10 Visual Artists Whose Imagination and Intellect Will Inspire You

Creative innovators who challenge and enlighten

Our digitally fueled world continues to grow more visual with each passing year, with photography and illustration being joined by the constantly evolving worlds of video and animation.

As part of Adweek's Creative 100, our annual list of the 100 most creative professionals in America, we've assembled a list of some of the most dynamic and detail-oriented visual artists who keep us enthralled and inspired: 

 Michael Kaplan

Costume Designer, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Los Angeles

You have Kaplan to thank for every Star Wars: The Force Awakens Halloween costume you'll see this October. He's the creative mind behind everything from Rey's functional beige scavenger get-up to Kylo Ren's menacing and intriguingly unfinished cape and mask. The costumes are rich in subtle detail, like the fact that Rey's sand goggles are made from stormtrooperhelmet lenses to highlight her scrappy ingenuity. To figure out the visual design of the new Star Wars characters, Kaplan spent many hours in George Lucas' archives, but he also applied lessons he picked up from working on Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. For Star Wars, he took "old military gas masks, and tubes and hoses" and revamped them, he tells Vanity Fair. Kaplan is also responsible for the looks in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek reboots, as well as decades of other popular films like Fight Club, Armageddon and Flashdance.

—Kristina Monllos

 

 Ekene Ijeoma

Artist / Interaction Designer

New York City

With data-driven artwork dedicated to, as he says, "using design in poetic ways, to humanize data and technology for a more empathetic society," Ijeoma is driven as much by purpose as by creativity. Earlier this month, the Brooklyn-based designer released his latest creation, Look Up, a "participatory public art app" that's meant to get New Yorkers to look up from their phones when they near intersections. The app, which is currently available only on Android as a Live Wallpaper, uses crash, injury and fatality data from NYC's Division of Transportation road safety project, Vision Zero to make users aware of the "human energy loss from crashes" and to look up from their phones through vibrations and visual cues. His previous work also used data in inventive ways; he created an interactive installation, "Wage Islands," that addressed wage and housing inequality as well as an interactive map, which he called "The Refugee Project," which looked at worldwide refugee migration. —K.M.

 

 Waris Ahluwalia

Jewelry Artist / Fashion Designer

New York City

"All my work is a search for truth, search for a story, search for connecting with one's self and the other," says the multitalented and infallibly stylish Ahluwalia. "It's trusting your instinct and letting the universe guide you." The India-born jewelry and fashion designer has lived in America since childhood, but his business, House of Waris, finds inspiration in all cornersof the ancient world. The occasional actor is also bridging history and the modern world in other ways, such as his upcoming role as Bhagat Singh Thind, a World War I soldier who fought for the U.S. but, as a Sikh from India, was denied citizenship in a legal battle that went to the Supreme Court. Ahluwalia is also one of the faces of Playboy's new, more mature push to compete with the likes of GQ and Esquire, hosting a dinner-party series that included Natasha Lyonne, Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon and filmmaker Liz Goldwyn.

—Tim Baysinger

 Lynsey Addario

Photojournalist

New York City

Addario tells Adweek she is inspired by the idea that her work can "inform policy makers, inspire change and flip people's misconceptions about a place, a culture or a group of people." The Pulitzer-winning photojournalist has been documenting the human toll of conflict for nearly 20 years. From Africa to Afghanistan, from Iraq to India, she has captured stunning images that are stories unto themselves. "My creativity comesfrom access, from the ability to sit with a subject, and to make him or her feel comfortable, to use the light and to get in close," she says. But it is dangerous work. In 2011, Addario and four of her New York Times colleagues were taken captive in Libya and held for six days. Her greatest accomplishment came in 2009 when she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, a so-called "genius grant." It allowed her the time and a fiveyear stipend to write a memoir and give birth to her son. "These are probably two things I never could have done without the support of the MacArthur," she says.