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e1Born in Paris in 1975, Eva Jospin has created a unique way of bringing the life cycle of cardboard around full circle by turning back into the forest from whence it came – or at least, a representation of it. Reinventing the very nature of what makes a forest, she deconstructs the man-made and re-assembles it back into its original form.

Ripping and cutting through piles and piles of cardboard, layering it expertly in arrangements to create bas relief and even 3-dimensional shapes, her pieces grow a renewed life of their own and become a metaphor for exploration of self and expression of the internal journey of human existence. The juxtaposition of working with sturdy raw materials against the fragility and impermanence of nature itself is what lends a profound meaning to her work. We are so connected to nature as humans living on this earth, and yet there is a major disparity and disconnect that we are constantly trying to overcome.

I’d love to see a giant installation of Jospin’s forest and get lost in it, wouldn’t you?

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In late 2001, activist Peter Gibson created his own guerilla campaign to try and sway the city of Montreal to rethink their street planning strategies and increase the number of bike lanes. Rather than turning to extremism, he used street art as his weapon of choice, modifying the markings on public pavement, roads, sidewalks, and parking lots, simply using paint, and going by the clever moniker Roadsworth – a “poet of roads” rather than “words”, if you will.  In doing so, he’s opened up a huge opportunity for dialogue between both the police force and the politicians of the area about the fine line between the concept of street art versus that of vandalism. What began as a protest for more accessibility to bicyclists in the urban environment has grown into large-scale symbolic displays of both environmental and societal critique.

His work was “very simple, open-ended, ambiguous,” says Gibson. “They were also somewhat integrated with the environment — the street, the road markings — giving them an almost subliminal quality.” Gibson adds, “I think my intention was to create a language that would function as a form of satire, accentuating the absurdity inherent to certain aspects of urban living, urban space, [and] public policy.”

Problem is, the authorities didn’t see it the same way. He was arrested and they charged him with 51 counts of mischief, with fines ranging from $200 to $5000. Luckily the charges were dropped in 2006, and he was merely given a small fine and 40 hours of community service work – which involved creating art for The Plateau area of the city.

Roadsworth’s case really brings some important questions to the forefront of society – and underlines the fact that we are constantly bombarded with competing and contradictory information. How do we draw a line to differentiate the artistic act of openly publicly expressing oneself, and the destructive and single-minded act of vandalism and violation of public space? Public spaces should be designated as “free” spaces, shouldn’t they? Ones in which we are able to express whatever we choose, to an open population who is being suffocated by the very commercialized and stigmatized society in which it is forced to live. Roadsworth said it best,

“We aggressively pursue graffiti writers for scrawling their names on a wall across from a massive backlit billboard advertising Big Macs.”

What kind of a world is this, when art is relegated to being this big horrible threat on the corporate monopolization of spaces that are supposedly for everyone? I’m sure most people could agree. Not many people on the street were very opposed to Roadsworth’s creations – in fact, he had garnered quite a lot of support in his community.

What I think we need more of, is “artivists” – people who aren’t afraid to step across the boundaries and manipulate the commercialized elements of society in order to make us, the passerbys, question all sense of what is “freedom of expression”. People who express what the general populous is feeling, and is afraid to speak out on. People who risk their own freedom, in order to open the door for others.

“Painting images on the street is actually a very innocuous gesture in the face of the problems that exist. We are living in serious denial if we feel that business as usual is going to ensure our continued survival and well-being.”

Visit his website to learn more about his experience.

Check out this video to see him in action. Also, if you can, check out the National Film Board of Canada film that features his story – here’s the trailer.

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The streets of France are always peppered with really amazing street art by artists from around the world, but Mademoiselle Maurice stands apart from the rest with her distinct style of creative urban installation, not only with the works themselves, but because she involves the community in the process. She brightens up certain neighbourhoods with splashes of bright colours and engages the viewer with inspiring messages made of origami elements. She’s decorated everything from staircases, schools, sidewalks, community centres, buildings, and most notably, even a prison.

Recently, she was a participant in France’s 2013 ARTAQ Festival, and every Tuesday she would lead workshops for all ages and demographics that brought people together to work on large-scale public installations in urban areas. Over several months, in almost 20 locations, they collectively constructed origami works that involved over 30, 000 folds, and revived urban landscapes, as well as creating a deeper link between individuals and their community.

To see more, check out her website.

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Hailing from the City of Angels, Plastic Jesus (aka “The Banksy of L.A.*”), has already made a name for himself with his globally-popular “Stop Making Stupid People Famous” stencil, which I find to be utterly ingenious and totally apt at this point in time, as we obsess over the most inept humans the media can deliver. His humorous approach to the controversial subjects he expresses views on is rife with irony and teems with sarcasm, as he stabs at various topics in the political, social and economic fields. He’s made jabs at Governor Chris Christie, the Oscars, Lance Armstrong, Chick-fil-A, religion, consumerism, capitalism, gay marriage… the list goes on. Basically, no one is safe from his scathing criticism.

His recent installation work is not only adding a third dimension to his repertoire, it’s expanding the basis of how he executes his ideas, and puts his pieces in more conspicuous and unavoidable locations that the public cannot overlook, engaging them further than just a simple stencil on a wall. A couple of my favourites so far are the “Best Buy’s Useless Plasticbox 1.2” series and the ever-popular “American Excess” piece that juxtaposes the idea of credit, consumerism and drug addiction. There’s no avoiding the conversation with the way he throws it down – he creates a new context for opinion and social criticism. No wonder most of the top news publications have been chasing this dude down and featuring him in articles.

The fact that he is also associated with the Los Angeles Youth Network, helping runaway and homeless youth, and attempts to work in the most ethical manner possible, trying to make as minimal an impact to the environment as possible, is just the icing on the cake. His website even mentions, “If you find a piece of Plastic Jesus art on your building and you don’t want it there please email Plastic Jesus and one of the removal team will be there to remove it and make good.”

What a guy. Love it! Can’t wait to see what he does next.

To learn more about Plastic Jesus and follow his antics, visit his website.

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French street artist Hopare has an amazing grasp on can control and incorporates a serious dose of futurism in his work. His images are dynamic and burst forth from whatever he’s painting on with an intense feeling of dramatic energy and resistance to finite boundaries. Lately he’s been moving from letter-based work towards more of an emphasis on themes involving characters and a strong sense of narrative flow. Having already graced the walls of many cities worldwide, he continues to travel around the globe spreading his vibe in the form of diverse and majestic large-scale murals.

Hopare was also part of a huge mural installation in Paris, on the Champs Elysees. Check out some of the photos of him at work.

To see more of his incredible work, visit his website.

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Playing with nature is Jim Denevan’s favourite hobby – he surfs, he’s a chef and he’s a well-known sand artist. Simply using a driftwood stick and a few rakes, he creates enormous majestic geometric designs on the flat expanse of the beach. The greatest part is that his work is entirely improvised – he just begins with a centre point and works his way outwards, creating large spirals and perfect circles until he’s covered most of the area. Much of his work is entirely interactive, springing forth from a series of strategic movements – like a dance with nature – and inviting the public to explore the space when they are completed. These beautiful works are temporary though – the tides wash them clean away in stages as they were created, and so the cycle begins anew. He has also branched off into working with snow-and-ice-covered terrain and I can’t wait to see more!

To see more of Denevan’s designs, visit his website.

There is also an interesting article in which he speaks to GQ about his work.

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