David Altmejd: Artist, Fetishist, and Avid Bird Watcher (on Instagram)

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The Flux and The Puddle David Altmejd 2014 
Plexiglas, quartz, polystyrene, expandable foam, epoxy clay, epoxy gel, resin, synthetic hair, clothing, leather shoes, thread, mirror, plaster, acrylic paint, latex paint, metal wire, glass eyes, sequin, ceramic, synthetic flowers, synthetic branches, glue, gold, feathers, steel, coconuts, aqua resin, burlap, lighting system including fluorescent lights, Sharpie ink, wood 
129 x 252 x 281 inches (327.7 x 640.1 x 713.7 cm)
ARG# AD2014-001
Photograph by Lance Brewer

An interview with the artist David Altmejd, whose retrospective show “FLUX” opens at the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montreal on Saturday. Plus, David Altmejd’s Montreal City Guide, exclusively for BlackBook.

David Altmejd has been making overwhelming, room-consuming, energetically buzzing sculptures for 15 years. His first retrospective of work has three legs, the first two already settled up in Paris and Luxembourg. Next, the show heads to Montreal, where Altmejd was born and raised. The artist speaks with BlackBook about his fetishes, greatest influences (including parrots and Louise Bourgeois), who to follow on Instagram and the life of his sculptures.

If you live in Montreal or are headed there to see the retrospective, make sure to check out David Altmejd‘s recommendations below for where to eat, relax, and play in his home city — including the place to make like Magic Mike and see Montreal’s best male strippers.

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You’re in the midst of your first retrospective.

This is third retrospective — it’s been travelling through different cities. It started in France, then was shown in Luxembourg, and Montreal is the final installment of it. I just feel that the end of the series of retrospectives, which happens to be in my hometown, is really meaningful. All my family and friends from my hometown from before I even decided to become an artist are going to see what I’ve been up to for the last 15 years. In that sense, it’s extremely meaningful. The Montreal location also offers me a perspective to look at myself from a distance in a certain way. I am actually able to see myself when I started — when I decided to become a sculptor, it all started here. So it’s really interesting in that way.

I think that the museum, Musee d’Art Moderne, had shown interest and were actually looking for partners for a travelling show, and I immediately thought of Montreal and contacted the museum and they thought it was a great idea. It was purposeful [to come home].

What is the primary message you’re sending in this collection of works?

With this show, I’m trying to convey the diversity of approaching sculpture that I’ve been exploring inside my work for many years. I’m trying to show the diversity of types of practices and material and color and relationship to space. But throughout the show in every piece, what’s really important for me to really make clear is the fact that I really consider every sculpture I make to be some sort of energy generator. It’s really important for me to showcase the work in a way that people will really see that is a series of dynamic objects that feel alive — also that each sculpture feels that way and that the show as a whole feels that way. Within each object there’s sort of movement, energy and liveliness but that the whole show has the same sort of movement.

The first time I saw your work was at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver in 2007. I felt it — the energy you talk about — in the room. I walked in and was completely struck by the mixture of the natural fibers, the objects in decay, and also the modern feeling manmade materials. It felt very representative of our world. I can still recall the energy.

Thank you, that’s so great.

Do you think about the world and how we live? What strikes you or influences you when you’re working and thinking about the energy that you’re harnessing in your sculpture?

I think what I try to do is really focus. When I start to make sculpture, what I realize is really amazing about sculpture, is that it exists in real space. It exists in the same space as the viewer; it breathes the same air. It has this potential that it could exist the same way the body of a person does in the world. I’m aware of that potential and I always try to give that power to the object, to make it feel like it exists in the world, in the same world as you. I try to do everything I can to give that power to the object — the power of existing right now. It seems obvious but I think that’s what really defines my work.

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Detail of: The Flux and The Puddle David Altmejd2014
 Plexiglas, quartz, polystyrene, expandable foam, epoxy clay, epoxy gel, resin, synthetic hair, clothing, leather shoes, thread, mirror, plaster, acrylic paint, latex paint, metal wire, glass eyes, sequin, ceramic, synthetic flowers, synthetic branches, glue, gold, feathers, steel, coconuts, aqua resin, burlap, lighting system including fluorescent lights, Sharpie ink, wood
129 x 252 x 281 inches (327.7 x 640.1 x 713.7 cm)
ARG# AD2014-001 
Photograph by James Ewing 

What does the word “flux” mean in relation to the show?

“The Flux and the Puddle” is the title of a piece and it turns out to be the biggest piece of the show. It’s the largest, most ambitious, most elaborate. When I made that piece — I made it in 2014 — my idea was to build a large plexiglass structure and just incorporate everything that I have ever done as a sculptor: use every material I’ve used, use the theme, movement, material contrast. It became a survey piece of my practice as a sculptor. It becomes a continuum inside the museum. It is the most important piece of the show. The word “flux” comes from that piece, but it’s also an idea that is always present in my work, this idea of connection, of liquid travelling, a flow of energy, a cycle. You can see it in each of my sculptures. Also I want the whole show to show acceptance, to become a sort of system of objects. I want people to be able to feel the flow, or the flux, in going through everything in the show.

Were there new pieces made for the show?

Yes, for every venue, I added pieces. It’s really important for me to try out new things and have the feeling that the show is super fresh and contains things that were just finished an hour before the opening, and to give it a sort of sense of emergence. I like that.

I’m making a piece right now for the Montreal show. The opening of the show is going to be in a couple of weeks and I’m actually making a piece here. I don’t know what it’s going to be called but it’s a large platform covered in smashed mirror and a series of evolving elements inside it. I don’t know how it’s going to evolve in the next two weeks but that’s what I’m doing.

This might be kind of off-topic, but because your sculptures have their own energy and take up space and have a world of their own inside them, what do you think of ISIS going into these historically rich sites in Syria and destroying them? I mean this metaphorically but can any of that energy be recovered?

Do you mean, how can we make up for the loss that is happening? I’m ­surprised bythe fact that I’m so touched by what’s happening. When you think about it, they’re just objects. My reaction instinctively is a reaction of disgust. I question myself for feeling that way because they are just objects. Of course they have this rich history but compared to the life of a person, it should not be considered that important. I’m just questioning my own reaction. I’m sorry I’m not really answering the question.

I’m profoundly hopeful and I don’t really look so much at the past. I really fetishize the near future. I really fetishize the present and future and mostly the present. For me, the most precious things are the things that are living right now, things that are being made now. What I focus on is the movement, the transformation. It’s not necessarily periods or objects of a certain time. I’m much more fascinated with artists are making right now and the way they’re making new things and the way culture is transforming. That’s what I’m obsessed with.

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Untitled (Dark) David Altmejd 2001 
Plaster, acrylic paint, synthetic hair, resin, glitter 8 x 14 x 8 inches
(20.3 x 35.6 x 20.3 cm)
ARG# AD2001-004
 Photograph by Jessica Eckert 

Who are some of the artists you’re looking at right now for inspiration? Who influences you?

It’s changing a lot because my way of looking at art is completely transforming because I started using Instagram. I’m completely new to all the social media. I didn’t use the Internet that much before. Now my way of looking at art is through Internet. I see so many images, so much art, every day, every hour of the day. Culture feels a little like a mush. Compared to a few years ago where it was very clear what I liked. Galleries and museums now are 95% of the time a big mash-up of things. Before, it was clear that I had a few favorite artists that I was influenced by, but not anymore.

What are your favorite Instagram accounts?

There’s a specific type of humor. I get a lot of memes; I don’t know if they count as memes. What I experience through social media is more of a sensibility than objects with clear artistic statements or propositions. Like humor or a certain type of visual sensibility.

I have to look at these accounts and then I’ll send them to you. I don’t know them by heart. Maybe I can look at my phone right now.

Okay, there is one called @davidhenrynobodyjr. Another, @contemporaryary. You’ll see, it’s a specific type of humor. I don’t know if I’m influenced by that.
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Images courtesy of @davidhenrynobodyjr and @contemporaryary 

We must be influenced by everything we see on some level and in some way. And with the onslaught of images…

Probably, probably. My work is anyway open enough that I can include a bunch of different things that don’t necessarily make sense together. I really love birds.

Birds?

Yea, so I follow a few of them — some parrot owners have Instagram accounts for their parrots. Is that interesting?

Definitely.

It’s @bibi_the_galah_parrot. Another bird I follow is @thekeetlife. Do you want more?

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Images courtesy of @bibi_the_galah_parrot and @thekeetlife

Yes, give me one more non-bird.

Okay, it’s @ anti_cgi. That’s like mostly stills from horror movies.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 7.10
Image courtesy of @anti_cgi 

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Detail of: Man 2 David Altmejd2014
 fiberglass, epoxy clay, wood, feathers, synthetic hair, quartz, taxidermy lovebird, taxidermy par- akeet, pants, jacket, cotton shirt, tie, leather shoes, resin, metal wire, acrylic paint, latex paint, glass eyes, plastic bag, coconuts
77 1/2 x 24 x 26 inches (196.9 x 61 x 66 cm)
 Plinth: 8 x 30 x 30 inches (20.3 x 76.2 x 76.2 cm)
ARG# AD2014-026 
Photograph by Lance Brewer 

Before the Internet got to you, who were some of your greatest influences?

When I started art school, I was really into American artists like Cindy Sherman, Paul McCarthy, Tony Oursler, filmmakers like David Lynch and David Cronenberg. At the beginning, I was trying to define an attitude for myself and I thought that I was really into their attitudes – kind of weird, humorous or dramatic, sort of an uncomfortable space between the humorous and the dramatic. I was fascinated with that. After then when I started making sculpture, I was really into Louise Bourgeois. She’s the only one who made me understand the fundamental effects.

How do you think about your own work differently now, with the Internet and Instagram playing a bigger role?

It goes back to what I was talking about how in the past few years, my experience of art has completely changed because 95% of art can be seen through images online. It’s changing and I’m not against it. It just feels like it’s much more about a sensibility or energy. You know artists like Ryan Trecartin, what I think defines his work for me the most is a new speed. It’s such a right now kind of speed.­ I find it completely fascinating and exciting.

How do you relate that to your own work which seems really involved and not speedy, that’s something that’s best experienced in person?

I’m planning to start exploring these spaces more and more. I’d love to have a YouTube channel and start experimenting. Because these platforms are spaces. While virtual, the experience people have on them is real. I’m definitely going to explore that. We’ll see what happens. I’m sure I can find a comfortable place on these spaces. I’m sort of like a fetishist. I think it’s kind of exciting to explore new things as well.

You have to let us know when you create a YouTube channel.

[Laughs] Okay. I don’t know what it’s going to be but…

See FLUX, on view at Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montreal from June 20 through September 13, 2015.

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David Altmejd’s Montreal Gity Guide

Canada’s largest church, St. Joseph Oratory, 3800 Chemin Queen Mary, Montréal, QC H3V 1H6

Chinese food from La Maison KamFung, 1111 Rue Saint-Urbain M05, Montréal, QC H2Z 1Y6

Restaurant Le Filet, 219, ave. Mont-Royal Ouest, Montreal, QC, H2X 2T2

Hand-rolled bagels from St-Viateur Bagel, 263 Rue Saint Viateur O, Montréal, QC H2V 1Y1

The best place to walk around in Montreal: Summit Park area in Westmount

Campus Bar (for male strippers), 1111 Rue Sainte-Catherine E, Montréal, QC H2L 2G2

Cafe Olimpico for Italian, 124 St-Viateur Ouest, Montreal, Quebec, QC H2T 2L1

A Rare Tour of Donald Judd’s Home, the Judd Foundation in Soho

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An exclusive photo tour of the Judd Foundation in Soho, just above ‘Make art, not pipelines, Get in on the Ground Floor’ open now for limited public viewing.

Studio space featuring two works by Dan Flavin (and a few permanent Donald Judd installations) opened to the public on Friday and Saturday last weekend, available for free viewing for the first time. Make art, not pipelines, Get in on the Ground Floor is on view as the first part of the series of temporary installations at 101 Spring Street, the Judd Foundation in Soho. Just upstairs from the ground floor is the rest of the Judd Foundation, the site of the late artist Donald Judd’s New York home. Everything there is exactly as Judd lived and left it, from kitchen utensils to early Dan Flavin works (the artists were friends) to a personal library to bedding. Get an inside look at Donald Judd’s Soho home below, and get some minimal home design inspiration while you’re at it.

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101 Spring Street, New York, 1st Floor, 1974, courtesy Judd Foundation Archives. Image © Barbara Quinn, Licensed by VAGA
(Note: Whitney Independent Study Program Seminar with artist Donald Judd at his studio in 1974. On Judd’s left is Ron Clark, and on his right is artist Julian Schnabel.)

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101 Spring Street, New York, 2nd Floor. Photo credit: Mauricio Alejo-Judd Foundation Archives. Image © Judd Foundation. Licensed by VAGA

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101 Spring Street, New York, 2nd Floor. Photo credit: Mauricio Alejo-Judd Foundation Archives. Image © Judd Foundation. Licensed by VAGA.

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101 Spring Street, New York, 3nd Floor, Library. Photo credit: Joshua White-Judd Foundation Archives. Image © Judd Foundation. Licensed by VAGA.

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101 Spring Street, New York, 3nd Floor, Library. Photo credit: Mauricio Alejo-Judd Foundation Archives. Image © Judd Foundation. Licensed by VAGA.

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101 Spring Street, New York, 4th Floor. Photo credit: Joshua White-Judd Foundation Archives. Image © Judd Foundation. Licensed by VAGA.

 

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101 Spring Street, New York, 5th Floor. Photo credit: Joshua White-Judd Foundation Archives. Image © Judd FoundationFlavin artwork © 2012 Stephen Flavin/(ARS), © Chamberlain artwork/(ARS), © Claes Oldenburg. Licensed by VAGA.

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Second Floor, 101 Spring Street, New York, NY. Photo: Joshua White.

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Second Floor, 101 Spring Street, New York, NY. Photo: Joshua White.

 

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101 Spring Street, New York, Exterior. Photo credit: Joshua White-Judd Foundation Archives. Image © Judd Foundation. Courtesy Judd Foundation Archives. Licensed by VAGA.

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Donald Judd Portrait, 1991. Image © Judd Foundation. Courtesy Judd Foundation Archives. Licensed by VAGA.

MoMA Acquires Complete August Sander Photograph Series

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“Film Actress [Tony van Eyck]“, 1933 + “Artists’ Carnival in Cologne”, 1931 by August Sander, courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Some new faces are popping up in MoMA after a landmark acquisition of August Sander photographs.

The German documentary photographer began chronicling the lives of the peasant class with stark sepia portraiture after serving in the German military and working as a miner in the early 20th century. Similar to the work Dorothea Lange did in the Dust Bowl, Sander’s work pierces the zeitgeist of a particular society with an anthropological lens.

In a recent milestone acquisition, MoMA can now boast having “People Of the 20th Century” in its entirety. Sander’s pivotal series, a set of 619 photographic prints, contains portraits of the German working class, mixing the faces of draughtsmen, farmers, mothers, soldiers, bohemians, and more in a diverse documentation completed over the period of about 60 years.

MoMA is the only museum in the world that has an entire set of Sander’s work like this, bestowed upon them from the artist’s family. No other can compare.

On the acquisition of some 600 works, Sarah Hermanson Meister, a photography curator at MoMA, exuded her excitement over the phone this morning, “[The 80 photographs the museum previously held] never felt sufficient, now it’s everything we could have dreamed of. [Sander’s] reputation rests on a couple dozen photographs that have become iconic, but with all 619 there are so many surprises.”

Meister also remarked on a sense of completion within the context of other works in MoMA’s collection, namely those of Walker Evans and Eugène Atget, two other important documentary photographers who influenced and were influenced by Sander. “These three figures can be now be understood completely in one institution.”

Started in a Dive Bar, Now He’s Here: Napkin Killa on His Next Moves

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Images courtesy of the Napkin Killa

Started in a dive bar, now he’s here, drawing for Fendi, Bloomingdales, Diesel, and more. Here’s what the Napkin Killa is up to next.

This fashion illustrator isn’t what you normally think of — unlike BlackBook’s own Joseph Larkowsky, Spencer Ockwell, who goes by Napkin Killa, isn’t about capturing the clothes; he’s more about picking up and documenting the personalities and quirks of fashionable figures. What started out as sketching patrons of a dingy dive bar, posting the portraits to Instagram, turned to a discovery of his work by an editor at New York Magazine’s The Cut, where he was commissioned to illustrate NYFW in the fall of 2014. That work eventually leading to commissions at events for Fendi, Bloomingdales, Diesel, Jack Threads, and more fashion clientele — all drawn on stacks of cocktail napkins.

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Working in fashion has so far gone well for the illustrator — after just eight months, he was able to quit his day job, going, as he says, “full-time Killa.”

“I still draw at lots of events and have been getting inquiries about flying me around the world to do my thing,” Ockwell said over email. “I’m starting to make my own merchandise, featuring my art. Right now I have iron-on patches, stickers, original art and printed napkins available on napkinkilla.com.”

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He’s not napkin-exclusive, and has also made a mixtape of comedic rap, rapping over artists like Drake, Snoop Dog, Rick Ross, and Ginuwine. Tomorrow, June 6, he’s throwing a carnival with Espolon Tequila, where he’ll be, comedic rapping and yes, drawing portraits on napkins. Those who’ll be in Brooklyn can RSVP here

Next up: the Napkin Killa wants to collaborate with brands on capsule collections, painting murals, and he has plans to self-publish a book later this summer.

By email he told us his view for the future:

“I plan to infiltrate the fine art world too, and sell my silly drawings for millions of dollars in a fancy gallery while sipping wine… I’ve been involved in creative projects my whole life; drawing, writing, painting, shooting movies, and animating cartoons. This silly Instagram gimmick has unexpectedly become a little soap box, so I plan to ride this wave and expand it into a brand, beyond napkin portraits, to house my creative endeavors. I dream of getting my own TV show (half cartoon, half live action). I aspire to have a cartoon published in The New Yorker. If I ever want to accomplish that goal, I might have to start wearing cardigans and playing the cello. They may sound like lofty goals but hey, if I can make my living off doodling on napkins at parties then anything is possible!”

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The Lost Lectures Returns to NYC — But We Don’t Know Where Yet   

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Last year’s Lost Lectures. © Tod Seelie, courtesy Hyperallergic.

Originating in London, “The Lost Lectures” — a series of unexpected events hosted in a secret location — is returning to New York City for its second installment this Friday.

Aimed at taking intellectual discourse outside of institutional settings like corporate-fueled buildings or universities, the Lost Lectures NYC, co-sponsored by Brooklyn-based art blog Hyperallergic, will include guest speakers, art installations and performances in a yet-to-be-announced location (though it’s promised to be at most a 40 minute journey from Union Square).

Highlights of last year’s Lost Lectures included Amanda Lepore discussing having the “most expensive body on earth,” an impressive performance by Brooklyn-based dancers Flex is Kings, and musical sensation Blood Orange (AKA Dev Hynes).

 

Diana Al-Hadid

Artist Diana Al-Hadid photographed by Sarah Trigg. Courtesy Hyperallergic.

This year’s installment boasts Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino unveiling never-before-seen material, a top secret performance from indie filmmaker Josephine Decker, and a talk with internationally renowned visual artist Diana Al-Hadid.

Naturally, free beer will be provided by Brooklyn Brewery (and coconut water from ZICO if you’re on the wagon).

If you’re an urban explorer with a thirst for alternative events, it’s definitely worth checking out. Ticket holders will be informed of the location tomorrow.

ARTNews Calls Out Rampant Sexism in the Art World: Everything You Need to Know

ARTnews June 2015
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Where are all the great women artists? The gender gap in the industry may have reduced in size over the years, but as ARTnews’s June 2015 issue points out, there’s still rampant sexism in the art world.

Curator Maura Reilly begins by breaking it down numerically and structurally in her article “TAKING THE MEASURE OF SEXISM: FACTS, FIGURES, AND FIXES”, from the amount of press women artists get to museum representation statistics. For example, since 2007 only 29% of solo shows at the Whitney Museum went to women. She continues,

It’s not looking much better at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2004, when the museum opened its new building, with a reinstallation of the permanent collection spanning the years 1880 to 1970, of the 410 works on display in the fourth- and fifth-floor galleries, only 16 were by women. That’s 4 percent. Even fewer works were by artists of color. At my most recent count, in April 2015, 7 percent of the works on display were by women.

Guerrilla Girls

Feminist collective The Guerrilla Girls’ “Report Card” from 1986 takes galleries to task over how many women they represented. Pussy Galore’s 2015 version show how much (and how little) has changed in 29 years.
©1986 GUERRILLA GIRLS; ©2015 PUSSY GALORE

 

Theorist Amelia Jones argues that women (as well as artists of color and queer artists) are allowed into the hegemony of the art world so long as they ape the identities and roles of straight white male artists; the purported archetype of the “artist genius”. It may behoove those on the fringes to eschew this institutional authority and develop spaces outside to foster a new kind of art world. Jones says,

While not disregarding the potential importance of large museum exhibitions and programming in foregrounding feminist goals, artists, and movements, I find [...] more modest venues more creatively vital at this moment for achieving feminist goals.

She cites the Blk Grrrl Book Fair, an LA-based event this past March which combined artworks, poetry, performance and more from anti-racist, radical feminists, as “the art world I want.”

Linda Nochlin, in many regards the progenitor of the feminist art movement, spoke with Maura Reilly for the issue, touching on everything from her hatred of Tinker Bell to the landscape of feminism in the arts today:

It is undeniable that both institutions and education have changed a great deal. M.F.A. programs are now comprised of 60 percent women students. There are courses on women artists, feminism and art, contemporary women artists, etc., at major institutions of learning. This would have been unheard of in my day.

Check out all of the art world feminist goodness in the June 2015 issue of ARTnews.

Drue Kataoka’s New App Scans the Hands of Heidi Klum, Christy Turlington + More to Help Children

Touch Our Future
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“Touch Our Future” Homepage

Silicon Valley-based artist Drue Kataoka has made a name for herself melding technological innovation with breath-takingly beautiful aesthetics. She’s presented at TED, was a Cultural Leader at the World Economic Forum in Davos for the billionaires, world leaders, and CEOs who run the world, and is an accomplished flutist. Now, her new project, a global art installation entitled “Touch Our Future” aims to aid in fighting the scourge of infant mortality.

“I took inspiration from the cave paintings at Lascaux and Sulawesi.” Kataoka explains over the phone from Los Angeles. The almost 40,000-year-old hand impressions left on ancient cave walls, signs of our forebearers’ emerging intelligence and creativity, led her to trace the handprints of mothers and infants today, especially in areas where the infant mortality rate was high. She wanted to give infants a voice, and that evolved into a global project.

Heidi Klum

Image courtesy Evolutionary Media Group

A true product of Silicon Valley, Kataoka accomplishes these handprint scans with a mobile app: anyone with a mobile device can take a picture of their hand, which is then silhouetted perfectly in an instant with an image of a sun taken from somewhere in the world. Once submitted, your hand joins the likes of Heidi Klum, Chelsea Clinton, and the Dalai Lama in a fluid spiral towards the horizon on the project’s homepage. Thousands of handprints already populate the site.

“I wanted to leverage art to build a bridge to people and build a lasting message to them that would be the first step in engaging people around the issue,” she says.

“Touch our Future” is one piece of a large oeuvre that seeks to break down barriers between disciplines and illustrate how art and technology can converge beautifully and with great meaning. Kataoka is inspired by a lineage of creators that includes not just other artists, but also scientific minds, for instance, Richard Feynman, the celebrated physicist who became entranced with artistic creation and began drawing, and is perhaps best remembered for his beautiful representations of particle interactions and decays, commonly called Feynman Diagrams.

“His work was only something he could create because of his deep knowledge,” says Kataoka. “I think if we are very welcoming of each other across the different cultural gaps and disciplines, there are many positive things that can arise.”

Christy Turlington

Image courtesy Evolutionary Media Group

Moving forward, Kataoka hopes to emulate Pablo Picasso, who politicized his work in the aim of promoting peace (Guernica, anyone?). His meetings with President Truman and President de Gaulle echo the diplomacy Kataoka activates to propagate her work, but she is aware that the divide between politics and art has become larger.  “You would be very hard-pressed to see an artist meeting with Barack Obama,” she says. “I think that’s sad.”

This summer her piece “Twelve Minutes of Thinking” (a piano with a brain wave musical score) will be displayed in Carl Schurz park, in New York, as part of the city-wide installation “Sing for Hope Pianos”. Again weaving the nexus between arts, public policy and tech, Kataoka proceeds in a mission to inject creativity into society.

“Touch Our Future” is currently on display at the TEDWomen Conference in Monterey, and is available to download on the Appstore and Google Play.