The University of New Mexico’s digital collections host an extensive archive of vintage cutaway illustrations of nuclear reactors from around the world. These illustrations first appeared in Nuclear Engineering International as inserts in the magazine from the 1950s to the 1990s, and were often on display in nuclear engineers’ offices. Upon noticing the degradation of the illustrations over time, one engineer named Ron Knief decided to pursue the digitization of all 105 diagrams published by the magazine. The resolution of these images is incredibly sharp, and you can get a closer, more detailed look at the illustrations by visiting UNM’s archive, where you’ll also find many more colorful and thoughtfully designed posters that shed light on and satisfy some curiosity about these controversial energy reservoirs. (via gizmodo)
Rose-Lynn Fisher - whose anatomical bee photographs we have previously featured - has recently completed a series of images she calls “The Topography of Tears” that represent a study of 100 types of tears photographed through a microscope. During a difficult time that yielded a copious amount of tears, Fisher began to wonder if her grief tears looked the same as onion tears when viewed under a microscope. Using her own and others’ tears, Fisher was able to create a varied landscape of tear structures, demonstrating the diversity to be found within tear types. Fisher’s images almost resemble aerial views, these tear structures fractally resonating with larger scale structures found in the world.
Fisher says, “Tears are the medium of our most primal language in moments as unrelenting as death, as basic as hunger, and as complex as a rite of passage. They are the evidence of our inner life overflowing its boundaries, spilling over into consciousness. Wordless and spontaneous, they release us to the possibility of realignment, reunion, catharsis: shedding tears, shedding old skin. It’s as though each one of our tears carries a microcosm of the collective human experience, like one drop of an ocean.” (via smithsonian mag)
Here at Beautiful/Decay, we don’t limit our features to art and design created by the human species. In large cities like Tokyo where there are few trees, birds may find it hard to come by nesting materials. Because of this lack, crafty crows have begun to use wire coat hangers to build their abodes, stealing them from nearby apartments. Crows’ nests are typically composed of interlocking twigs and some wire to create a sturdy structure for the birds’ eggs so it’s not hard to understand how hangers could be deemed appropriate materials by the crows. These wiry nests appear sculptural in their construction, their placements among tree branches marking a stark contrast between the natural and man-made. Crows are intelligent creatures and have been known to recognize human faces, bend wires into hooks in order reach food, crack open walnuts by dropping them from a height, and even memorize garbage truck schedules in order to track down food supplies. (via amusing planet)
Designer and illustrator Allen Crawford has just released a beautifully illustrated and hand-lettered book version of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” an iconic poem included in the collection, Leaves of Grass. Inspired by his friend Matt Kish who illustrated each page of Moby Dick, Crawford completed this project over the course of 1 year in his basement. Crawford didn’t plan his illustrations for the poem he calls “an expression of primal joy”; he improvised each one by letting Whitman’s own words speak through him to create a tangible, visceral, and immediate visual interpretation of Whitman’s classic poem in keeping with the author’s sensibility. From Philadelphia, where Whitman spent his last decades, Crawford is intimately familiar with the settings and places Whitman describes in his work – this connection partly fuels Crawford’s affinity for the author’s writing. Because of Leaves of Grass’ status as a sacred American text that is inspired by Biblical verse, Crawford feels that a transcription of “Song of Myself” through illustrations and hand-lettering is fitting.
In his book’s introduction, Crawford writes, “I try to treat the poem as almost a landscape, in the sense that I’m exploring this unknown territory and I’m taking field notes from the mind of Whitman. He treats ‘Song of Myself’ as this broad, epic sweeping poem where he’s trying to include everything about American life he’s experienced. So it is a kind of landscape, a kind of world. It is a kind of continent in itself. And as you’re travelling through it, you have different impressions, your style will change, the type will change, sometimes the type will take the fore and you’ll get a very pictorial sort of a interpretation, or a symbolic one. Sometimes the image doesn’t necessarily jive, and isn’t depicting something that’s actually in the poem. I’m trying to provide a parallel narrative to Whitman’s in visual form.”
Nearly 10 years ago, photographer Rachel Sussman began researching with biologists and traveling world to document forms of natural life that are at least 2,000 years old for her project titled “The Oldest Living Things in the World.” Part art, part science, Sussman’s project engages with the natural world in order to capture a brief moment in the organisms’ millenia-old lives; her photographs ask viewers to consider their own lives alongside these natural ones, some on the verge of extinction. Each of her photographs includes text below the image describing the subject, its location, and its age. In the preface to her project’s book, Sussman writes,
“What does it mean when the organic goes head-to-head with the geologic? We start talking about deep time and the quotidian in the same breath, along with all the strata in between. All of these organisms are living palimpsests: they contain myriad layers of their own histories within themselves, along with records of natural and human events; new chapters written over the old, year after year, millennium after millennium. When we look at them in the frame of deep time, a bigger picture emerges, and we start to see how all of the individuals have stories, and that all of those stories are in turn interconnected — and in turn, inextricably connected to us all.
The oldest living things in the world are a record and celebration of the past, a call to action in the present, and a barometer of our future.”
To fuel more intrigue, be sure to check out filmmaker Jonathan Minnard’s trailer for Sussman’s book as well as Sussman’s 2010 TED Talk about her project. (via brain pickings)
Mixed media artist Travis Bedel, also known as bedelgeuse, seamlessly blends vintage anatomical illustrations with botanical or other biological images to create stunning collages that range anywhere from 5 inches to 6 feet in size. Bedel often uses glue and a razorblade to excise printed vintage illustrations, combining them into beautiful and surreal new iterations. He’ll also scan his images and manipulate them digitally because this technique provides him with more opportunity to play around with sizing, cutting, and pasting the various elements in his collages.
Of his interest in human anatomy, Bedel says, “I find the body beautiful and mysterious. I am amazed and what people can do with their bodies and how if you take care of your own body, the rewards are much greater than imagined. I believe a lot of self-healing takes place mentally and physically when you eat clean and stay active.”
Born in Canada, raised in the Chinese tradition, and based in New York, interdisciplinary artist Sougwen Chung has created an interactive, animated font called Kinecdysis that you can experience first-hand here. Recommended for polymaths, poets, and prophets, Kinecdysis is inspired by “the motif of ecdysis (from Ancient Greek: ἐκδύω, ekduo, to take off, strip off).”
Chung’s statement explains, “At the epilogue of transformation, what remains? Ecdysis is the process of shedding or casting off the exoskeleton in invertebrate organisms. As a metaphor for writing, it is in equal parts an assemblage, homage and exorcism of the self in all its prior iterations. It is the verbal vestige that forms the story of our private ecdysis… within it, the narratives that contain the modicum of our memory.”
You can view the entire animated gif alphabet here.