‘Where We Begin’ connects our community with a curated selection of our artists as an antidote to the physical isolation being experienced across the world by offering a glimpse into projects conceived during a period of deep introspection. As thought leaders and visionary makers, these artists reimagine and reframe their genres to contemplate the complex and shifting realities of this particular moment in time and its social, cultural, historical, economic or even political context.
Featured artists include botanical installation and landscape artist Lily Kwong, who offers an empowering and ecological solution to a precarious and inequitable global food system; renowned architectural photographer François Halard, who revisits a period of isolation from his youth by documenting the intimate spaces of his meticulously curated 18th-century home in Arles, France; and South African photographer Koto Bolofo, whose thematic series captured at home transform portraits and still lifes into images whose embattled histories resonate for the present and future.
Affirming the vital role of artists in responding to a vast and unpredictable world, ‘Where We Begin’ highlights the stories that shape our artists’ practices during a time that necessitates creative inspiration, engagement, and perspective, pushing the boundaries of their chosen media to make work for the current moment.
Studio Lily Kwong’s mission is to reconnect people to nature and to create community. In direct response to the most harrowing public health crisis of our lifetime, the ‘Freedom Gardens’ initiative aims to help our community grow thriving edible gardens to support their physical and mental health, and safeguard them from a volatile centralized food system and a collapsing job market.
The studio looked to history and learned that a campaign for ‘Victory Gardens’ started in the context of another pandemic, the infamous influenza outbreak of 1918. These vegetable, fruit and herb gardens planted in backyards, empty lots and city rooftops across the nation were promoted by the US government, and Victory Gardens flourished again during WW2.
It’s estimated that home, school and community gardeners produced close to 40 percent of the country’s fresh vegetables from about 20 million gardens – or an astonishing 9-10 million tons of produce, an amount equal to all commercial production of fresh vegetables in the early 1940s.
“It’s time to revive gardening as a civic duty during this moment of peril and crisis. Nothing will be more valuable at this pivotal moment than self-sufficiency.”
Prolific architectural photographer François Halard has turned his camera to the more immediately domestic, capturing the emotion, the vibrations, inherent in the space of his 18-century home in Arles, France. In isolation, his enchanting house has taken on a new role – sanctuary, muse, and a place of solace and constancy – as catalogued through Polaroid photographs and on his Instagram page, where he has been posting one new composition each day.
Halard’s ambitious project revisits a period of isolation from his youth, during which he first picked up a camera and began experimenting with photography by documenting his surroundings. He plans to re-photograph each of the original Polaroids within the same context and setting featured within it, incorporating his work into the very fabric of his hôtel particulier of collected and curated furniture, decor and objets d’art.
His London gallery, Oscar Humphries, is releasing one Polaroid from the series for sale every day; in addition, Halard plans to release a book of the photographs upon the end of this period of global confinement. The images and an accompanying interview with Halard about his visionary series will appear in T Magazine.
“I want these images to give other people joy and also peace. When you surround yourself with beauty, it helps you go on. Beauty is medicine for the soul.”
“François and I wanted to do something beautiful and to make physical the pictures he’s been taking. But the Polaroids are also a unique record of one artist’s experience of isolation and a meditation on the artefacts – all of them connected to friends and memories – that surround him.”
Having produced a voyeuristic 11-volume look behind the closed doors of the notoriously private luxury house, Hermès, London-based photographer Koto Bolofo documented the objects at hand within his own home to create multiple series of works including ‘Love for Art,’ ‘Bon Appetit,’ and ‘Remember Afrika.’
Intensity of characterization and confrontational aspect typifies Bolofo’s portraits; his subjects exist larger than life, stripped of all artifice by an unflinching eye. Each of Bolofo’s compelling photographs considers the experience of objects and people, highlighting the correlation between their embattled histories.
In ‘Love for Art’ and ‘Bon Appetit,” Bolofo transforms mundane objects and foods into images of unexpected, often surreal, beauty, exhibiting his gift for investing unlikely subjects with unprecedented grandeur. In ‘Remember Afrika,’ Bolofo – a political refugee from apartheid South Africa – creates vignettes juxtaposing handwritten African proverbs with vibrant reinterpretations of existing portraiture.
“When the lockdown was put into place, I suffered a 30 second depression. 31 seconds after, I made a self promise that I would do one image a day to keep the doctor away. I was not ready to knock! knock! on heaven’s door!”
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