Thursday, January 5, 2017


They are everywhere. They stick to your shoes while walking in most cities where they are considered a worse blight and eyesore than graffiti. City maintenance crews try fruitlessly to get the candy colored fruit gobs out with solvents, pressurized steam hoses, scrapers and yet, still they cling like lichens to rock. 

However in London, England there is one artist who has made it his job to transform the abandoned chewed out gum wads into something more creative. His distaste for industrial waste, cars and rubbish led him to turn the gum splats into a tiny art form. He creates his tiny works of art by painting the chewing gum stuck to the pavement into miniature paintings. 

Ben Wilson spent years becoming enraged by all the rubbish, cars and industrial waste that had become a large part of urban society. He retreated to the woods, worked in secret but still was faced with running into a littered environment. He began to work with the rubbish he found, collecting cigarette-butts and crisp packets, incorporating them into his collages. Working with on site chewing gun seemed a natural progression to him. 

He started experimenting with chewing-gum paintings back in 1998 but decided to work with them full time in October of 2004. For a number of years he had tried to make a difference to the urban environment by painting on billboards, but this was an illegal activity that often led to trouble with the law. The new medium of chewing-gum miniatures allowed him to paint onto already discarded gum spots anywhere without having to obtain permission and without crossing with the law. It enabled him to make his paintings in a spontaneous manner satisfying a certain freedom to show his works in the streets of London. "Our environment is very controlled and what we need so very strongly is diversity. Even galleries, museums, publishing companies are all very controlled, I want to be able to do my work and to bypass bureaucracy", he says. 

Starting in Barnet High Street in North London, Wilson started his trail of pictures that people could follow from there all the way into the city. Two years later he still spends a majority of his painting time in Barnet where he grew up and in Muswell Hill, where he, his partner, Lily and their three children live. He has become deeply involved in the lives of the area's residents. "I know a lot of the shopkeepers, road sweepers and the local police. As I walk down the street, every few steps I think of a picture I have to do for someone. I have all this in my head, which makes me feel closer to the place and the people." He hopes his work will encourage in others an awareness of their surroundings and give children a sense of connection to where they live - something he believes fewer and fewer people have these days. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014


Ah... the love of boats. For me it started with a bathtub variety. My dad made it for me. Just a plank of wood with a point at one end and a notch cut at the back end. A small four blade paddle and a rubber band was the 'engine'. A simple little boat but it started a sea adventure powered by my imagination. I made toy and model boats throughout my young life that eventually turned into a full sail powered passion for boats. After the bathtub boats came model boats made from scrap wood, paper sails and broom straw railings. 

Small boats have been around a long time, probably since the beginning of our nautical history. I imagine the first boat came from watching a leaf float magically on water. Scaled up with the use of a woven twig frame and stretched animal skins took us across that impossibly deep river crossing. There were also logs and eventually dug out log boats. It's easy to see a child's fascination with these and being taught how to carve miniatures to play with in the streams and waterways. 

Boats and rivers took on mystical significance in all the prehistory civilizations. In ancient Egypt, large boats on the Nile river ways carried harvested grains, giant stone obelisks, construction stones, pharaohs and their attendant oarsmen, and were used for ferrying across the wide river. The river became a sacred force. The path of the sun was depicted as a disk on a boat, or 'bark' that sailed over the sky from east to west. Small funerary boats were placed in tombs so that the soul could accompany the sun on it's journey after death. 

These were boats of the imagination. Vessels that carried our dreams. To me there is no distinction between the force of the cultural and spiritual imagination of civilizations and the playful power of toy boats in the hands of a child. 


The idea of a toy boat as a vessel of imaginative play has grabbed many artists and inventors spirits. Doing a little research into that idea powered a "Floatables and Flyables" workshop recently constructing toy sailboats and kites with artists and print makers. They took to the concept like ducks to water. It was a playful and colorful storm of activity culminating with launching the vessels into a breezy pond. The sailboats drifted, tilting their paper sails dangerously close to the water. They were helped by long poles off of rocks and away from the spillway. The makers looked on helplessly as they bumped into each other and made their zig zag coarses across the miniature sea. 

Toy boats in the rough seas of the art world have made a few voyages of note. Artist, Jacob Hashimoto created "Armada"...a flotilla of toy sailboats as a kinetic installation at the Studio La Citta Gallery in Verona, Italy in 2011. The boats floated on imaginary waves with the help of ceiling positioned rotating cog shafts and strings to the boat's masts. 

Luigi Prina makes boats... flying boats. He is an Italian architect but also nurtured a passion for toy boat building from a very early age. He was an avid model ship builder for fifty years until one day an artist friend challenged him with a casual statement if you could make one fly, he took up the challenge and to the amazement of his challenger succeeded with a circling light weight boat propelled by a rubber band powered propeller and a wing sail. Fifty years of creating hundreds of these flying boats has made a fantastic flotilla gallery of airships that fly over his head in his home office and studio. 


The paper boat is a traditional origami folded boat that perhaps even you have made at one time in your life. Scottish artist, George Wyllie took it to an extreme making a full size 78' paper boat and floating it in the Glasgow harbor for a remembrance of the Scottish shipbuilding industry event. It eventually sailed onto London, Europe and in the New York harbor.

"It should be obvious that an adventurous voyage is most unlikely in the shallow waters of a bathtub, but the illusion of that possibility persists and is exemplified by art that never sails beyond the gallery"   
George Wyllie... on art galleries

German conceptual artist, Frank Bolter, also staged a paper boat project for an installation sculpture and performance event called Drift 10 on the Thames in London. He took a very large piece of packing material, laying it out on the pavement by the water, asked passers by to help him fold the boat and then launch it into the water... with him, dressed in a suit aboard. The paper performance ends, of course with the boat sinking. The artist explains that the work is to point out the current problems facing a throw away society.

link to Paper Boat "To The Word's End" project video

"A toy boat, a toy boat, a toy boat .....that’s what it is — a toy boat on the Serpentine, ecstasy — it’s ecstasy that matters.” - Virginia Woolf , "Orlando"

From small toy boats to full size white wave breaking racing sloops, boats take us no particular place except away. To waters of imagination, through rough seas and smooth calm doldrums, it is just pure ecstasy that really does matter.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


Hair is our extended nervous system connected to our brains letting us feel the wind on our scalps. It warns us of danger when the follicles raise their thin flags. Our hair is our fiber nest for our egg of thoughts, keeping it warm, decorating our mantle and blowing in the breezes of our movements.  It continues growing when we are cold and gone. It collects in our bath drains, It carries our DNA signature and guides forensic specialists to the scene of our crimes.

Himba Girl, Kunene, Namibia - photo by Daniella TT

Materials within our reach has worked into the lexicon of artists for centuries. Starting from our nomadic beginnings we adorned, decorated and marked our bodies using whatever was readily available. Because of the wandering tribal roots we created our identities with metals culled from rock and fire, from ground powdered color, carbon and needle tattoos and matted, beaded and braided hair. Our artful bodies told of our tribal affiliation, family structure and reflected the deep connections with our surrounding world.

Our hair has worked itself into the current social fabric as well. In our language the references to hair collect like hairballs in the corners of our rooms. A difficult and scratchy endeavor is “wearing a hair shirt”. We have our “bad hair day”, we seek our targets “in the cross hairs”, points of contentions are “splitting hairs”, a close call is “within a hair’s breath”.

Here are some selected artist’s and their works that feature a very small media….made from human hair.

Chrystl Rijkeboer 





Since 1998 Chrystl Rijkeboer has been using human hair as a working material. Out of curiosity
and by experimenting with unorthodox materials she came across this medium. Responses from viewers made her aware of the impact of hair and the emotional charge  it contributes to her work. From this the two major themes of work 'Memory and Identity' arose.

'Hair' contains memories. Everyone knows the lock of hair kept in a medallion or a braid that is kept in an envelope for years lying in a drawer, memories of our childhood or a lost love. They keep the past tangible. Everything perishes except for our hair. By a lock of hair you can literally touch the past.

Our hairstyles emphasize our identity. They can say a lot about ‘who’ we are, and show our age and health. Prescribed hairstyles or covering of hair can be a religious statement. With our hair we show to which ‘group’ we belong or want to belong.

Rijkeboer works mostly thematically and uses recurring elements including human- and girl figures, birdhouses, ladders, masks, birds and wolves. These are recognizable images which illustrate stories about family ties, the living environment and personal experiences. The work is figurative, but form and proportions are subordinated. What matters are the sensations evoked. You can always view the work in two ways: kind, pleasant and innocent. But also the opposite: frightening, condemning and guilty. This ambiguity repeats itself in all her artworks.

Chrystl uses many craft-based techniques with hair. First she started to felt it, and later she spun it into threads, from which she crochets or knits her sculptures. She also combines ceramics with hair. Besides the 3 dimensional objects she often translates her sculptures and installations into photographs and video works.

Chrystl Rijkeboer's web site 

Melanie Bilenker

Melanie Bilenker makes broach jewelry works featuring line drawings made from her hair. The themes are simple and ordinary moments of her day captured in a line within the miniature framed works. 

"The Victorians kept lockets of hair and miniature portraits painted with ground hair and pigment to secure the memory of a lost love. In much the same way, I secure my memories through photographic images rendered in lines of my own hair, the physical remnants. I do not reproduce events, but quiet minutes, the mundane, the domestic, the ordinary moments."

Melanie Bilenker's web site

Adrienne Antonson

The extraordinary miniatures of Adreienne Antonson include the sculpting of insect forms made completely out of human hair.

"My sculptural work focuses on making life-like objects from human hair and other non-traditional fibers.  I work with human hair because of its immediacy, its beauty and flaws. As an artistic material, human hair is remarkably resourceful.  The material never fails to attract and repulse almost simultaneously, a response I enjoy. As I continue to work with hair, it encapsulates the survivalist notions I find compelling and am excited to explore."

An interview with Adrienne Atonson by Effie Bowen for Bomblog - June 10, 2013

EB What is your favorite part about working with hair?
AA People either love it or they hate it. And I enjoy that response a lot.
EB What kind of response have you gotten from someone who hated it?
AA When the insects went viral I would look at my Google analytics and started reading comments on these sites where people only write comments if they really love something or really hate it. People were writing such mean things and you can’t help but be sensitive about it. Especially me. There were comments from people who hate hair, who think hair is disgusting—unless it’s on someone’s head, they hate hair. A lot of people also hate insects and a lot of people hate them both so there were a lot of comments like, “this is the most disgusting thing,” or, “why would anyone spend their time making this disgusting filth?”
EB You’ve completely transformed the hair from what it normally looks like so while there is a “gross out” factor, you are also tricking us by not having the medium so easily discernable.
AA Yes, I love that people see the bugs and think that they are real. When I was little I loved Ripley’s. I’m totally geeking out right now being in Ripley’s Traveling Show next to a car made out of matchsticks. You can do anything with anything.
EB When you started making the bugs were you modeling them on real insects or did you make them up?
AA Well the first time I made one I just thought, Can I do this? I looked at a moth I had in my insect collection and tried to replicate it. Eventually creative and manufacturing limitations came up like, Oh his body should be bigger here, and I thought, I can really do anything I want, these aren’t for a science museum. But I do like the challenge of replicating something exactly and do it as close as possible and to hold it in my hand and for it to look real. They really become dares to myself: Can I do a praying mantis, can I do a housefly?

Adrienne Atonson's web site

Nagi Noda

Hrafnhildur Arnardottir aka “Shoplifter”

“I’ve been obsessing about a little flower made out of human hair, which came into my possession when I was 17. I found it at an antique shop in Iceland where I used to work. It had a really big impact on me that this hair came from a person who had died a long time ago. I kept it in a small box and I really cherished it. This type of flower is called a Victorian memory flower. It was very common when somebody died to take the hair and create these types of flowers on a branch with them. Often there would be a picture of the person and then the flower in a wreath around the picture. Through the elaboration with human hair, these pieces offer a far more involving and emotional memory than a picture only could provide. It is a monument, a relic of this person, because the hair is coming from the body and it doesn’t decay.
For me hair is the ultimate thread that grows from your body. Hair is such an original, creative fiber, and sometimes an art form. When it comes to our hair, we all have to squeeze out some form of creativity. Everybody has to make a statement of some sort regarding their hair: You have to make a choice if you cut it or not, simply because it grows. And if you decide to cut it, you have to go somewhere to get it cut. And then you are always anxious that it won’t be right. And then there is the drama of the loss of hair. The Nazis would shave off people’s hair as a way of humiliation. You could go on and on… It’s been fascinating to me to be able to create an artwork from this material that is already attached to a person. And I find it at simultaneously comical, romantic, silly and beautiful.

When we die our hair keeps on growing. It doesn’t make sense, but there is an element of hope in that, that things continue to grow and are being one with nature. When I came to New York I was fascinated by all the different types of hairstyles on people and how much goes into taming it. Hair becomes like a beast growing on us that has to be tamed. In Hollywood movies women let down their hair during love scenes, so opening the hair becomes a symbol for unleashing our sexuality and inner savagery. In many cultures women are wearing headscarves and burkas to hide their hair, because it is considered very intimate. Then there is the orthodox Jewish tradition of covering the woman’s hair with a wig made of someone else’s hair. The more I am investigating and using hair, the deeper I get into it. It has become a hair fetish or an obsession of sorts.”

From an interview by  Isabel Kirsch for NY Art Beat  August 2008.

Shoplifter's web site

And a little fun from the video studio of Jonathan Gurvit for Sandtander Rio entitled "Hair Conditioner....