Gesine Marwedel
Gesine Marwedel

11 Incredible Artworks That Use People as a Medium

Gesine Marwedel
Gesine Marwedel

Paint on canvas can create striking images, but if an artist really wants to make an impression, getting people involved can transform art into something truly stunning.  

1. "Hiding in the City - Beijing Magazine Rack"

Liu Bolin

Chinese artist Liu Bolin hides himself in his photographs as a metaphor for the relationship between culture and its development. He's better at it than Waldo!

2. "Treasured Tiles"

Emma Hack

Emma Hack's "Treasured Tiles" are less about getting lost and more about voluntary immersion. Inspired by her travels in Spain and Portugal, Hack spent hours painting the same patterns on human bodies. You might recognize her work from this well-known Gotye video.

3. "The Human Flamingo"

Gesine Marwedel

It's a bird. It's a brain. It's Gesine Marwedel's stunning "Human Animals" series depicting animals and organs on human canvases.

4. "Frog"

Johannes Stotter

Body artist Johannes Stotter has also turned humans into animals —in this case, five humans into one frog.

5. "The Fall of Adam, after Hugo Van Der Goes"

Laura Spector

Laura Spector's "Museum Anatomy" series recreates 19th-century paintings of women on a contemporary male body—that of her husband, fellow painter Chadwick Gray. "The paradox of culture is reformulated," Spector explained. "The original painting of a woman, which was painted by a man, is now re-painted by a female [Spector] on a male body [Gray] in the 21st century."

6. "Landline"

Aakash Nihalani

Ouch! Aakash Nihalani's latest series uses neon tape and 3D trickery to make it look like human subjects are being impaled in the coolest way possible.

7. Yarn People

Olek

Crochet artist Olek has covered billboards, cars, and an entire train in colorful yarn. How could humans be off-limits? The artist frequently uses crocheted people in her public installations and gallery shows. During a recent project in Hawaii, she even had her subjects go scuba diving.

8.  "The Artist Is Present"

Performance artist Marina Abramović frequently uses bodies as the subject and medium of her work. During her 2010 MoMA retrospective, naked models stood in doorways and against walls. But the biggest attraction was Abramović herself. Museum visitors lined up for hours to sit down and stare into her eyes.

9. The Human Pencil

When does the artist become the medium itself? Or is an artist always a medium? Think about it while you watch Heather Hansen draw with her entire body in a series of literal art movements.

10. "Valley of the Reclining Woman"

Carl Warner

Carl Warner's "Bodyscapes" series uses unclothed bodies to evoke expansive deserts and mountain ranges. Each work is made of numerous body part images, all belonging to one person.

11. "Pop Culture As Art"

Syaiful A. Rachman

Indonesian artist Syaiful A. Rachman's "Pop Culture As Art" photo series employs thousands of anonymous people to recreate portraits of famous figures, including the Beatles, Michael Jackson, and Bruce Lee. The lesson: Even the most iconic public figures—or artists like Rachman himself—wouldn't be anything without the little people.

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Sophie Gamand
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This Photographer Is Changing People's Perceptions of Pit Bulls, One Flower Crown at a Time
Sophie Gamand
Sophie Gamand

Like many people, Sophie Gamand wasn’t always the biggest fan of pit bulls. As a volunteer photographer for animal shelters, she used to tense up any time she saw one.

And then something changed. In 2014, the New York-based photographer decided to confront her fear and take on a project that would force her to interact with pit bulls, My Modern Met reports. Initially, she wanted to see for herself if pit bulls were really as dangerous as people claim they are, and what she learned surprised her.

She “discovered the sweet and gentle nature of pit bulls, and how obedient and eager to please they are,” Gamand tells Mental Floss. “They are goofy, loving, and very attached to people.”

Equipped with her new mindset, she decided to photograph the dogs individually with colorful flower crowns adorning their heads in hopes of challenging the public's perception of pit bulls. And it worked.

A pit bull with a flower crown
Sophie Gamand

Gamand says animal shelter staff often tell her that her photos, which she posts on social media with a brief description of each dog's personality, have saved countless dogs from being euthanized and have helped many others find forever homes. “They have helped dogs get adopted who had had zero interest for months or even years,” she says.

Over the last few years, she has photographed over 400 pit bulls, and her images will be published in a forthcoming coffee table book titled Pit Bull Flower Power: The Book. It will be released in October for Pit Bull Awareness Month.

She says the stereotype of pit bulls being overly aggressive is “completely unfounded,” adding that genetics have little to no influence on a dog’s personality. What makes the difference, though, is proper care and training, which is why she’s dedicating her life’s work to helping the dogs find loving homes.

Plus, the dogs love the photo shoots. "These are all shelter dogs who spend most of their time in a cage," Gamand says. "They are so happy for all the attention, treats, and love they get on the shoot. They love nothing more than to be good boys and girls—learning tricks, sitting to get a cookie. It’s their special moment. Each shoot is a team effort between the handler, the dog, and myself."

Her photos have spread far and wide via social media, and she now receives requests to visit animal shelters all over the world, from India to Kuwait to China. Prior to Pit Bull Flower Power, Gamand’s first book, Wet Dog—which features, you guessed it, adorable dripping dogs—was published in 2015.

Keep scrolling to see more of Gamand's Flower Power series, and check out this project and others on her Instagram page and website.

A pit bull with a flower crown
Sophie Gamand

A pit bull with a flower crown
Sophie Gamand

A pit bull with a flower crown
Sophie Gamand

A pit bull with a flower crown
Sophie Gamand

[h/t My Modern Met]

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Christie's
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A Rare Copy of Audubon's Birds of America Could Break Records at Auction
Christie's
Christie's

American artist and naturalist John James Audubon published The Birds of America in the first half of the 19th century, and his massive “double-elephant” folio of life-size bird illustrations remains one of the most ambitious nature books ever produced. On June 14, a rare edition of the four-book set is hitting the auction block, and it's expected to fetch up to $12 million—more than any Audubon book ever sold.

This edition of The Birds of America was owned by the dukes of Portland from around 1839 to 2012. Because it was stored on the shelves of the family's Nottinghamshire, England estate for nearly a century, the set's prints of watercolor drawings have remained remarkably well-preserved.

In 2012, the copy was auctioned off to philanthropist and businessman Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. for nearly $8 million. Knobloch donated the books to the Knobloch Family Foundation (KFF) before his death in 2016. Now, the KFF is sending the books to auction once again. This time, all proceeds of the sale will go to nature conservation.

Set of red leather-bound books.

New York City auction house Christie's describes the set in a listing as "among the finest copies in private hands of this icon of American art, and the finest color-plate book ever produced." Each of the 435 double-elephant folio pages measures 39.5 inches by 26.5 inches, the largest sheets Audubon could get his hands on at the time, and they feature 1037 birds from 500 species. The books are bound in red Moroccan leather with gold detailing on the borders and spines. The four-volume set also comes with the Ornithological Biography, a collection of five books describing the specimens in The Birds of America and their habits.

Christie's estimates the set will sell for $8 million to $12 million when the final bid is placed later this month. To date, the most expensive copy of The Birds of America was a first edition acquired from Sotheby's in London for $11.5 million. That sale also broke the record for the most expensive printed book ever sold at auction, a record held until 2013.

Illustration of American birds.

Illustration of American bird.

Illustration of American birds.

Illustration of American birds.

Illustration of American birds.

All images courtesy of Christie's

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