Wayne White: “Beauty Is Embarrassing”

Wayne White is an American artist, puppeteer, sculptor, set designer, cartoonist, art director, animator, and illustrator whose influence on popular culture has been quietly vast. As Mark Mothersbaugh puts it: “Kids [in the ’80s] mainlined it. He was imprinting their brains, and they don’t even know it.” Filmmaker Neil Berkeley’s new documentary about White’s roller coaster career and personal life looks like it’s packed-to-bursting with inspiration and warm-fuzzies and whimsy and pathos:

“Raised in the mountains of Tennessee, Wayne White started his career as a cartoonist in New York City. He quickly found success as one of the creators of the TV show, Pee-wee’s Playhouse, which led to more work designing some of the most arresting and iconic images in pop culture. Most recently, his word paintings, which feature pithy and often sarcastic text statements crafted onto vintage landscape paintings, have made him a darling of the fine art world.”

Beauty Is Embarrassing chronicles the vaulted highs and the crushing lows of a commercial artist struggling to find peace and balance between his work and his art. Acting as his own narrator, Wayne guides us through his life using moments from his latest creation: a hilarious, biographical one-man show.”

The world premiere of Beauty Is Embarrassing will take place on March 10th at SXSW. Click through below to see more examples of Wayne White’s multifaceted work.

Beauty is Embarrassing film still, featuring White wearing his LBJ paper mache puppet head.

Culture Osolence by Lucas de Alcântara

From the same land that recently brought us Vinicius Quesada’s ominous post-apocalyptic images in the McDonald’s color scheme comes this two-image series from Brazilian artist Lucas de Alcântara.

The strange atomic-age flying machines (robots? winged helmets? …life forms?) recall Leonardo da Vinci’s technical drawings, while the composition echoes high-concept, hand-drawn film posters of bygone days. The would look great on a wall next to some Takashi Itsuki prints, no?

The images appear in Alcântara’s Depthcore portfolio. Consisting of digital artists around the world, Depthcore is a treasure trove of weird cyberpunk art. Work on Depthcore seems to be presented in chapters, and the image above appeared in the chapter titled Obsolete among many other beautiful submissions.

[via the highly addictive Surrogate Self]

“Athena’s Curse, Medusa’s Fate” — Created by Jessica Rowell, Nina Pak, and Elizabeth Maiden

Sometimes, when creative and inspired people get together to collaborate on making imagery in a specific vein that no one’s attempted before, a special kind of magic happens. Case in point, this elaborate photo series independently produced by Jessica Rowell of J-Chan Designs and photographer Nina Pak in cahoots with model Elizabeth Maiden:

Κατάρα της Αθηνάς, η μοίρα της Μέδουσας
Αθηνάς: Elizabeth Maiden
Μέδουσας: Jessica Rowell of J-Chan’s Designs
Photography: Nina Pak
Costume Design & Styling: J-Chan’s Designs
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Ancient Greek lore and steampunk culture clash, titan style, in a sumptuous mythos-meets-modernity photo series depicting the Goddess Athena (Elizabeth Maiden) and the Gorgon Medusa (Jessica Rowell).

According to legend, the once ravishing Medusa was cursed with a monstrous appearance after “seducing” Poseidon, Lord of the Sea, under the roof of Athena’s sacred temple. Hence, this series title (which, translated into English, means) “Athena’s curse, Medusa’s fate.”

Rowell pulled “inspiration from Desmond Davis’ 1981 film Clash of the Titans, then put an atemporal spin on things by incorporating several contemporary ingredients that “also felt industrial and familiar to alternative culture.”

“The Bicycle Animation” by Katy Beveridge

Katy Beveridge is the mastermind behind this surprising and gorgeous animation piece “that explores whether it’s possible to film animation in realtime.” Beveridge did a ton of research on “proto animation” (which basically means super early, basic, rudimentary animation) in modern design, and cross-referenced work by other contemporary designers using similar techniques.

“I have interviewed animators such as Jim le Fevre and in my research referenced other people using this technique such as David Wilson and Tim Wheatley who did this before me. I developed this project based on what is being done in animation right now as well as a lot of primary research into the history of animation techniques.”

Her friend Stefan Neidermeyer created the piece’s perfect soundtrack by remixing random bike noies recorded during filming.

For a limited time, Beveridge is offering heavy, glossy paper stock laser cuts of the bicycle wheel paper cuts for sale in her Etsy shop. She also co-runs the informative Londoncentric graphics/art/design blog, Freda & Franck.

Breathing New Life into Dead Men’s Patterns: An Interview with Artist Hormazd Narielwalla

From the “Fairy-God, Fashion Mother” series by Hormazd Narielwalla.

Born in India of Persian-Zoroastrian ancestry and now living London, artist Hormazd Narielwalla forages for patterns in historic tailoring archives to use in conjunction with his own photography, sketches and digital compositions, giving their forms new life as whimsical narrative works of art.

You can see some lovely examples of Homi’s unique work in our Issue Six feature devoted to Klaus Nomi. The puppet-like pattern collages are taken from Narielwalla (nickame Homi)’s series A little bit of Klaus…a little bit of Homi. Each Nomi figure contains elements extracted from the vintage bespoke pattern blocks of Savile Row tailors, made for customers now long-deceased. We could not have found a more deeply fitting serenade to the operatic, avant-garde style icon than Narielwalla’s work, with its deft mixture of affection, craft, and thoughtfulness. (Thank you again, Homi.)

In the following interview, Narielwalla tells Coilhouse a bit more about his work and his life. His current show, Fairy-God, Fashion-Mother, which features a series of paper collages inspired by cult curator Diane Pernet, will be viewable at The Modern Pantry in London until January 7th.

From Hormazd Narielwalla’s “A Little Bit of Klaus, a Little Bit of Homi” series.

How did you get started making art, and what eventually drew you to this very specific and personal form of creative expression?
I was pursuing a Masters degree at the University of Westminster, aiming to become a menswear designer specializing in alternate ways of communicating fashion. During one of many research meeting with William Skinner (the Managing Director of Savile Row tailors Dege & Skinner), I acquired a single set of bespoke patterns belonging to a customer, now-deceased.

From the “Dead Man’s Patterns” series by Hormazd Narielwalla.

The tailors no longer needed the patterns, as they were made for a shape that no longer exists. With the support of my mentors British designers Shelley Fox and Zowie Broach (from Boudicca), I followed my instinct to divorce the patterns from their original context, viewing them as abstract shapes of the human body instead. That is when and where my first publication, Dead Man’s Patterns, was conceived.

The Paris Flat That Time Forgot

Via Daily Telegraph / How To Be A Retronaut / Thomas Negovan:

“Mrs de Florian never returned to her Paris flat after the war and died at the age of 91 in 2010. Behind the door, under a thick layer of dust lay a treasure trove of turn-of-the-century objects including a painting by the 19th century Italian artist Giovanni Boldini.”

“Entering the untouched, cobweb-filled flat in Paris’ 9th arrondissement, one expert said it was like stumbling into the castle of Sleeping Beauty, where time had stood still since 1900.”

“‘There was a smell of old dust,’ said Olivier Choppin-Janvry, who made the discovery. Walking under high wooden ceilings, past an old wood stove and stone sink in the kitchen, he spotted a stuffed ostrich and a Mickey Mouse toy dating from before the war, as well as an exquisite dressing table…”

(Read more at the Daily Telegraph.) 

Numen / For Use: Tape Melbourne

Photo by Fred Kroh

Numen / For Use are an art and design collective who create organic, web-like structures from adhesive tape. Their temporary installations are large and stable enough for several adults to crawl through, and the effect is not unlike being trapped in a giant spider’s web.

After climbing up a step ladder, you find yourself suspended in a series of glistening caverns, the frosted plastic obscuring your view of the outside world.

Photo by Fred Kroh.
Their latest project, Tape Melbourne, took eight days to complete, with three artists and fifteen volunteers working nine hours every day. The exhibit used thirty kilometers of tape to build, with more tape to repair and fix the structure on a nightly basis.

The Numen / For Use website contains more examples of their work, including images and videos of the construction process. You can explore their newest installation at Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia for a few more days; from now through September 24th, 2011.

Photo courtesy of Federation Square

More photos of the installation after the jump. (Editor’s note: This is our cherished intern Connie Chen’s first blog post for Coilhouse. Thank you, Connie!)

Riccardo Guasco

Flat, there layered shapes and muted colors abound in the work of Italian illustrator Riccardo Guasco. There is a strong Cubist/Primitivist streak running through these, along with the necessarily minimalist sensibility. Lots of beautiful, empty space that help draw the eye to the dynamic figures and strange scenes contained within them. Tonally, his pieces are often playful and kinetic, though some are wonderfully subdued. The winged girl below features in two more paintings, twisting in each one, as though she and the butterfly are taking part in a languid dance.

Nicole Aptekar’s New Paper Explorations

“Don’t look at me that way,” detail.

Textured scaffolding made out of paper. Spun cavities, spiraling angles and floating bristol-board islands. A mysterious, solitary logo consisting of circle and the letter X, reinterpreted in dozens of different ways.

Tonight in the Bay Area, artistphotographer and Syzygryd co-designer Nicole Aptekar unveils a series called New / Exploration / Paper at the Satellite66 gallery in SOMA. Coilhouse caught up with Nicole during the hectic last day of gallery preparation to discuss these pieces and the process behind them.

“Play revolver,” detail. Photo by Nicole Aptekar

COILHOUSE: Let’s start with this logo, the circle with the letter “x” positioned inside of it. How long has it been around? What’s the story behind it?
NICOLE APTEKAR:  I came up with the symbol in the summer of 2009. I was interested in sticker art, and wanted something to tag with that was not obviously a tag. I was experimenting with a number of different logos. In some versions, the circle was very dominant. In other versions, it was the “x”. The x-heavy versions of the logo were significantly more… vicious? Aggressive? They had no meaning, yet they had this built-in aggression that I found really interesting and kind of desirable, which I thought was curious, since they were just abstract symbols.  I started putting stickers of the logo up all over San Francisco and wherever I traveled. It was fascinating to see which ones stayed and which ones didn’t.  This version with the double-x is the one that I claimed for myself as a logo. Then I started using it to label things: my laptop, my bike, etc. When I had the opportunity to make it a part of a composition, I took it, instead of just slapping a logo on top of things. One example of that is the “Clear” button on the Syzygryd controller touchscreen… yeah, I tagged my own art.

Conventionally, it’s corporations that have logos, not individual people. So why your own logo?
A big part of it is that I find stickering really fascinating. I’m a big fan of B.N.E. and AERA HAKR. I watch the streets to see all the new sticker people because, for their brief moment, they are prolific. You can’t spray-paint every street, but you can absolutely throw seven stickers down as you’re walking. But I don’t really have the attachment to a name that many in the graffiti community seem to have.  Coming up with a fake name and throwing that down is not my thing. I don’t want people to know who I am, I’m not concerned with getting my name out. I’ve always been into graphic design and typography, though. Seeing abstract symbols in the wild engages my curiosity. There’s moment of puzzlement when you see some strange symbol in some random place, like on a trash can. Like, “what could this mean?” I feel like seeing the same logo in different places gives people the opportunity to get curious and find out. With an abstract logo, it’s not necessarily as obvious as with with a name. I feel like that’s more interesting.

Laser cutter in action. Photo by Nicole Aptekar

How did you transition from making stickers to making these sculptural paper compositions?
In January, I came across Matt Shlian’s work, and I became really inspired. He made a set called The Process Series, which are blocks of stacked paper that was cut using a plotter. He was taking grids and moving them around, and I thought that was really amazing. I’d been using laser cutter for a year and a half at that point, and I thought I could do something similar with it. So I just booked the laser at Techshop to see if it would be possible to laser-cut a piece similar to ones in The Process Series. Except that, instead of using one of his shapes, I used my logo. So I cut it, glued it together – hated the process of gluing it together – and I came up with this. I liked it, but it was so entirely similar to Shlian’s concept that I was really embarrassed by it. But I didn’t want to give up on it, either. So I started to ask myself: what could I do to feature my logo in a way that exposes the depth and breaks away form the grid structure? Shlian’s thing was repeated grids: squares, triangles, etc. He had his own unique way of pulling through depth, and I wanted to see what the variations are on that. I wanted to see what kind of shapes I could compose from my logo that were definitely mine, and not reminiscent of his. I developed several concepts for how to accomplish this using my own terminology. A projected cavity is large shape swept around to make a smaller shape. A spun cavity is when I take a shape and twist it. Spars and scaffolding are beams attached to the side of the frame that hold up elements that need to float.

“Don’t look at me that way” before it’s printed and cut, in Rhino 3D.

Can you describe your process for making these?
I start by designing these in CAD using Rhino 3D. In Rhino, none of these pieces are cut – it’s all one solid piece – so it’s hard to predict what kind of interplay all the individual layers will have. By the time I chop them up with the laser and lay out the pieces, I have no idea what it will all look like until it’s assembled. I’m completely unable to work on more than one of these at once. Each one leads directly onto the next; many of these contain new variations on a technique I had just learned while making the previous piece. For example with this one, I developed the notion of having the frame turn into that shape in the center, becoming part of the composition. And then with this one, which I made right after it, I did the same thing but also took that shape and twisted it. The shape of this one is basically secondary to the movement of the bar and its center point. That’s something that I never saw when I was doing it in CAD, but it looked shockingly beautiful to me when I started to put it all together. And then in the next one after that, I also had that frame and that spun cavity, but I added scaffolding at the top. In putting together this exhibition, I’ve learned a ton. Each one of these pieces represents an amount of knowledge I have gained.

One of Nicole Aptekar’s original pieces will be available at the Coilhouse Black & White & Red All Over Ball silent auction in New York this August 21st. See you there!

Fashioning the Sublime: Alexander McQueen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

CONTRIBUTOR’S NOTE: This week marks the final chance to see Savage Beauty before it closes on Sunday, August 7th. Due to the exhibit’s overwhelming popularity, the Metropolitan Museum has scheduled special viewing times for the upcoming weekend. Do not miss the opportunity to witness this one-of-a-kind show honoring one of the most spectacular talents to ever grace the fashion world.

Alexander McQueen’s “The Horn of Plenty”,  autumn/winter 2009-10. Black duck feathers. (via)

“When I am dead and gone, people will know that the twenty-first century was started by Alexander McQueen.” -Alexander McQueen (1969-2010)

The death of the Scottish designer Lee Alexander McQueen in February of 2010 sent shockwaves throughout the fashion industry that rippled steadily outward, pervading the worlds of fine art, music, theatre and design. Suddenly, one of the bravest, boldest and incredibly imaginative forces in fashion was gone. McQueen’s suicide took place just a week after his beloved mother, Joyce, died from cancer, and with little more than a month to go before he was to debut a new collection in Paris. The international outpouring of grief was palpable, as everyone, from socialites, celebrities and fashion students from countless walks of life remembered the designer in extensive magazine features, blog posts, Twitter updates, and Tumblr tributes. McQueen’s strong features and piercing stare appeared on the cover of most major newspapers.


McQueen’s influence was undeniable; he had unleashed, with collection after collection, a romantic assault on the senses and invited his viewers to look with their minds, not merely their bodies, when deciding what to wear and how to wear it.

Never had a designer injected so much personal anguish and cerebral delight in his creations, and the materials he used, from pony skin, ostrich feathers, medical slides, hammered silver, balsa wood and tulle, became fashioning for the soul. For the past several months, devotees have streamed through the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City to personally experience many of his most iconic creations up close, presented in the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty retrospective. Curated by Andrew Bolton of The Costume Institute, the exhibit shows more than one hundred designs in tailor-made galleries befitting each of McQueen’s influences.