social networks, games, news, entertainment, etc… However, there is a danger to such an engrossing device, the Shenyang Center For Psychological Research ad series portrays the inverse effects smartphones have on family life. Created by designer Shiyang he, with the Ogilvy & Mather Beijing ad agency, the images enlarge smartphones into dividing walls, totally engrossing one person while overshadowing his/her child or husband/wife. The telling phrase, “the more you connect the less you connect” is the tag line accompanying each image. ...
Art

Artist brings iconic Japanese woodblock images to life

A Japanese artist, who goes by the name Segawa Thirty-Seven, has brought 17th-19th-century Ukiyo-e woodblock prints into the 21st century by transforming iconic woodblock images into animated GIFs. Some of the animations are from Katsushika Hokusai’s “36 Views of Mount Fuji”, which portray the famous mountain from a variety of angles, weather conditions and contexts. Segawa Thirty-Seven’s GIFs rang from charming glowing lights and kits that drift in the wind, to the juxtaposition of the old and new with a high-speed Japanese train whisking past an old-fashion Japanese station, to the ridiculous like a spaceship shrinking and beaming a mountain into its hull. ...
Art

Tragic areal photos of one of the world’s largest coal mines

Bernhard Lang is previously mentioned on Design Faves for his areal photographs capturing rows of colorful  beach umbrellas and towels. Lang is known for his areal photography, captured whilst strapped underneath ultralight planes, of car parks, football fields, harbors, snow covered landscapes, among other things. His images of the Tagebau Hambach coal mine in Germany show massive, three-story tall machinery removing soil from a 240m-long, 96m-high pit. Though Germany is a leader in clean renewable energy, the Hambach mine is one of the largest dirty coal mines in Europe. Lang’s images present an unusual perspective, capturing a beautiful patterned landscape that one can only realize from extreme heights. However, Lang also aims to create awareness as well: the “images of opencast brown coal mining with its huge machines biting into the soil show quite directly the human impact on, and exploitation of, our environment.” ...
Art

Using hand-written letters to expose personality

Annie Vought’s delicate paper cutouts are exquisitely impressive. Vought focuses on the handwritten letter as both an architectural medium, as well as a lenses revealing the personality behind the words, “…penmanship, word choice, and spelling all contribute to possible narratives about who that person is and what they are like.” Based in California, Vought enlarges letters that she’s found, written, or received and with an exact-o knife, and splices away the negative space in-between each letter. The pieces are held together by interconnections shared between various letters of each text. These frail-looking sheets are displayed on long pins, and cast intricate shadows against the wall, allowing the viewer to observe the various ways in which writing is able to communicate, connect and expose personality. “But in the exposure is a vulnerability we all share. I’m interested in human relationships, overall — the ones we have with ourselves...
Art

Compulsive skin-picking explored through art

Liz Atkin’s intimate images and performances focus on the skin: its ability to narrate human experiences, as well as its duel function as a barrier and surface for contact and connection. Referring to her skin as a ‘work in progress’, Atkin observes, “It carries permanent marks of what my body has experienced, marks accidentally or consciously made its surface.” This London-based artist suffered from a condition known as Compulsive Skin Picking for over 20 years. Using dance and theater to confront and channel the compulsion into a creative art practice, Atkin now exhibits her work to raise awareness of the condition. Through public talks, specialist commissions, residencies, and exhibitions, Atkin advocates creative repair and recovery at therapy centers and galleries all over the world. Her recent Kickstarter campaign will help fund a research trip, solo exhibition and artist talk at UCLA Medical Center in LA. ...
Art

A fantasy world of delicate bone and metal creatures

Beginning in 1992, Jessica Joslin has assembled species after species of her exquisite bone and metal creatures. A love for science and a background in fabrication has culminated in these whimsical imaginative skeletons: part skull, part door knob and teapot spout. The use of embellished metal ornamentation lends a certain imperial magnificence to the creatures, as if they’re members of some aristocratic dynasty. Their framework stems from the miniaturization and well crafted decoration of the Victorian era. Joslin often presents her surprisingly charming sculptures in animation: interacting with each other or in circus-like scenarios. One can only imagine their part-fluid part-mechanical movements. ...
Art

Embracing diversity, and red hair

London-based photographer, Michelle Marshall explores diversity of the MC1R gene, associated with red hair. As you might know the MC1R gene is recessive and requires a presence in both parents in order to appear in an offspring, and is accordingly rare. Red heads make-up between one to two percent of the world population. The words ginger, red-head and carrot-top bring to mind individuals of Celtic descent: fair and freckled. However, Marshall’s photographs work to broaden our narrow notions of red heads by capturing the gene’s presence in people of color and mixed race. “As we struggle with issues of immigration, discrimination and racial prejudice, Mother Nature, meanwhile, follows its own course, embracing society’s plurality and, in the process, shaking up our perceptions about origins, ethnicity and identity.” ...
Design

Clothing patterns that change from sun to shade

The Crated launched a successful Kicstarter, “Photochromic”, to help fund the production of a line of sun-sensitive clothing. Pattern segments of the “Photochromic” hats, T-shits, pants and backpacks disappear and then reappear when the wearer transitions between sun and shade. Not only is this clothing more fun and interactive, The Crated aims to bring wearable-tech into a more mainstream market. “Photochromic” is the result of a collaboration between wearable-tech design company, The Crated; and an open web-platform, Print All Over Me, enabling designers to digitally print full-bleed garments. The fusion of art and technology in The Crated's process is mimicked in their design themes as well, which are inspired by mathematics and scientific principals including concepts of quantum physics. ...
Inspiration

Photo series captures the resilience of disabled animals

Animal-photographer, Alex Cearns works out of her Houndstooth Studio in Australia. Her series “Perfect Imperfection”, focuses on animals with handicaps, “I love every animal I have the privilege of photographing, but those perceived as ‘different’ hold a special place in my heart.” Disabled animals are regarded with pity and often don’t excite the same interest from potential adopters. Cearns intentionally portrays her subjects’ weakness as strengths: showing off each creature’s resilience and un-blighted capacity for joy, “They adapt to their bodies without complaint and they survive with determination. They push on, always, wanting to be included […].” ...
Creativity

Video projected onto a single grain of rice

A highly creative ad agency, Drill Tokyo, projected a video onto a single grain of rice (5 mm high) in what people are calling the smallest projection-mapping project the world has yet witnessed. Looking through magnified glass, viewers were able to observe the tiny video projected onto the suspended rice-grain, contained against a cubic black-interior. At first the rice appears to fracture, then glow, followed by a series of minuscule patterns and fireworks that pass over its surface. “Rice Mapping” aims to imprint a cultural symbol with a Japanese aesthetic indicating the spiritual and nutritional significance of rice within Japanese culture, as well as embody the saying, “all creation is infinitely transitory with forms and values changing in each moment.” ...
Art

Water sculptures created with thousands of Chinese characters

Zheng Lu’s sculptures allude to the concept of balance in all its possible forms. Not only do his steel works seem to defy gravity; but their shapes act to engulf and harmonize contradictory notions: motion and stillness, solidity and void, tension and tranquility. Even more fantastically, each from is composed of hundreds of thousand of Chinese characters taken from Chinese literature. One of Lu’s water pieces is constructed with the lines of Tang Dynasty Poet, Bai Juyi’s poem, “Zhi Shui” (“Playing With Water”). Chinese calligraphy is known for its aesthetic beauty. Lu’s sculptures strip this beauty from the two-dimensional page, transforming it into three-dimensional sculptures. ...
Design

Ad campaign reminds public to stand up for the pregnant

Shiyang He’s ad campaign, for the Chinese company Yili Milk, reminds public-transportation travelers to offer their seat to pregnant women. Appropriately titled “Stand Up For The Pregnant”, the Ad compares the baby-swollen abdomen of a standing pregnant lady to the stomach-contents of the individual sitting in front of her. The caption attached to these charming images reads, “Give up your seat to someone carrying something more important.” It’s meant to remind most people that even if we/they feel tired, the lady going through her day with the extra weight of a little human. ...
Art

600 feet of netted sculpture suspended over Boston

The ethereal beauty of Janet Echelman’s netted sculpture hovering above the Rose Kennedy Greenway is put into perspective when you realize it’s composed of over 100 miles of rope, over half million knots, and weighs approximately one ton. The mesh, 15 times times stronger than steel, is suspended between three skyscrapers in Boston’s financial district. Commissioned by the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, “As If You Were Already Here” can be viewed day and night until the end of October due to strategically placed colored LED lighting. Shifting under wind and sunlight, the sculpture gives a ghostly nod to past landmarks, including the razed “Tri-mountain”, and the six traffic lanes interred to make room for the Greenway. ...
Creativity

Taking “Being John Malkovich” to the next level

Continuing an 18-year working relationship/friendship, photographer Sandro Miller and actor John Malkovich teamed up again last year to recreate these iconic images. In the series, “Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich: Homage to Photographic Masters”, Malkovich makes one impressive transformation after another: from a frazzled Einstein, to an alluring Marilyn Monroe. The series is currently being exhibited at Les Rencontres d’Arles, France until September 20th. Each image is treated with a sensitive respect attempting to match the original emotionally as well as visually, making a point to honor, not parody, the past. The series creates an interesting dynamic were work influential to Miller’s career is, in turn, influenced by Miller’s creative imagination. ...
Art

Calligraphic that seems to float in thin air

Using the arabic alphabet as a his model, French artist, Julien Breton creates his own life-sized calligraphic images all over the world. His canvases are dark night-scapes, his paint is light, and and his brushes are variously-sized flashlights (sometimes overlaid with pigmented gelatin to create color). Capturing the motion with long exposure photography, the artist mimes out the calligraphy, waving the flashlight about in a sort-of dance. As one can imagine, some orchestration and practice are required for Breton to get the motions right. Though the pictures seem to be Photoshop-masterpieces, they are created solely with light. ...
Digital

The universe in a coffee cup

Victoria Siemer, known under the artistic identity Witchoria, is associated with her digitally manipulated images: sometimes breathtakingly beautiful, other times exhibiting a laconic dry wit. One of her ongoing series, “Waves and Galaxies”, presents grand celestial and oceanic vistas within the framework of a coffee cup. The images exude either tranquility, or an overwhelming dread. One image of a cup containing a dark galaxy is humorously captioned, “Houston, we have a Monday,” on her blog. These exhilarating microcosmic breakfast-beverages are wonderful exercises, waking up Siemer’s creative-juices for the day. ...
Art

Sky ladder explodes skyward

On June 15th Cai Guo­-Qiang’s  1,650ft -tall, 18ft-wide “Sky Ladder” was revealed through a string of explosions arching upward, illuminating the dawn sky above Huiyu Island’s harbour, in Southeast China. The metal wire and aluminum ladder, laced with gun powder and fireworks, was hoisted into the air by a massive air balloon harnessing 6,200 cubic meters of helium. “Sky Ladder” burned for approximately two minutes and thirty seconds before dimming from the bottom up, leaving Guo-Qinag’s daring fire-ladder imprinted onto onlookers’ retinas. Inspired by a childhood dream, “Sky Ladder” became a dedication to the pyrotechnic artist’s hometown, relatives and friends — as well as a symbol of hope, returning and new beginnings. ...
Illustration

Playful images merge reality and fiction

Always playful, often inspirational, Ben Heine’s “PENCIL VS CAMERA” series merges reality and imagination. By overlaying black and white pencil sketches atop photographs, Heine is able to add a personal twist to each real-life setting. Inversely, with larger work, Heine inserts individuals, often himself, into the drawings. This Brussels-based artist’s care to create cohesive alignments and perspectives within his images contributes to the convincing-ness of his visual narrations. Heine often includes his hand in each image, connecting the artist to the work, as well as the viewer. In one exhibition, Heine set a giant illustration, featuring himself snapping a picture, on the floor so that viewers could sit down and take their own photos of Heine’s self-portrait taking their portrait. ...
Art

If Disney heroes were real…

A previous Design Faves article discusses Jirka Väätäinen’s portrayals of Disney’s females, where he skillfully transforms the iconic simplified cartoon features into the realistic looking faces and forms of women and girls. Väätäinen has added some male characters, like Prince Eric, Hercules and Aladdin to his series “Real life Disney”. Väätäinen’s process consists of collecting photos of celebrities and other men and assembling their selected features to create his Disney-real-life lookalikes. He then finishes by blending the features and digitally painting the images. ...
Design

Audacious 3D printed shoes

Untitled Nude, internationally recognized for innovations in 3D printed shoe designs, is the first company to install foot scanners and interactive touch screens, allowing clients to customize shoes’ fit and color, and then watch as they’re 3D printed right in front of them. For the 2015 Milan Design week, Untitled Nude collaborated with acclaimed architects and designers: Zaha Hadid, Ross Lovegrove, Fernando Romero, Michael Young and Ben van Berkel to create its series “Re-Inventing” shoes. Though each shoe is easily worn, the series aims to push style-boundaries and create conversation-starting shoe sculptures. Each shoe design, selling for a limited edition of fifty, had a nylon base, while the uppers were printed from a softer thermoplastic polyurethane. ...
Inspiration

Photographic series that proves American beauty comes in all shapes, colors, and sizes

Carey Fruth's photos series, “American Beauty”, slams mainstream culture’s narrow notion of the ideal woman: white, thin and young. "But that is not actually the majority of women in our country look like. America is made up of all types of women. Women who are hungry to see themselves represented in a beautiful way. And why shouldn't they?” Although Fruth intends expanding this work to include more individuals, the series currently consists of fourteen women who vary in color, size, age and shape; each photographed similarly against a bed of lilacs. The result is indeed beautiful. Fruth’s “American Beauty” responds to an iconic sexual fantasy from the 1999 Film American Beauty, where a middle aged man envisions his daughter’s best friend (thin, white and blond) seductively settled on a bed of roses. Fruth takes feminine beauty away from the objectifying male gaze, allowing each woman to shed her insecurity, step into “a fantasy dream girl...
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