Graduating high school is a strange moment. No matter how it was for you then, everything changes afterward. That summer, friends disappear to new schools across the country, you disappear into college, work, or both, and the safety net ropes of your world generally loosen, if they aren’t untied altogether. But if you were lucky enough to be leaving Boston Latin School this year, that means you went to school with Phillip Sossou, the student artist who gave everyone the most profound parting gift.
The 18-year-old spent four months sketching portraits of his fellow classmates in secret. Finally, on the last day of classes for seniors, Sossou and six friends adorned the hallways of the first floor with all 411 of Sossou’s charcoal portraits. And he didn’t just do it out of boredom. He did it to make a point before his peers were lost to the real world.
“I was trying to show everyone in a positive light. Our class has been kind of divided. Having these pictures helps us to embrace our diversity.”
This dude will rightfully be talked about by those students forever. His project is something his former classmates will have explain to their kids. What he did was an insanely big, cool deal.
In 1986, in the blink of an eye, Chernobyl became an alien world. As the worst nuclear power plant accident in history, Chernobyl drove the city of Pripyat, Ukraine (the U.S.S.R. at the time), into an overnight dystopian empire that’s become a haunting landscape of ruins that time gnaws on. An enveloping portrait of post-human environment before any kind of flourish, Pripyat is bleak and desolate. So what better place for art?
That’s where Guido van Helten steps in. The Australian artist scored permission and access by the Ukrainian government to paint a mural in reactor No. 5— only 70% built at the time of the accident — in tribute to Russian photographer Igor Kostin. If it wasn’t for Kostin, the world would have less of an idea about the impact, the devastation, and the collapse of a community that Chernobyl caused.
Working for Novosti Press Agency (APN) at the time, Kostin was one of only five photographers who covered the Chernobyl nuclear disaster on the day it actually happened (April 26, 1986), with his aerial shot of the buckled plant becoming one of the most notable around the world. He would return to the site of the meltdown several times in the years afterward. He was committed to documenting the catastrophe, a way of showing the world the effects in hope of a better future made by better decisions, so that dozens don’t die and thousands aren’t wrecked with fallout-related disease. He died in a car accident last year.
See the mural in the long-lost world of Pripyat below, and check out more murals of Guido van Helten by way of his Instagram.
When I was in school, the problem with mathematics was that it was never flowery enough. It was black and white (with a briefly curious stint of imaginary numbers). There was right and there was wrong, with the journey more of a process than an adventure. I inevitably wound up falling in love with art and literature classes, and now I realize it’s because there wasn’t a coloring book celebrating the possibilities that bloom out of the mathematical abstract!
Venezuelan architect and illustrator Rafael Araujo has given the world a chance to spiral into wondrous fascination with math. He’s spent more than 40 years drawing nature by hand at an old drafting table. It’s not the traditionally whimsical approach you may find yourself used to anticipating. Instead, Araujo, true to himself, uses a pencil, compass, ruler, and protractor.
There’s a softness to watercolor that gives it the immediate tenderness of nostalgia or fantasy. It gives any scene the power to colorfully float like a wonderful memory that’s just a bit too challenging to recall in precise detail. The emotions of watercolor are too bright, too alluring, too breezy. But used in film and suddenly watercolor works its magic of nostalgic or fantastical reminisce in favor of a grand story. Such is the beautiful case of Sugarless Tea, a short watercolor film by filmmaker-husband-and-painter-wife team Sai and Amanda Selvarajan.
Narrated by sociopolitical comic Hari Kondabolu, Sugarless Tea takes viewers through India and gives them enough emotional strength in only a few minutes to surely make them dwell on the themes.
In an interview with Lost at E Minor, Sai explained the inspiration: “I took a trip to India in 2005. It was the first time I got to travel through India as an adult. I saw things and felt things I’d never felt before. That was the starting point of Sugarless Tea. I was born in Sri Lanka, but I was raised in Nigeria. My family and I had to leave Nigeria when I was nine, this was one of the most traumatic experiences in my life. I wanted to capture that feeling, the feeling of being pulled apart and the yearning to reunite.”
Meanwhile, Amanda detailed the process: “My starting point with the paintings began when all of the equipment was set up. I pushed a button on a remote control to take a photo after almost every stroke. As I worked through the paintings I became more aware of how to accomplish my vision of how the image should appear, piece-by-piece, on the screen. We rented the camera equipment for six days so I had to complete all of the paintings within a short deadline. It was a great lesson in pushing through the pain when you’re working on a project. So many times I would get to a point where I thought the painting was irredeemable but there was no time for doubt. I would simply switch to another painting for a few hours and then return to the previous one. This meant that the paintings would not appear on the screen in the exact same place – since that would be impossible. In turn, this informed Sai’s decision to zoom out and show the desk when he did the edit.”
See the wonderful short film by the Selvarajans below.
How much power does one book hold? That’s the central question of a unique installation by Mexican artist Jorge Mendez Blake.
For his 2007 project, “The Castle” (named after The Castle by Franz Kafka), Mendez Blake constructed a single wall of bricks—75 feet long, 13 feet high—without mortar. Each brick was placed uniformly and intentionally, as with any wall, but Blake also included an unusual element in the wall’s foundation: a copy of The Castle. As such, the entire wall balances precariously on a single book.
While the book’s insertion seems clever enough on its own, it’s what its presence does to the wall that shows the true genius. The bricks curve and shape around the book, creating a bump and beautiful imperfection in the wall.
While any piece of literature could have made the cut, Mendez Blake’s work pays homage specifically to Kafka. The author wrote privately, not intending to be published; his work was only published after his death, thus he is a largely mysterious figure. The wall represents Kafka’s subtle subversion, a minimal presence that creates a larger effect.
And therein, we see the power of a single book.
To see a little more of the installation, check out the video below. (Warning: It’s in French.)
Headshots: They’re the world’s best worst photography. Meant to capture emotion, they usually capture an actor’s failure as they yellow on the walls of dingy restaurants. From pageant-winning kid actors to corny theatre majors showing their many “faces”, headshots are notoriously painful. (Chris Pratt recently tweeted his first his headshot, and it’s as awful as can be.) But apparently, they’ve always been that way.
Before there were cameras, there were tintypes. And before there were actors who needed headshots, there were still actors who needed headshots. Thus, there are tintype headshots from the Victorian era. These gems feature Fawdon Vokes (killer stage name, if I do say so myself), pantomimist (aka dancer and actor) and member of the famous Vokes family of entertainers.
According to the The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Fall 2012:
“[He] joined the ranks of the Vokes Family, a group of London performers who toured the United States beginning in 1872. Somewhere on tour, perhaps in Philadelphia, Vokes stopped at a portrait studio to act his roles before the camera.”
Between 2002 and 2005, German photographers Sabine Haubitz and Stefanie Zoche traveled to Egypt’s Sinai peninsula. There, the skeletons of abandoned 5-star hotel projects stand in a stark landscape overlooking the sea. It is a reminder of a time when dreams of holiday relaxation were ripe and speculation was rife. Today, all that remains are crumbling concrete ruins of that dream, and glamourous names like ‘Sindbad’, ‘Sultan’s Palace’, and the ‘Magic Life Imperial’.
Why do these ruins exist? The reasons are as varied as their unusual designs. Some were the victims of bad investments, others because of bad state subsidized loans, and many were the result of lost tourism due to a fear of terrorist attacks.
The ruins now populate this empty landscape like unintentional sculptures, towering into the clear blue sky as reminders of times with more hope. See more from this project at haubitz-zoche.de.
Recently on Twitter, a Japanese girl who goes by the username @Kya7y revealed a photo that has excited puzzle fans around the world. It was a picture of a complex maze that her father spent 7 years creating nearly 30 years ago- by hand. The maze is approximately 23 x 33 inches in size and the requests for copies for people eager to try to complete it overwhelmed @Kya7y. There is no word on whether or not she will be making copies available, but she has shared the much-wondered about answer to people’s questions about her father’s occupation- he works in the athletic department at a public university… as a janitor!
In Newcastle passersby have grown very familiar to street art by Mobstr, especially his arch-nemesis: the city’s buff man who paints over the graffiti. Rather than getting frustrated, Mobstr has incorporated the buff man into his work to tell a story on Jerome Street. Starting with “Once upon a time…” he told The Story one line at a time as soon as the previous was covered up by the buffer. From message writer to message remover, this paint battle tells a beautiful story.
Like all of our favorite narratives, this graffiti story finishes with “the end.” and one more buffing job, giving the buff man the last laugh, but that’s just this story and there are many more walls in Newcastle. To some the buffed out graffiti is also a form of art, as you will see the excerpt from The Subconscious Art of Graffiti Removal directed by Matt McCormick at the bottom of the post. Check out more work by Mobstr on his website.
From scenes of western bar brawls to trigger-happy zombie hunters delivering headshots, the silhouette art of David Reeves covers broad-spectrum action scenes. Halifax-based artist / designer / photographer David Reeves re-creates action landscapes borrowed from movies and video games using paper, an x-acto knife, some clever lighting techniques and his trusty Cannon camera. Reeves captures the silhouettes of samurais, Batman, cowboys, aliens and scenes from the stunningly visual video game, Limbo (just to name a few).
His drool-worthy art is definitely worth a peek:
Batman makes an appearance…
How it’s made: silhouette style
Re-creation, some amazing scenes inspired by Limbo
Super hero junkie? The art of Andy Fairhurst profiles kids with super powers