Artists lens

rifaat newaz
Published : 1 Dec 2010, 03:32 PM
Updated : 3 March 2016, 08:17 PM

© 2015 The New York Times
Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate

Featured Image:
Love 2.0 by Randy Mora.

(Credit: Randy Mora)

What did the year in 2015 mean to you? What are the fears, fancies and hopes for 2016 and beyond? These visual commentaries offer a world of ideas.

COLOMBIA

"Our gadgets are getting smarter while we're getting dumber, lazier and more isolated."

"Love 2.0"

By Randy Mora
© 2015 Randy Mora

One of the aspects of daily life I see changing rapidly is the way we interact with each other. Every day I see less closeness between people. We are living our lives through screens: smartphones, tablets and computers. Immersed in their electronic devices, people in the street ignore their environment and other passers-by.

Communication is changing, and we are changing as a result. Basic activities like falling in love, landing a new job, scheduling a meeting or going to the movies will all be conditioned in some way by a virtual intermediary. Our gadgets are getting smarter while we're getting dumber, lazier and more isolated.

The process for my digital collage differs from that of other illustrators because of my technique. I produce my compositions from clippings, photos and textures that I collect from old magazines and discarded objects. Then I scan everything and compose it on Photoshop.

The creative process is very intuitive, and chance often takes control: I might have a clear idea of the concept, but the composition builds itself with each new layer, sometimes leading to unexpected results. A simple idea, or the combination of two images, can be the trigger that defines a piece.

Randy Mora is an illustrator and artist from Bogotá, Colombia. His work has been featured in exhibits in South America, the United States, Europe and China.

SCOTLAND

"My illustration is a warning of sorts, a snapshot of a future I feel we would be wise to avoid."

"Pollinator"

By Johanna Basford

© 2015 Johanna Basford

I'm a new mother, and since bringing a brand new little person into the world, I cannot help but look forward with a sense of growing anxiety. What does the future hold for my daughter? What kind of world will she grow up in? How will the actions of my generation impact her life?

One of the many things that keeps me awake in the wee hours, when I'm not thinking about coloring books or organic baby food, is contemplating how our tiny planet is going to feed the growing masses. I think about genetically modified crops, land shortages and, of course, the plight of the pollinators.

My illustration is a warning of sorts, a snapshot of a future I feel we would be wise to avoid. Nature's workforce is already dwindling, and I fear that by the time my daughter is in her teens, the humble bee may have been transformed into something else entirely.

In its place we may find swarms of robotic insects buzzing around genetically modified blooms, busily ensuring future harvests and continuing blossoms. Tiny winged drones might flit from one plant to the next in a programmed pursuit of pollen. While Frankenstein flowers and robo-bees seem the stuff of science fiction, they may turn out to be the fingerprints of a scary new world.

My illustration practice has always centered around a love of all things analogue. I draw by hand and attempt to capture nature's beauty with a wobbly, hand-drawn line and a slightly imperfect circle. Closer inspection of this winged beastie reveals a man-made creation, not the delicate entomological study you might have anticipated.

Johanna Basford is a Scottish ink evangelist and illustrator who has created a collection of coloring books for adults. Her first book, "Secret Garden," has sold more than 8 million copies in over 40 languages. Her third book, "Lost Ocean" was published in 2015. She works and lives in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

U.S.A.

"This is the existential tipping point of the global citizen and the collective straining of identities toward a new unknown."

"Landscape with Houses (Duchess County, NY) #1"

By James Casebere

© 2015 James Casebere

My picture suggests the mythic "Morning in America" of the Ronald Reagan era in the United States, one characterised by the optimism of distorted growth, speculative real estate and inflated financial markets.

The bizarre bedroom communities of the exurbs don't always seem planned — rather, they sometimes erupt spontaneously from the moist earth like mushrooms, some of them poisonous. What is this dream giving way to?

A hilltop assembly anxiously awaits the scorching summer. Aren't suburbs, exurbs and cities all variants of refuge? The mood is one of a planetary burn and sting, the result of a human hustle on autopilot.

This town is asleep, but about to awaken to the buzz of a myriad of vehicles. Busy little ants are about to pour out of every opening and scurry off to nowhere. They're stranded on a mound above an otherwise drowned world. This is the existential tipping point of the global citizen and the collective straining of identities toward a new unknown.

James Casebere is an American visual artist living in New York who works from studio-constructed architectural models. His work has been collected by museums worldwide, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Victoria and Albert and Tate Museums in London, among others. A career retrospective, "James Casebere: Fugitive," curated by OkwuiEnwezor, runs from February 12 – June 12, 2016 at Haus der Kunst in Munich.
QATAR

"There is no line between what's real and what isn't."

"Current Obsession, 2015"

By ChristtoSanz and Andrew Weir

© 2015 ChristtoSanz & Andrew Weir

The title "Current Obsession" refers to Qatar's rapid development. There is an obsession with the future in Doha, which is often ironically described as a reply to the "Western"-imposed idea of progress.

The woman in our piece is trapped in an artificial simulation of reality, yet at the same time, it's a reality where her identity has been lost. It is a contradictory state, revealing that there is no line between what's real and what isn't. She projects a futuristic vision — one in which Qatar's identity is wrapped up in the nation-building narrative of modernization and rapid growth.

She belongs to the migrant workforce that makes up almost the entirety of Qatar's population; she is symbolic of the country's malleable identity in the course of its economic, social and political development. It's a system that challenges Western ideas of progress and time. The image represents how time has been distorted: how Qatar is a place that has evolved over very short periods, and where the past, present and future are all being constructed simultaneously.

ChristtoSanz, born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Andrew Weir, born in Johannesburg, South Africa, are a collaborative duo of visual artists who live and work in Doha, Qatar. They produce photography, mixed media objects and videos that explore social identities and history. Their art has been shown in the Middle East, the United States, Central America and Europe.

BRAZIL

"When human activity is having an impact on even the most isolated places on earth, is there any hope that we can find a balance? My answer is yes."

"untitled"

By Sebastião Salgado

© 2015 Sebastião Salgado

This photo was taken in 2005 on Deception Island, at the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. The feeling of isolation is intense there. This colony of chinstrap penguins could only be reached by scaling the slopes of a crater, which are covered by glacier, to a ridge over 1,000 feet high.

I was there on an expedition for the "Genesis" project, documenting the planet's most pristine areas. There were tens of thousands of these penguins when I visited, but their numbers have since declined, and in 2015 researchers confirmed the reason: Chinstrap penguins eat krill almost exclusively, and the icy habitat where krill thrive has been disappearing due to climate change. Warming has been intense in that area of the Antarctic, with enormous icebergs — miles across — cracking off glaciers and melting.

When human activity is having an impact on even the most isolated places on earth, is there any hope that we can find a balance? My answer is yes. Part of the "Genesis" project involved documenting the lives of some of the world's most remote peoples — the San people of the Kalahari Desert, the Nenets of Siberia. They are deeply aware of the surrounding ecosystems because they depend upon them; they foster biodiversity and tend to the land as part of their everyday lives. What has stayed with me is the sense of how far our society has moved from our hunter-gatherer roots. We have been through a great migration from agricultural societies to our modern one, and in the process lost a connection to the land that's essential to our survival.

We can live much as we are living now, but if we're going to avoid damaging the planet irreversibly, we need to remember our origins, which taught us that everything we do has an impact. We need to learn to nurture the land again by establishing new traditions and mores, a sense of guardianship in each community based on science and aboriginal wisdom.

There are so many changes we can make to urban life that would foster biodiversity. Everything can help, from providing networks of plants for hungry bees passing through cities to replacing tar rooftops with plantings of local grasses. If we change the small rituals of our everyday lives, all of us can do our part.

Sebastião Salgado, born in Aimorés, in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, is an award-winning social documentary photographer whose works, which include "Workers" (1993), "Migrations" (2000) and "Genesis" (2013), have been presented in leading art museums and galleries around the world. He is a co-founder of Instituto Terra, an institution dedicated to reforestation, conservation and environmental education, which he and his wife, LeliaDeluizWanick Salgado, created after they successfully restored what had been a devastated stretch of Brazil's Atlantic Forest.)
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