Underwater footage from a dive off the coast of KoTao opens on the spotted body of a whale shark. Documented by a small team from Aquatic Images on two excursions, the giant, slow-moving creature is shown gliding gracefully through the Gulf of Thailand with what appears to be dozens of remora, or suckerfish, tagging along for the ride—these smaller swimmers tend to clean bacteria and parasites from their host in exchange for food and easy travel.
Whale sharks are currently the largest living fish species, and similar to flamingos, they’re filter-feeders, although they utilize a cross-flow method that involves water passing by the filter toward the back of the throat rather than through it. Their distinctive spots are also unique to each specimen, meaning that like human fingerprints, no two patterns are the same.
This is the second time in recent years that Aquatic Images has encountered the “gentle giant,” and you can find more of its undersea footage on YouTube. (via The Kids Should See This).
Photography, and street photography, in particular, has the power to preserve the fleeting, framing the brief encounters and dalliances that sometimes end as quickly as they began. This impulse to document the momentary permeates throughout Juri Nesterov’s body of work that serves as a visual record of those he’s witnessed within the last five decades. “When I look into the camera’s viewfinder, something inexplicable happens: thousands of images appear in my memory,” he writes.
Nesterov was born in 1954 in Krasnyi Luch, a city in the Luhansk province of what is now Ukraine. At the time, the area was part of Soviet Russia, and this shift in borders parallels the photographer’s practice, which often centers on the transient and ephemeral nature of the human experience.
Because of revolution, war, and collapse, Nesterov’s photos also chronicle life under the control of governments that have since dissolved, and the context of being surrounded by such inability makes his focus on the fundamental humanity of his subjects even more impactful. He says:
After a while, looking at my prints, I feel like the photos are electric. Most of the time I hear the question: “Where was this picture taken” or “What kind of camera? What lens?” I really want to answer: “in the world of people with their thoughts, disappointments, and hopes.”…Does it matter where exactly I pressed the camera button?… Look at the world, we all have the same starry sky.
Nesterov worked in journalism for many years and has exhibited his photos throughout Europe, although some of his prints housed at a Ukrainian museum were destroyed during shelling a few years back. Head to Flickr to explore an incredible archive of his photos that until recently, he was still developing in his kitchen in Kyiv.
A follow-up to his series focused on the glow of LED-lit greenhouses, Tom Hegen’s new collection peers down on the landscape of Spain’s Almería peninsula. The German photographer is broadly interested in our impact on the earth and gears his practice toward the aerial, offering perspectives that illuminate the immense scale of human activity.
In The Greenhouse Series II, Hegen captures the abstract topographies of the world’s largest agricultural production center of its kind, which stretches across 360-square kilometers of rugged, mountainous terrain in the northern part of the country. The sun-trapping structures house plants like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and watermelons that provide fresh produce to much of Europe year-round.
While 30 times more productive than typical farmland in the region, the facilities also function at a cost to the local ecosystems. “Groundwater is being polluted with fertilisers and pesticides. Some 30,000 tons of plastic waste are created each year,” Hegen tells Colossal, noting that the greenhouses are made almost entirely of plastic foil, which is shredded and discarded nearby once it’s no longer useful. “From there, wind and erosion transport it to the (Mediterranean Sea).”
Hegen will speak about using aerial photography to foster connections with the larger world during a TedX event this May, and you can keep up with his latest projects on Instagram and Behance.
When witnessing inequity is like digging into an already numb wound and participating in surface-level social justice is as easy as recycling digital shares, the Social Justice Sewing Academy offers the power of touch. The organization works with kids and teens to make quilt blocks that express injustices in their lives, and Colossal contributor Gabrielle Lawrence recently sat down with program director Stephanie Valencia to discuss the project’s mission in a new interview supported by Colossal Members.
They speak about the work of honoring the victims of violence and their families through community art, supporting young entrepreneurs with creative or social justice-oriented businesses, and most importantly, giving people something to hold on to.
So often, when someone loses a loved one, you cherish their items for a while. And then eventually, their items end up in a box, in the back of a closet, or in an attic somewhere. This really does give the family something to hold on to and use every day. Beyond comfort, it’s reflection, as well as memory. Every time they see or touch that quilt, they can remember the good times.
Ultimately, SJSA empowers youth to use their voices and requires tactile processing of issues that often seem bigger than all of us. Every stitch is felt, and it is not a practice that participants must endure alone. From design to completion, each person is required to spend time sitting with these stories in a physical way, which creates room for grief, remembrance, education, and critique.
After a COVID-related hiatus, the annual Falles festival in Valencia, Spain, returned this year with an extravagant celebration full of flames and sparks. The five-day pyrotechnic event draws thousands of people into the streets each March to witness fireworks, explosions, and a variety of sculptures burn to the ground, and at the heart of this year’s production was a 23-foot polar bear by artist Antonio Segura, aka Dulk (previously).
Following works by PichiAvo, Okuda San Miguel, and Escif in previous iterations, Dulk’s fantastical and surreal “Protect What You Love” featured wildlife and plants balanced on top of the cold-weather creature. Two years in the making, the monumental piece was constructed with cardboard and wood, and a team assembled the approximately 30 individual vignettes around the central figure once on site. Each of the works speaks to the urgent need to address the climate crisis, which Dulk explains:
We have the mother polar bear in the main square for falles, her fur melting like a candle as other animals take refuge on and around her. They are lost and they are all in search of a new habitat… The koala represents the wildfires of Australia in 2019/2020 where over 60,000 of the creatures lost their lives. The orangutan represents Borneo where their rapid decline as a species is a direct result from hunting, logging Palm oil, and developments in agroforestry. The fish turns to a can, to reflect the loss of marine life from overfishing.
“Protect What You Love,” which burned this last weekend, is a poetic reminder of how quickly loss can occur. “While this is just a metaphor it could become our reality unless we begin to change our behaviour,” Dulk tells Charlotte Pyatt in an interview with Juxtapoz. “I hope the event more than anything else, encourages awareness and action for these urgent concerns.”
The Spanish artist also has smaller works on view at Valencia’s Tuesday to Friday through April 21 and Centre del Carme through May 8 to coincide with the event. See more of his pieces and behind-the-scenes look at the spectacular festival on Instagram.
Tokyo-based artist Naoki Onogawa (previously) continues his meditative practice involving thousands of minuscule paper cranes. Attached in clusters to the branches of bonsai trees, the tiny birds perch in place of leaves and top the sculptural specimens with fantastically colored canopies. Onogawa painstakingly folds a square, centimeter-wide piece of paper into the origami cranes, which once amassed in large groups, symbolize eternal good fortune.
The artist is currently preparing for shows this fall at Picaresque Art Gallery and TENMAYA in both Okayama and Fukuyama and recently opened his books for international commissions. Head to Instagram to dive into his process and stay up-to-date on new works.
North Carolina-based baker Hannah P. has planted herself firmly at the intersection of art and food as she transforms her crusty rye loaves and spelt focaccias into edible canvases for her botanic projects. Through her Instagram account Blondie + Rye, Hannah shares hundreds of flour-covered creations replete with twisting vines and leafy stems. Some pieces even feature layered fruits and vegetables that resemble verdant gardens and floral bouquets. If the baker’s combinations weren’t so appetizing—think a spelt loaf speckled with rosemary and brown sugar and a cream cheese, Romano, and lemon zest center or a ring full of extra-crunchy peanut butter, honey, toasted pecans, pistachios, walnuts, and hazelnut cocoa filling—they’d be almost too pretty to eat. For more lovely baked exteriors, check out Lauren Ko‘s pies.
t the heart of Zadok Ben-David’s Natural Reserve on view at Kew Gardens is a low-lying plot sprouting nearly 1,000 plant species. The sprawling, ecologically diverse installation, which has traveled to multiple cities like Seoul, Tel Aviv, and Paris since 2006, is titled “Blackfield,” a name tied to the flowers’ dualistic nature: one side captures the vibrancy of life through bright, fantastical colors, while the other is painted entirely black.
Containing upwards of 17,000 steel-etched botanicals, the installation considers the precarious line between life and death and how a small shift in perspective can inspire oppositional feelings of either loss or hope. “The relationship between humanity and nature is one which is central to my work. I have always been fascinated by the idea of how humans rely on nature for survival yet seem to forget this essential fact in everyday life,” the Israeli artist says.
In addition to “Blackfield,” Natural Reserve includes a variety of intricate, sculptural pieces, some of which are based on 19th Century illustrations in the garden’s collections, and is on view through April 24. Follow Zadok Ben-David (previously) on Instagram to keep an eye on where his works are headed next.
Artist Willie Cole is known for transforming discarded materials into sculptures with a tenor of interrogation. Much of his three-dimensional work revolves around found objects like high-heels, plastic bottles, or ironing boards that he turns into pieces of cultural commentary, addressing issues of mass production, historical legacies, and identity. The items tend to guide the formation of his assemblages, he says, sharing that, “the objects that I use I see as them finding me, more so than me finding them… I see an object and suddenly I recognize what I can do with the object. So in that sense, there is an energy or spirit connection to the object. I am exploring the possibilities of these objects.”
Cole’s solo show No Strings, which opens this April at Alexander and Bonin in New York, exemplifies this approach. The artist, who’s currently living and working in New Jersey, recovered guitars, saxophones, and pianos from Yamaha’s recycling program and through his usual alchemy, has created anthropomorphic creatures and abstracted figures from their parts: he converts hammers into tail feathers and spliced acoustic bodies into dogs and anonymous musicians. The pieces are expressive and tied to the endurance of America’s past, particularly drawing a connection between the guitar’s shape and the yokes forced on people who were enslaved.
In addition to the upcoming No Strings show, you can see a few of Cole’s sculptures in the ongoing Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room at The Met, and explore more of his works on his site and Instagram.
Los Angeles-based artist Sam Keller creates playful works centered around his interest in twisting new narratives from everyday objects. He transforms a flattened Coca-Cola or La Croix can into a beautiful gleaming object coated in Swarovski crystals and sculpts giant Cheetos in hollow spheres and small stacks. Each work sheds light on consumption and capitalism’s grip on society. “My use of unpreserved junk foods I’m hoping should prompt a re-examination of the foods we decide to consume as well,” the artist shares. “For the record, I stopped eating Cheetos years ago.”
While growing up in Brooklyn, Keller was drawn to the environment surrounding him, often finding and collecting objects from the streets, which still informs his work today. “My teenage bedroom was decorated with advertisements I removed from subway cars, a satellite dish that I painted on, and once to my parent’s dismay, I even brought home a toppled parking meter,” Keller tells Colossal. Today, he sources many cans from discarded waste around him, after which he flattens them and decorates them in colorful crystals.
The artist studied painting at the Rhode Island School of Design and focused on drawing found objects, food, and “off-shoot materials for their built-in language and cultural significance.” Except for high-end glass, many of the items he uses are relatively common. “It only takes two large bags (of Cheetos) to make a ‘Cheetosphere’ sculpture, so from a practical standpoint, a vitrine to protect one of those is the most expensive component,” he explains.“I’m always looking for new objects and materials to incorporate into my practice while continuing to evolve my existing ideas and interests. I feel like I’m chasing an indescribable vision in my mind, and I’ll only know when I get there.”
To view more of Keller’s artwork, follow him on Instagram or visit his website. (via It’s Nice That)