Gorgeous Stitched Paintings Depict Environmental Destruction

Linda Gass was born to be an artist. She started creating as soon as she was old enough to hold a paintbrush; now, several decades later, Gass has fulfilled her childhood dream and then some. The Bay Area artist creates vibrant works of art on cloth, but they’re not just pretty pictures. Each of Gass’s stitched paintings, as she calls them, also serves as a stark illustration of the damage we’re causing our planet. 

Gass grew up in the 1970s, along with the first stirrings of modern environmentalism. By the time she reached college, the movement was in full swing. It was a “lifestyle,” she tells mental_floss. “It really opened my eyes.” 

But there were practical concerns to attend to. Gass’s parents wanted her to find a career that would support her, which made becoming an artist out of the question. She turned instead to math and computer science, eventually entering the software industry. And her parents were right: she was well-supported. But she wasn’t satisfied. So after years of saving up, she quit. 

“It was a really tough decision,” she says. “I had worked all my life to get to the point where I was in the software industry and it certainly paid well. All of my friends were there. So I had to really build up my courage to step away.”

The risky decision paid off. By 1998, Gass had found her way into textile art, and she never looked back. “I love working in textiles,” she says. “There’s something about fabric that’s very comforting. It’s beautiful and a pleasure to work with.” 

But her environmental roots were calling. It wasn’t long before Gass realized she could integrate her concerns into her art. Her first ecological piece, After the Gold Rush, was inspired by an aerial photograph of California’s Interstate 5.

Painting after painting followed, addressing themes of land use, water pollution, and human violence against the landscape. Yet each image is luminous and lovely to see. This is intentional, according to Gass: “I try to lure people in with that beauty to get them to confront the hard issues we face.” 

Click on each painting's title for a brief description.

Over the last two decades, Gass has expanded her repertoire to include sculpture and landscape installations. Last year, she was honored with a creative ecology residency in East Palo Alto, California. She chose to work on Cooley Landing, a public beach that had, until recently, been landfill. Understandably, the community was somewhat hesitant to spend time there. But through Gass’s free workshops, locals of all ages were able to discover the natural beauty and heritage of their new shoreline. 

East Palo Alto is something of an economic island, a low-income city in a sea of wealthy neighbors. The ecology residency had a dual purpose: introducing the city's residents to their new open space, and offering them an opportunity to engage in hands-on art and science. 

Gass and her workshop participants sketched the wildlife they saw and created a huge installation along the coast—thousands of bright-blue flags, marking where the waterline had once been.

Gass also used her students’ drawings to create a blank silk canvas for community members to paint.

“I overheard some of the girls while they were painting with the dyes, saying, ‘This is magical!’ Which is exactly how I felt about silk painting the very first time I tried it," she says. "It is this very magical, mesmerizing technique. It was so great to be reminded of how lucky I am to be able to work in this art form.”

Gass shows her work in galleries and museums around the country. To see her paintings in person this year, check out the Institute of Contemporary Art in San Jose, California, or the Euphrat Musem of Art in Cupertino, California. 

All images courtesy of Linda Gass. 

University of York
Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
UK Archaeologists Have Found One of the World’s Oldest 'Crayons'
University of York
University of York

A prehistoric chunk of pigment found near an ancient lake in England may be one of the world's oldest crayons, Colossal reports. The small object made of red ochre was discovered during an archaeological excavation near Lake Flixton, a prehistoric lake that has since become a peat wetland but was once occupied by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. Though it’s hard to date the crayon itself, it was found in a layer of earth dating back to the 7th millennium BCE, according to a recent study by University of York archaeologists.

Measuring less than an inch long, the piece of pigment is sharpened at one end, and its shape indicates that it was modified by a person and used extensively as a tool, not shaped by nature. The piece "looks exactly like a crayon," study author Andy Needham of the University of York said in a press release.

A pebble of red ochre thought to be a prehistoric crayon
University of York

The fine grooves and striations on the crayon suggest that it was used as a drawing tool, and indicate that it might have been rubbed against a granular surface (like a rock). Other research has found that ochre was collected and used widely by prehistoric hunter-gatherers like the ones who lived near Lake Flixton, bolstering the theory that it was used as a tool.

The researchers also found another, pebble-shaped fragment of red ochre at a nearby site, which was scraped so heavily that it became concave, indicating that it might have been used to extract the pigment as a red powder.

"The pebble and crayon were located in an area already rich in art," Needham said. "It is possible there could have been an artistic use for these objects, perhaps for coloring animal skins or for use in decorative artwork."

[h/t Colossal]

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Tour the National Museum of Scotland From Home With Google Street View
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Google's Street View technology can be used to view some amazing art, whether it's behind the walls of the Palace of Versailles in France or the Guggenheim Museum in New York. As the BBC reports, the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh is the latest institution to receive the virtual treatment.

The museum contains items tracing the history of the world and humanity. In the Natural World galleries, visitors will find a hulking Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton and a panorama of wildlife. In the World Cultures galleries, there are centuries' worth of art and innovation to see. The museum's permanent galleries and the 20,000 objects on display can all be viewed from home thanks to the new online experience.

Users can navigate the virtual museum as they would a regular location on Street View. Just click the area you wish to explore and drag your cursor for full 365-degree views. If there's a particular piece that catches your interest, you may be able to learn more about it from Google Arts & Culture. The site has added 1000 items from the National Museum of Scotland to its database, complete with high-resolution photos and detailed descriptions.

The Street View tour is a convenient option for art lovers outside the UK, but the museum is also worth visiting in person: Like its virtual counterpart, admission to the institution is free.

[h/t BBC]


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