For two decades, the Nike Air Max 95 has permeated pop culture. The shoe’s unexpected construction and resulting aesthetic have garnered mass popularity in fashion and music circles. However, its inspiration story was relegated to the blogosphere. Any fan of the mid ’90s Air Max model can likely rattle off key facts, but beyond that the sneaker’s beginnings were relatively unknown.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Air Max 95, two artists known for their anatomy-based work were tasked with illustrating the iconic silhouette and its recently released updated versions as if they were made from flesh and blood. The resulting images visually represent the shoe’s inspiration story.
Air Max 95 OG and Ultra Jacquard illustrated (left) by Andy Van Dinh
Air Max 95 Ultra illustrated (left) by Katie Scott
Not long ago Andy Van Dinh, who drew the Air Max 95 OG and Ultra Jacquard, and Katie Scott, who depicted the Air Max 95 Ultra, reflected on the project, their feelings about sneakers and what captivates them about the human body.
When did you realize that art was your calling?
Andy Van Dinh: I've always been into drawing or making things, but I was unaware of it as a legit career option. I ended up studying biology and math during my first couple of years of college. The original plan was to be a doctor but I hated it. Fortunately I took a drawing class as an elective, and after the first class I decided to switch majors. That's when I started taking art seriously, and that's when I knew I wanted to do this forever.
Katie Scott: I was compelled to draw as a child and was lucky enough to maintain that desire into adulthood. At school, you can only really study art and graphic design, both of which I enjoy, but neither was quite right. When I discovered the world of illustration, things finally clicked.
Human anatomy plays a big role in your illustrations, what draws you to that subject matter?
AVD: Through isolating single organs, I've can use something small to represent a bigger idea. Each organ refers to the whole of the body, the human nature and-or the selected narrative. It is a way to dissect and analyze the exterior by way of the interior. Ironically, I personify these organs and render the interior as the exterior, alluding to finding something deeper inside; they are remnants of the larger picture of humanity.
KS: I love the detail, symmetry and structure of anatomy. I am also interested in the history of anatomical study and the twists and turns in our understanding of the body. I'm particularly drawn to the imaginative theories of antiquity, where the body was filled with bile and water and organs roamed freely around the torso. A lot of my anatomical work is based around this fantastical vision of early science.
What are your primary sources of inspiration?
AVD: Usually my ideas come to me when I'm half asleep and my thoughts are delusional and incoherent. I tend to try and work with an ambiguous ideas until they make sense to me. Much of my inspiration comes from the process of making things, figuring it out as I go and understanding how each piece interacts.
KS: I’m inspired by the work of a few other artists like Ernst Haeckel, Cornelius de Witt and Albertus Seba. They each have very different and beautiful ways of capturing nature. Outside of that, I would say botany has a strong hold over me; I never cease to be amazed by the plant kingdom.
For this project you were asked to reinterpret the Air Max 95 as if it were constructed out of flesh and blood. What were your initial thoughts?
AVD: I wanted the viewer to understand the layers of the shoe and the body-part references. I also wanted to demonstrate how Sergio Lozano dissected the human anatomy to find the textures and shapes of the shoe. Overall, I thought of it as a cohesive collage of body parts, with each layer overlapping and revealing what's underneath. My very first thoughts were I didn't want to disappoint the original designer since I am reinterpreting someone else's work.
KS: I was so happy to be brought a brief that felt like I had written it myself. This is the exact kind of project and subject matter that I'm interested in. I loved learning about the shoe design as well.