Things That Matter

This Peruvian Queen Has Been Brought Back To Life In An Ultra-Realistic Sculpture And People Cannot Believe She’s Not Real

Have you ever wondered what your ancestors looked like — if you shared the same cheekbones, hair texture, skin tone or smile? Sure, some of us have seen illustrated reimaginings of our ancient forebearers, but there still remains a longing to know what they might have looked, felt or sounded like in real life. In Sweden, one man is using his artistic talents and archeological knowledge to give us a glimpse of our primordial relatives.

Oscar Nilsson is a sculptor and archaeologist who specializes in reconstructing faces.

Credit: odnilsson.com

Since the 1990s, he’s been using his skills to hand-sculpt the faces of people who lived hundreds to thousands of years ago. Through his company, O.D. Nilssons, the creative works with various museums to help restore faces of people whose remains were discovered during archaeological excavations.

In the past two decades, Nilsson has revived more than a dozen primitive individuals. He has restructured a young woman from the Stone Age, who lived in what is now Brighton, United Kingdom about 5,500 years ago. His reimaginings show that people who originally inhabited the area weren’t white but rather a deep brown that resembles those from North Africa. He recreated the face of an 18-year-old girl who lived in modern-day Greece about 7,000 years before Christ; a malnourished, anemic man who lived during the Bronze Age about 3,700 years ago; and a well-built man with a “Suebian knot” who lived in Britain about 2,400 years ago in the Iron Age.

In addition to the unnamed progenitors, Nilsson has also used unearthed remains to restructure the faces of leaders of the past world. Through his work, he has brought to life Birger Jarl, the ruler of Sweden from 1248 until his death on Oct. 1, 1266, as well as Estrid Sigfastsdotter, a rich woman who lived in XI century AD near Stockholm and died around the age of 80 at a time when the life expectancy was about 35 years old.

One of our favorite Nilsson reconstructions, however, is that of Huarmey Queen, a Wari monarch woman from what is today northwest Peru.

Credit: odnilsson.com

In 2012, a Polish archeological group found a burial of the indigenous Wari culture, which would later become the Incan Empire. The tomb carried the remains of 58 noblewomen of different ages, all buried with “extraordinary luxuries.” Huarmey Queen, for instance, was entombed with jewelry, gold ear flares, a silver goblet, a copper ceremonial axe and expensive textiles, among other splendors. In his sculpture, the woman is seen aged, with peppered hair and wrinkled skin. She has deep brown eyes, sharp cheekbones, lightly golden skin and large gauges in her ears.

Nilsson is able to make his restorations through a process that requires much time, patience, skill as well as anatomical, archaeological and historical understanding. The sculptor uses skulls discovered during archaeological digs as his base. He digitally scans the remains in an effort to perfectly map the craniums, using a 3D printer to rebuild them. With his knowledge of anatomy, he then overlays the restructured skulls with muscles. Using DNA analysis of the corpse as well as the surroundings of the site where the remains were found, he adds details like skin, hair, eye color and clothing.

In his work, he uses skin-pigmented silicone, actual human hair — which he inserts strand by strand — and prosthetic eyes. The entire process for one face restructure takes about 200 hours.

Credit: odnilsson.com

“The human face is a motif that never ceases to fascinate me: the variation of the underlying structure as well as the variety in details seem endless,” he says on his website. “And all the faces I reconstruct are unique. They are all individuals.”

As a university student, the artist studied archaeology, hoping to become a forensic artist. The man, who says he is fascinated by faces and history, told the DailyMail that he “wanted to see what the people from history look like.”  

Through his collaborations with museums, which hire him to recreate faces for various historical exhibitions, he is also able to give people a glimpse of what their own ancestors looked like. For him, his human-like sculptures are both a window into the past as well as a way to engage youth in history.

“I hope people get a feeling of ’I know this guy,’” he said. “It is the most effective way to make history relevant, especially to the younger generations.”

Read: The Aztecs Built It Out Of Human Skulls And Archeologists Are Starting To Uncover Its Mysteries

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If You Call Yourself A Frida Kahlo Fan Then You Should Be Following These Five Artists

Culture

If You Call Yourself A Frida Kahlo Fan Then You Should Be Following These Five Artists

Bettman Archives / Getty Images

So many of us have been moved the art of the late Frida Kahlo. Even in death she’s gone on to inspire entire generations with her Surrealist self-portraits, lush depictions of plant and animal life, and magical realist tableaux. Not to mention her incredible life story.

She also inspired future generations of artists, many of whom are alive today creating beautiful works of art. These are just a few of the artists who have similar techniques, subjects, and styles to Frida Kahlo that you’ll definitely love if you’re a fan of Frida Kahlo.

Maria Fragoso – Mexico City

Credit: Teach Me Sweet Things / Theirry Goldberg Gallery

Influenced by the style and narratives of Mexican surrealists and muralists, Maria Fragoso creates work that celebrates her Mexican culture, while also addressing notions of gender expression and queer identity. Her brightly colored canvases offer voyeuristic glimpses into intimate moments, with subjects engaging in acts that seem at once seductive and mischievous—often while gazing directly out at the viewer.

Recently featured in Forbes’s “30 Under 30” in the “Art and Style” category, the 25-year-old artist is quickly rising to prominence. Born and raised in Mexico City, Fragoso moved to Baltimore in 2015 to pursue her BFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art. While in school, Fragoso was the recipient of the Ellen Battell Stoeckel Fellowship at the Yale Norfolk School of Art. Since graduating, she has completed residencies at Palazzo Monti and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.

Nadia Waheed – Austin, Texas

Credit: Message from Janus / Mindy Solomon Gallery

Born in Saudi Arabia to Pakistani parents, Austin, Texas–based artist Nadia Waheed explores notions of relocation, displacement, and vulnerability in her work. Her life-size figurative paintings are both allegorical and autobiographical—the female figures represent her own lived experiences, as well as the multifaceted identities of all women.

Rodeo Tapaya – Philippines

Credit: Nowhere Man / A3 Art Agency

Rodel Tapaya paints dreamlike, narrative works based on myths and folklore from his native Philippines. Drawing parallels between age-old fables and current events, Tapaya reimagines mythical tales by incorporating fragments of the present. “In some way, I realize that old stories are not just metaphors. I can find connections with contemporary time,” Tapaya said in a 2017 interview with the National Gallery of Australia. “It’s like the myths are poetic narrations of the present.”

While the content of Tapaya’s work is inspired by Filipino culture, his style and literary-based practice is heavily influenced by Mexican muralists and Surrealist painters such as José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and, of course, Frida Kahlo. Often working at a large scale, Tapaya has been commissioned to create several site-specific murals, including one for Art Fair Philippines in February 2020.

Leonor Fini – Buenos Aires

Credit: Les Aveugles / Weinstein Gallery

Long overlooked in favor of male Surrealists, Leonor Fini, a contemporary of Kahlo, was a pioneering 20th-century force. Known for having lived boldly, Fini is recognized for her unconventional lifestyle, theatrical personality, and avant-garde fashion sense. Born in Buenos Aires in 1907, Fini was raised by her mother in Trieste, Italy. She taught herself to paint and first exhibited her work at the age of 17.

Fini had one of her first solo exhibitions at age 25 with a Parisian gallery directed by Christian Dior. Her work was then included in the groundbreaking exhibition “Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism” at MoMA in 1936, while at the same time she had her first New York exhibition with Julien Levy Gallery. Today, Fini’s work is represented in many major public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Tate Modern in London, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.

Ramon Alejandro – Miami

Credit: Eternal Life / Latino Art Core

José Ramón Díaz Alejandro, better known as Ramon Alejandro, paints idyllic still lifes of tropical fruits set in ethereal landscapes. The surrealistic compositions have a similar spirit to Kahlo’s less iconic but equally masterful still-life works

Coming from a long lineage of artists, Alejandro grew up with the artworks of his great-grandfather, grandfather, and uncle adorning the walls of his childhood home. After growing up in Havana, Alejandro was sent to live in Argentina in 1960 amidst political turmoil in Cuba, and has continued to live in exile since then.

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Yes, Someone Created An Actual Honest To God 108-Foot Vulva Statue In Brazil

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Yes, Someone Created An Actual Honest To God 108-Foot Vulva Statue In Brazil

BUDA MENDES / GETTY IMAGES

There’s no denying the fact that the female form, and it’s bits, in particular, have inspired artwork the world over. Tarsila do Amaral was inspired by it. Frida Kahlo and artists like Zilia Sánchez and Marta Minujín too. Women’s bodies are inspired and so they inspire. Still, a recent unveiling of vulva artwork has become so controversial and made people so besides themselves that it seems many have forgotten these truths about our bodies.

Over the weekend, Brazilian visual artist Juliana Notari revealed her latest sculptureDiva, on a hillside at Usina del Arte. The art park is located in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco and is described by Notari as “a massive vulva / wound excavation.”

The massive sculpture created on the hillside located in northeastern Brazil features a bright pink vulva and has fueled what is being described as a cultural war.

Notari created Diva, a colorful 108-foot concrete and resin sculpture on the site of a former sugar mill. The mill was converted into an open-air museum in Pernambuco state. Last week, when Notari debuted the installation she revealed it was meant to depict both a vulva and a wound while questioning the relationship between nature and culture in a “phallocentric and anthropocentric society.”

“These issues have become increasingly urgent today,” Notari wrote in a post shared to her Facebook page which was shared alongside a series of photos of the sculpture. According to NBC, it took a team of 20 artisans 11 months to build the entire concept.

No surprise, the piece of art sparked a wave of controversy on social media, with critics and supports debating its message and significance.

Over 25,000 users have commented on Notari’s Facebook post so far including leftists and conservatives. On the far-right, supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro have also been vocal about their views of the product.

“With all due respect, I did not like it. Imagine me walking with my young daughters in this park and them asking … Daddy, what is this? What will I answer?” one user wrote in the Facebook section of the post.

“With all due respect, you can teach your daughters not to be ashamed of their own genitals,” a woman replied.

Olavo de Carvalho, an advisor to Bolsonaro, vulgarly criticized the piece on Twitter.

Notari, whose previous work has been displayed at various galleries explained on her Facebook page that she created the piece to comment on gender issues in general.

“In Diva, I use art to dialogue with…gender issues from a female perspective combined with a cosmopocentric and anthropocentric western society,” Notari shared on her post to Facebook. “Currently these issues have become increasingly urgent. After all, it is by changing perspective of our relationship between humans and nonhuman, that will allow us to live longer on that planet and in a less unequal and catastrophic society.”

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