Why you should care

Because art celebrates our similarities and our differences.

Art: It makes us think differently, makes us see the world differently. Sometimes our experience of it is transcendental, sometimes provocative, sometimes head-scratching. These artists are making their mark in France, India, Britain, the U.S. and beyond, connecting with us through everything from cartoons to paper missives, and via mediums like buildings and human skin.

Making It Rain Butterflies in Paris

Anne Cazaubon: Cazaubon’s art, as she describes it, is “always kind and always biodegradable.” It’s also a means of connecting people, as, for example, when she used a massive sidewalk vent to send millions of paper butterflies through the air in Paris to commemorate the November 2015 terrorist attacks. You can find her in carefully chosen locations around Paris, usually every one or two months, throwing hearts, stars and butterflies, made from paper that dissolves with the first rain, high into the air.

Fictional Nigerian Royalty in Pastels

Toyin Ojih Odutola: One of the most striking exhibits at San Francisco’s Museum of the African Diaspora may have been this series of 18 larger-than-life pastel and charcoal drawings of imagined Nigerian royalty by the popular artist Ojih Odutola. The exhibit was a “private collection of rarely exhibited portraits” of the fictional UmuEze Amara family, presented as though the family were real. Nearly floor-to-ceiling tall and lavish in color and style, the portraits are hard to look away from. Known for playing with perception in her other works, Ojih Odutola is working on the next chapter in this series.

The Absurd Cartoonist

Glen Baxter: Need a laugh? Baxter’s sharp-witted, strange drawings of people marching gleefully, unwittingly into destruction will get you there. Baxter, or “the Colonel,” as he sometimes signs his name, is an artist — British, spectacularly so — and jolly in a skeptical way. It’s all there in vaguely pointillistic color comics: the dry absurdism, the knowledge that we contain the seeds of our own demise, the awareness that whenever we are sure of our own focus, disaster is creeping up from the side. Baxter’s characters are stupid and blind, but they are doing, in most cases, what they think is right based on the information they have.

A Miniature Artist Taking On Big Issues

Ambreen Butt: When Pakistani-American artist Butt learned that the bejeweled women in the ornate miniature paintings she loved had all been made by men, she was moved to make a statement — a big one. Her 36-foot canvas I Need a Hero, which contradicts the traditional form of miniature painting, was inspired by an iconic figure in modern-day Pakistan: Mukhtar Mai, a woman who spoke out against the men who gang-raped her. Butt is known for creating provocative works, from early pieces that depict women as semenlike squiggles to more recent sculptures made of hundreds of colorful resin fingers. “No matter how disturbing my work is, and oftentimes it is, I want to make it as beautiful as I can,” she says.

More Artists to Check Out

  • t.w.five: This Bay Area artistic duo is sticking it to San Francisco … with tape. Pernilla Andersson and Paula Perreira’s pieces carefully interweave hand-cut strips of adhesive-backed vinyl tape, creating installations as large as 44 feet.
  • NoonieNoonieNoonie: This Paris street artist’s work — hand-drawn plaques, striking for their silliness, pasted on buildings above or below eye level — hides in plain sight. A celebration of everyday lives in Paris? A condemnation of our mundane achievements as humans? Yes?
  • Kimia Ferdowsi Kline: The Iranian-American artist taps into belonging to and longing for the gardens and surroundings of a country where she cannot visit. One compelling example of her work: an imaginary Persian garden.
  • Cat Palmer: She’s the ex-Mormon feminist in Utah who paints naked women’s bodies. The work of this self-described “photographer, provocateur and activist” thumbs its nose at gender inequality and religious hypocrisies as much as it celebrates the act of free expression.
  • Harshvardhan Kadam: An atheist bringing god to the streets of India, Kadam commandeers walls across the country, and even paints on cars and surfboards, “retelling a story — especially in public spaces where some people have forgotten these stories.”

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If you’d want to drink it, eat it, wear it, ride it, drive it; if it’d be cool to see, listen to or do, we’re writing about it.