Sea Creatures. Victor Grasso

Mr. F and I often find ourselves struggling between our love of the seaside and the snow.  Snow makes us absolutely giddy, but spending this spring and summer near the ocean perhaps has us leaning toward a life near the water.  Each beach walk leaves us in love with the wonder and mystery to be found near the sea.  It is this mythical and mystical magic that artist Victor Grasso captures in his beautifully rendered painting series, The Sea is Calling.

Victor Grasso | artsy forager #art #artists #paintings #contemporaryart Victor Grasso | artsy forager #art #artists #paintings #contemporaryart Victor Grasso | artsy forager #art #artists #paintings #contemporaryart Victor Grasso | artsy forager #art #artists #paintings #contemporaryart Victor Grasso | artsy forager #art #artists #paintings #contemporaryart


In this series, Grasso’s modern mermaids seem to revel in the delights of the ocean, becoming one with its depths, transforming into souls of the sea.  The palette of soft greys, inky blacks and warm umbers imitate life in the shallows and the deep, chiaroscuro light falling as if filtered through the water.  He takes us into a world of mystery and revelry, where creatures struggle for survival yet live blissfully unaware of what goes on in the world above.

To see more of Victor Grasso‘s work, please visit his website.  Tell me, Artsies, does the sea call to you?

All images via the artist’s website.  Artist found via Parlor Gallery.

Woven Tales. Lala Abaddon

Artists are often stereotyped as a caricature of sorts– wacky, flittering, unorganized types who thrive on free expression.  And while some of that is often true, many artists find creating in a highly deliberate, meticulous way to be the best fit for their mode of expression.  For Brooklyn artist Lala Abaddon, her painstaking process of weaving photographs to create a new composition has as much to do with expression as any abstract painting.

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Abaddon carefully hand-cuts existing analog photographs and then hand-weaves several together, deconstruction leading to new construction, old stories becoming a part of a new tale.  The artist often juxtaposes intense images with more delicate ones, the compositions sometimes abstract, or hinting at a figure seen behind the visual curtain created by her woven technique.  The texture and depth she creates isn’t just visual, but physical too, so that three dimensions are transformed first into two dimensions by the photographic process, then rebirther again in three dimensional form as a weaving.

Check out the artist at work–

Abaddon process

To see more of Lala Abaddon‘s work, please visit her website.

All art images via the artist’s website, studio image via HiFructose.  Thanks to SCAD curator Aaron Levi Garvey for introducing me to this artist!

Collision Course. Mary Iverson

Mr. F and I have a secret spot, a place that he found one summer and fell in love with, that is kind of our dreamland.  It’s an amazingly beautiful, far out, off the grid place that we don’t want anyone else to discover.  We fear one day we’ll return to find it developed and overrun with people.  That clash between our most stunning places and the destructive hand of man is the theme of the work of Seattle artist, Mary Iverson.

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 click each image for a larger view

The artist, whose work can be seen at Thinkspace LA along with the work of Stephanie Bauer in their dual artist show, After, through Sept. 6th, “portrays the clash between globalization and the environment”.  Her mixed media work juxtaposes broken shipping containers and other icons of global development against iconic images of some of our most wild landscapes.

As we prepare to spend some time in Yosemite next week, I find myself feeling a bit like one of Iverson’s paintings.. While I always love seeing these staggeringly beautiful places, I’m also usually struck by the crowds and the thoughtlessness that visitors give to the environment around them.  Here’s hoping for pristine views and minimal destructiveness.

To see more of Mary Iverson‘s work, please visit her website and LA Artsies, be sure to check out her show at Thinkspace!

All images are via the artist’s website.

Worlds Unreal. Sajjad Musa

Does it seem sometimes that the world is just becoming more and more bizarre?  No?  It’s just me then.  The horrors we see being perpetrated around the world on one hand vs. the insanity of celebrity culture that seems to consume our media and our brains.  In these collages by Sajjad Musa I seem that strange collision between the realities of what is happening in the world and the delusions we prefer to concern ourselves with.

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It can be overwhelming to think of all that is wrong in the world, there is so much happening that is out of our control.  But what we can control is our own education in what is truth and our own reactions to what is happening.  Mr. F and I have challenged each other to focus on the positive in each day and we share our positives with each other every night over dinner.  It helps to bring our focus off of what is wrong and onto what is right.  And it’s helping, even if just a little.

To see more of Sajjad Musa‘s work, please visit his website.

All images are via the artist’s website.  Artist found via Sketch 42.

Hushed Landscapes. Shawn Dulaney

One thing I’ve learned since living in the Northwest?  Going to the beach in Washington, Oregon & Northern California is a completely different experience than it was back in Florida! Rocks instead of sand, bigger, wilder waves, and fewer bikinis ( beaches are cold here, ya’ll! ) just to name a few differences.  But I think what might just be the most interesting difference is the misty fog.  It rolls in and creates a soft, dreamlike monochromatic atmosphere.  These paintings by Brooklyn artist Shawn Dulaney seems to capture that quiet, hushed coolness of a landscape under cover.

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I love sunny days as much as the next gal and of course, that’s when the dramatic landscape of the West Coast really sparkles.  Yet when Mr. F and I take a beach hike on a foggy Saturday morning, everything feels more quiet, even the sound of the waves seem muffled, and we almost whisper in response and reverence.  For me, Dulaney’s paintings capture that evoke that same misty atmosphere, when shapes are shrouded and the colors of the day are just beginning to peek through.

To see more of Shawn Dulaney‘s work, please visit her website.  You can see her work in person at Sears Peyton Gallery in New York, where she’ll be a part of the September Group Show opening on September 2nd.  Mark your calendars now!

All images are via the artist’s website.

Artsy Abroad. The Plastic Elephant in the Room & Art in Bali Now.

by Ellen C. Caldwell

1. GFIVE-plastic rice fieldsG-Five, Plastic Attack, 2013 (rice fields installation view); plastic bottles and metal frames; 2 meters high. Courtesy of the Artists. Photo: G-Five Art Management.

Something is in the air in Bali. As I was interviewing a long string of artists during my writing residency there, one topic that kept coming up was plastic and the environment. Several of the artists I met and interviewed brought it up specifically, while many others merely danced around the subject and spoke of the environment more vaguely.

As time went on during my month’s stay, common themes and unifying strings clearly started to emerge between various artists and their work. But plastic and its place in our environment and culture was a big theme that I truthfully didn’t see coming. I consider myself an environmentalist (beginning with my dad’s teaching the Boy Scout rule to always leave your campsite [or hiking trail] cleaner than you found it, and leading all the way to my co-founding a residence hall recycling program at my university), so it wasn’t something I was unaware of or blind to, but I simply wasn’t expecting it.

Many of the artists I met in Bali brought up the problems of plastic degradation in a plethora of ways – from painter Federico Tomasi’s aside about the rainwater run-off flooding the ocean with plastic from one-time-use packaging to Made Aswino Aji’s laments about the changing landscape of Bali with its tourist growth. Or, in Ketut Jaya Kaprus’ plans to feature an entire gallery exhibit about the dangers of plastic, while showcasing its redemptive and transformative power as art.

Kaprus collage left | Ketut Jaya Kaprus, photo of Kaprus painting pillars made from found plastic bottles, 2014; paint on plastic bottles. Courtesy of the Artist.
right | Ketut Jaya Kaprus, installation view of plastic bottle pillars, 2014; paint on plastic bottles. Courtesy of the Artist.

I couldn’t ignore this recurring theme, but what intrigued me most was that the majority of the artists I spoke with were quick to un-identify with an environmental movement. Many artists informed me quite specifically that they were “not activists,” or god forbid, “environmentalists.”

I wasn’t sure exactly where this fear of labeling was coming from, but what I did know was that all of this art spoke loudly with its impact and aesthetics (though at times ambivalently with its message), much like its creators. I think part of the fear for these painters must be that they would lose their title as “artist” if they were simply seen as an activists – a fear I can sympathize with. For years, I have had business cards that vary between self-identifying as a “writer” or “art historian” because I don’t want one label chosen over another. But, with these artists, it seemed there was something more brewing below the surface.

So I decided to investigate some of the bigger, (non)environmental art projects I encountered in Bali.

Gfive collage

top | G-Five, Plastic Attack, 2013 (beach installation view); plastic bottles and metal frames; 2 meters high. Courtesy of the Artists. Photo: G-Five Art Management.
bottom | G-Five, Plastic Attack, 2013 (gallery installation view); plastic bottles and metal frames; 2 meters high. Courtesy of the Artists and Tonyraka Art Gallery. Photo: G-Five Art Management.

G-Five, a group of five younger artists on the contemporary art scene in Bali, has come together to produce a number of successful group exhibitions. Individually, they are artists in their own rights with unique styles and distinctive techniques, but together they aim to tackle broad and fluid subject matter and experimental work. All from Gianyar, a region known as the artistic capital of Bali, I Wayan Upadana, Wiguna Valasara, Made Gede Putra, Kadek A. Ardika, and I Wayan Legianta formed this talented group in 2009.

In their 2013 show “Plastic Attack” at Tonyraka Art Gallery, G-Five focused on plastic as their medium, and in some respect, message. This followed a trend of their prior exhibitions wherein they had focused on using and featuring a specific medium, be it rubber, thread, wood, or resin.1  Here, they created and joined five large walls of plastic bottles. First they filmed and photographed these walls out in nature on the iconic shores of Bali and in the equally picturesque and emblematic Balinese rice fields. Then they moved this large wall structure and installed it in the front of the gallery, with backlights that made it feel more paranormal and artistic than a foreboding environmental message. Inside the space, one hallway was completely blocked off with an enormous inflatable bulbous plastic ball, made up of taped plastic and powered by a fan, timed to inflate and deflate as if it was a living, breathing creature. They also showcased installations of found dirt, layered with plastic debris and refuse from the rice paddies in Ubud. These cutout segments were made into spectacles and “ready-mades,” as they were displayed in pristine glass boxes that would more typically be reserved for a rare and valuable artifact.

6. bali not for sale

Bali Not For Sale, Bali Not for Sale, 2011; bamboo and acrylic signage. Courtesy of the Artists. Photo: Bali Not For Sale.

Another art collective entitled Bali Not For Sale is comprised of three young artists from Ubud: Gede Suanda Sayur, I Wayan Sudarna Putra, Pande Putu Setiawan. In 2010, they used bamboo and acrylic paints to form large three-dimensional letters that spelled out “NOT FOR SALE” and installed these signs in the remaining rice paddies at Jl. Sriwedari, in the Junjungan rice fields of Ubud.

These installations (and digital photographs of the installations that now float around the web) call attention to the growing number of residents who have sold their families’ rice fields to developers. Many families have been doing so to accommodate a growing hospitality industry, succumbing to the demand of the ever-growing tourist population, who would like to stay overnight and retreat amongst the picturesque rice fields in Ubud. Over time, these sales and developments have damaged a long-standing farming tradition in Bali, leaving families with a massive sum of money up front from property sales, but one that does not last over time or reap a steady income, as tending to the rice fields once did. Bali Not For Sale’s message is clear and humble, carrying visible force through art installations, “Bali is better simpler.  Paradise ‘soul and pride’ is not for sale!”2

7. Suja-Plastic RhetoricWayan Suja, Plastic Rhetoric, 2011-2012; oil on canvas; 150 x 150 cm. Courtesy of the Artist and Tonyraka Art Gallery.

Wayan Suja paints intimate portraits of people, but he separates their faces from that of the viewer with obtrusive veils of wrinkled plastic. This creates an opposing dynamic wherein the detailed and naturalistic portraiture draws viewers in and creates an intimate feeling and setting, while the plastic intercedes between the depicted sitter and the viewer, thus superseding the very subject of the painting. In many of Suja’s series such as “Plastic Rhetoric,” are the paintings about portraits or are they in fact about plastic as the titles would suggest? It seems that plastic is both the subject and non-subject of his work, as the viewer’s eye oscillates between focusing only on the plastic veil while also shifting only to the veiled face behind it.

When I asked him about why he would use plastic in this way, Suja said he is not an activist. It is not about being for or against plastic, but about saying that plastic is here and using it quite literally as a lens through which to view the world. The figure wears traditional Balinese dress and is veiled in plastic so that she challenges what it means to be 100% Balinese. Suja compared it to the same way that he painted a Coca-Cola can in Untitled 2005. It is here; plastic is here; a Western influence is here in Bali and Suja is not saying that things need to remain traditional, but he is commenting and observing an ever-changing and adaptive culture.

And perhaps this fluidity of culture is the real heart of the subject matter I had been dancing around all along. In an essay on G-Five’s show “Plastic Attack,” Wayan Seriyoga Parta writes that their dirt and trash installation shows “packaging repackaged.”3  And in my interview with Legianta and Valasara, they were quick to tell me that this show was about “art for art’s sake” and not about the environment. But to me (admittedly an American abroad bringing my own ingrained ideas in tow), it was hard to consider the exhibit without reading an environmental message. They explained that they were exploring “plastic as new media,” so that it is both a medium and experience.

In light of Suja, Bali Not For Sale, and G-Five’s art and aims, perhaps these works are actually less environmental and more about influence. Truly a message and medium repackaged. And perhaps some of this work is less of a protest and more of a proclamation of prevalence. An “I see you,” kind of acknowledgement towards the impact, union, and delicate merger of Balinese and Western culture.

8. Suja - Being a colorful balinese 3 Wayan Suja, Being a Colorful Balinese #3, 2012; oil on canvas; 160 x 150 cm. Courtesy of the Artist and Tonyraka Art Gallery.

Ellen C. Caldwell is an LA-based art historian, editor, and writer.

1 “Press Release: Plastic Attack,”, last modified October 13, 2013,

2 “Bali Not For Sale: Biography,” Facebook: Bali Not For Sale, 2010,

3Wayan Seriyoga Parta “Plastic Attack,”, last modified October 13, 2013,



Monumental Pop. David Pirrie

For the first thirty-something years of this Florida girl’s life, I never really experienced mountains.  And when I did, it was only the foothills of the Smokies.  Then I visited Mr. F while he was living in Seattle and I saw the Olympics.  And the Cascades.  And we snowshoed in April on Mt. Rainier and I fell in love with Mr. F and those glorious snow-capped peaks!  This series of paintings by artist David Pirrie have me longing for those jagged, snowy crests.

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Pirrie doesn’t just paint mountains, but hikes and climbs them, too, which any hiker will tell you creates a bond between man and mountain.  Hard work and endurance pays off in little seen vistas, in a feeling of intimacy with these monumental stacks of earth.  His use of dots and bright, flat color not only decontextualize the mountains from the surrounding landscape but also nods to the iconic status these looming peaks achieve.  On a sunny day in Seattle, you’ll hear locals proclaim “The mountain is out!” and every one knows what that means.  The clouds have broken and Mt. Rainier can be seen looming surrealistically over the city skyline, dwarfing everything around it.

There is something magnetic about these formations, the mountains call to us like sirens, we see them from afar and somehow know that there is magic within their being.  The mountains are calling and we must answer.

To see more of the work of David Pirrie, please visit his website.  You can see his current solo show, Mapping the Tetons, at Diehl Gallery in Jackson, WY, through September 3rd.

The Artsy Nature. Jennifer JL Jones + Olympic National Park

Whenever Mr. F and I are away from the coastal Northwest for a long period of time, I find that what I miss most is the mossy trees and fern covered forest floors.  These “Muppet trees”, as I like to call them, inhabit the moist woods in the Pacific Northwest and in this edition of The Artsy Nature, after spying Saline. Lumi. Breath., a gorgeous new painting by Jennifer JL Jones, I was immediately transported back to one of the loveliest spots in the Northwest.

AN_jones collagephoto | staircase hike, olympic national park, wa

art | saline. lumi. breath.( detail ) by jennifer jl jones, mixed media on wood, 72×72

On a foggy, cool morning in the early Fall of last year ( before the government shutdown closed access to the National Parks ), Mr. F and I began a short little jaunt into Olympic National Park that would be one of our favorite hikes of 2013.  Not strenuous, no giant, sweeping views of snowcapped mountains, just the quiet hushed lushness of the temperate rainforest.  Clouded skies cast a purplish light into the woods, only the dripping of the dew from the leaves and the fall of our feet on the mossy floor to be heard.  If big mountains are outdoor cathedrals, woods like these are tiny chapels.  Cozy and unassuming, you are left to ponder not on the grandeur of creation, but on its ever closeness.

More of Jennifer JL Jones‘ work can be seen on her website and, if you’re in the Atlanta area, she opens a solo show, SECRETsaline, at Alan Avery Contemporary Art this Thursday!

See more forays into The Artsy Nature here and check out my guest Artsy Nature feature on artist Jessica Zoob‘s blog!

Photo by Artsy Forager, art source linked above.

Fragmented Perceptions. Stephanie Pierce

Here on the Northern California coast, the days usually start off cool and grey, and then, if we’re lucky, the sun and blue skies make an appearance for the afternoon.  Once the light begins to beam through the windows and cast long shadows, the world seems to take on a completely different character.  In her work, artist Stephanie Pierce explores the phenomenon on light and its effect on our perceptions.

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Through the windows, the sunlight comes pouring through, seen in Pierce’s paintings as fluttering fragments of color, whipping in and distorting the scene light so many butterflies emerging simultaneously from their dark cocoons.  Shadows shift as the light moves and we understand that within light is the power to create movement– that nothing is truly static, all things changing as our perceptions alter.

To see more of Stephanie Pierce‘s work, please visit her website.

All images are via the artist’s website.  Artist found via Booooooom!

Beautiful Pursuits. Anna Halldin Maule

Screen siren and legendary glamor girl Lauren Bacall once said, “I think your whole life shows on your face and you should be proud of that”.  Our culture is one that emphasizes youth and associates it with beauty.  We’re told over and over again that to be young is to be at your best and your most desirable, so we buck against the aging process in any way we can. Swedish born artist Anna Halldin Maule paints hyperrealistic portraits of our obsession with the pursuit of beauty.

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We pluck, wax, and whiten ad naseum to reach that idealized, fleeting “perfection”.  We do our best to erase the gray hairs, wrinkles, and sags that tell the story of our life on the canvas of our bodies, choosing instead to homogenize ourselves until every body, every face no longer bears the distinction they were born with.  By contrast, Halldin Maule juxtaposes her models with icons of nature’s beauty, flowers and butterflies, who never give a thought to what makes them so lovely.  They simply are.

To see more of Anna Halldin Maule‘s incredible oil paintings, please visit her website.  Her solo show, Persona can be seen at Scott Richards Contemporary Art in San Francisco through August 30th.

All images are via the artist’s website.  Artist found via My Modern Met.

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