To experience Saya Woolfalk's work is to become immersed in a scientific folklore where biology and anthropology inform fables of utopia. In Greek, "utopia" translates literally as "no" (ou) and "place" (topos), and in a collaborative series with anthropologist Rachel Lears, entitled No Place, Woolfalk posits ways in which "no placeians" can more readily become a part of a utopian society. In her most recent development upon this theme, Woolfalk has incorporated a new element -- that of dual consciousness and foreign beings, via the narrative of a fictional species called Empathics. Through the use of psychedelically-colored exhibits, scientific slide shows, dance performances, and a very multi-disciplinary artistic practice, Woolfalk is learning how to use art shows to create utopian worlds in and of themselves.

 

Multi-faceted artist Saya Woolfalk is burning hallucinatory fires up and down both coasts the beginning of 2013, with dual shows in NYC and Portland. Three-dimensional or two-dimensional, still structure or moving image, Woolfalk navigates it all like a Play-Doh wizard gone haywire or a visionary artist on acid. Her latest solo show, Chimera, is a full-bodied, multi-disciplinary exploration of Woolfalk's fictional species of Empathics, who are genetic chimeras comprised of two or more genetically-distinct tissues. The series is sci-fi-inspired, with an underlying commentary about the transformation of identities through biological hybridization. Though these issues may seem foreign and otherwordly -- especially when tackled in the visually-striking way that Woolfalk has -- they may indeed have increasing relevance in our world in the face of scientific progress. Stay tuned for Woolfalk's in-depth interview with REDEFINE this upcoming month, and view the full post for more information on Woolfalk's shows and the Empathics.
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Perhaps more so than the general populace, artists are able to find beauty and inspiration in the chaos of entropy. Gala Bent is a Seattle artist who uses gouache and graphite to explore the gracefully inevitable failure of enforced order. Bent's compositions play with the tension between clearly delineated geometric abstraction and sinuously free form pattern fields. Her visual images are so direct that it's possible to read them on a visceral level while entirely missing the wellspring of references that rest beneath the surface of her meticulously rendered drawings. But it would be doing Bent an enormous injustice to not look deeper.
There is a deceptive simplicity to Bent's drawings, and at first glance, their sense of whimsy overshadows their underbelly of methodical research. Bent thinks very deliberately about her place in the world, and this sense of inquiry carries over in a very literal way to the precision of her compositions. "I like things that I respond to in a physical, aesthetic way," she explains to me. "But as a person, I just really love to dig and dig and dig... I like it when there's a whole series of layers underneath." After a brief miscommunication over directions that leads to a rather informative exploratory bicycle mission of the alleyways around Qwest Field, we meet in the high-ceilinged Pioneer Square studio that Bent shares with her husband, fellow artist Zack Bent. Bent and her husband create in different mediums, but she explains that they work together in that they are one another's biggest critic and advocate, and that their strengths and weaknesses are staggered in complimentary ways. The artist couple has three young sons, so their lives involve a great deal of juggling between creative and family lives. Their paintings and sculptures stand in easy dialogue on separate ends of the room. "We are both concerned with the architectural," she tells me, gesturing towards the stacks of life-sized Lincoln Logs that rest on Zack's side of the studio. Bent's compositions tend to focus on the interplay between angular and organic forms. Her drawings at times resemble tornadoes – densely clustered masses of line and plane that gradually open into light colored washes or entirely empty space. "I very much idealize geometric abstraction," Bent tells me, adding that her appreciation of the geometric has deepened over the years until she has come to see it as almost "a romantic ideal." She sees the "furry" portions of her works as representing the more human, realistic side of life, the "faltering part... where everything cracks or falls apart." Bent describes this idea in greater detail on her blog, writing that she is "fascinated by the idealistic glory of the philosophy of architecture, especially when it is brought into real space and has to sustain itself against the degrading process of time and use. The most fancy buildings still leak and peel. People still have to deposit their raw sewage inside them, and weather delivers continual erosion to their shells." ARTICLE CONTINUED BELOW (ABOVE) I Am Focusing All My Attention, 2010; (BELOW) I Am Focusing All My Attention Detail, 2010 - G. Gibson Gallery Paper Architecture: Reflecting Pool (I Smell Like Myself), 2011 - G. Gibson Gallery
matt leavitt
Time permitting, Portland-based artist Matt Leavitt allows his imagination to run free by tinkering, inventing, and manipulating objects in the pursuit of fine artistic ideas. The fascination of his multi-disciplinary artwork can be found equally in the methodologies spawning them as in the finished products themselves; trial and error, as well as chance events, serve as stepping stones to reaching greater ends -- some predictable, some unpredictable. Leavitt creates with the mentality of sussing out his wildest artistic fantasies, all the while drawing equally from his knowledge in Civic Engineering and his experiences at Great Vow Zen Monastery in Clatskanie, Oregon. In his experimentation, he has done things many would never consider. He has attempted to make ink from flowers petals; he has thrown melted candle wax onto frozen ponds; he has created sculptures from liquid clay. His interests flow in many directions, and these divergences are present when one looks at his entire body of work. The projects he undertakes are always well-detailed within his mind; every piece of every series falls in line with subtle stylistic rules yet deviates within a larger framework.

 

Painted and illustrator Jen Lobo depicts animals living in a world that is rife with love and beauty. Scientifically accurate drawings displayed with pastel color palettes creates soft environments in which creatures live and play delightfully. ...

German biologist, naturalist, philosopher, physician, professor and artist Ernst Haeckel was quite a pioneer in his time. He discovered and named thousands of new species, and documented many of those species with over one hundred gorgeous illustrations in his book, Kunstformen der Natur (Artforms of Nature). The book, which is...

    Wayne Levin's underwater photography makes my mouth water. I only just found him, though he's been shooting since the '70s, and I don't know if it's his eye or his guts that floor me more. Whales dance like they're fxcking weightless. Sting rays hover like silk. A billion sharks swim to...