Dead Oceans' Sun Airway, comprised of Philadelphia's Jon Barthmus and Patrick Marsceill, is are not only indie pop extraordinaires, but are musicians with an understanding of aural-visual relationships. The choices they make in selecting collaborators result in visuals richly sympathetic to their musical output and evoke the same sense of wonder and romance that their music does. The album cover for Sun Airway's 2012 release, Soft Fall, is adorned with a beautiful woman caught beneath a stringed web of falling flowers, porcelain china, and fine silver. It was painstakingly crafted by Japanese art collective NAM. In the bi-lingual Japanese and English interview and feature below, Barthmus and NAM's art director and designer Takayuki Nakazawa offer their perspectives on the creative process, as we further explore the work of both parties.
JAPANESE TO ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS BY MORGAN HARKNESS Takayuki Nakazawa (NAM): Our aim was to perfectly match the world of Sun Airway's music and take that world of sound and enlarge its image visually. I believe that the music and the cover visuals that go with the creation of an album have an extremely intimate relationship. Music and visuals have the power to overcome country and language to convey a message. Creating something so intimate between the US and Japan was an incredible experience, and most of all it was fun! We would like to take this opportunity to extend our appreciation to Jon Barthmus for inviting us to this wonderful project. 私達が今回目指したのはSun Airwayの音楽の世界と完全にマッチし、さらに音の世界をビジュアルによってイメージの視覚的拡大をする事でした。アルバム制作における音楽とカバービジュアルは本来とても密接な関係性をもっているものだと思います。音楽やビジュアルは言語や国境を超えて伝達していく力があり、今回、日本とアメリカの間で密な相互関係をもって制作が行われた事は、私達にとって大変良い経験で、なによりも楽しかった!このような素敵なプロジェクトに私達を誘ってくれたJon Barthmusさんに、この場をお借りして感謝をしたいと思います。

 

Dictators! Love them or hate them (philosophically-speaking), it's hard to argue that a Communist aesthetic a la Mao Zedong or Joseph Stalin doesn't have a compelling color palette and welcome vintage grain associated with it. Perhaps in spite of themselves -- or perhaps not -- illustrators and artists the world over are constantly reinventing these iconic images of humanity's most well-known leaders; the question is why. Andy Warhol included Mao in his collection of silkscreened works in 1972. Since then, many artists have followed in his footsteps to reimagine the dictator's face and place. In this post is a mix of classic images of China's Mao Zedong, alongside new interpretations of his distinguished mug and some philosophical ramblings.

After a brief run obsessing over the miniature puppets from Trey Parker and Matt Stone's stop-motion animation, Team America: World Police, Seattle's Troy Gua took it upon himself to begin building miniature models of things and people that he loved, from his wife to Michael Jackson and Salvador Dali. His biggest accomplishment with these miniature buddies, though, has come with Le Petit Prince -- his polymer clay rendering of the man, the artist: Prince. What began as a playful nod to a man that has inspired Gua since his youth has since turned into a joyous and involved production, thanks to momentum generated by word of mouth and Prince fan sites and blogs around the world. In this interview with Gua, we discuss techniques, memories, and inspirations, and tie it all together with an eleven-track mixtape full of Gua's most loved Prince songs. Put yourself in Gua's universe for just a minute, and envelop yourself with all things bizarre, all things decadent, all things foxy, and all things Prince.

 

Justin Kane Elder has only recently emerged onto the Seattle art scene, but he's already commanding our attention. Trained as a finish carpenter1 and hailing from a family peppered with luthiers2 and tradesman, Elder is comfortable moving fluidly across the often contentious boundary of art and craft. Elder's work demands a carpenter's keen attention to angle and detail, coupled with a painter's sense of fluid composition. Elder creates large-scale spray paint portraits by applying numerous layers of precisely stenciled abstract shapes, and his dynamic overlays create a constantly radiating sense of movement. His current portrait subjects are his friends or pop culture icons, and he manages to create crisp, defined compositions without employing any actual linework.
justin kane elder I headed over to Justin's house for an interview and spent the duration of our conversation kept constant company by Raleigh, his adorably hyperactive Boston Terrier. Elder's house immediately gives the comfortable impression of being inhabited by creative people who are very good at what they do but don't feel a need to overtly broadcast it. Elder's girlfriend is a designer, and between the two of them, the house is full of strange, enticingly colorful objects. Elder's studio is set up in his basement, and his workspace is indicative of his artistic priorities: his table saw is front and center, and his spray cans are arranged on a hand-built table that captures the precision of someone who is used to working in measurements of a 32nd of an inch. A large basement wall serves as scratch paper. "It's my sketchbook!" Elder says, laughing.

What happens when you mix two familiar faces together? The result can be scary, we've learned, from those image-generating programs that mash two adults together to create warped, inbred-looking potential children. But somehow illustrator Jesse Lenz has mixed Andy Warhol's iconic image of Marilyn Monroe...

Urban Medium likes to delve head-first into the playful manipulation of well-known yet controversial figures. Throw all the clear-cut positive role models out the window, and bring in the unruly. You can join the revolution by purchasing one of their initially confusing prints. Anger strangers who come...

The Museum of Contemporary Craft doesn't exactly sound like the most exciting museum in the world, but thanks to its current Manuf®actured exhibit, it just about is. The show contains the work of many artists from around the world, and it is a study on...