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Walter Potter’s Curious Victorian Taxidermy

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In 1850, Walter Potter was 15 years old when he first began experimenting with taxidermy. By the age of 19, Potter had already created his best-known taxidermy tableaux, “The Death and Burial of Cock Robin” which was displayed, along with his other work, at a pub his family owned in Bramber, West Sussex. Potter’s taxidermy dioramas feature anthropomorphized animals acting out Victorian life scenes. During the Victorian era, taxidermy was a popular practice, and in 1880, a dedicated museum building was opened because the tableaux at the pub had created quite a scene. Over time, the interest in taxidermy declined, and the museum was moved before closing down.

Though Potter’s dioramas could be considered morbid, especially by modern standards, there’s something Beatrix Potteresque (no relation) about his work, mostly in its strange and whimsical Victorianism. “Kittens’ Wedding” was Potter’s last tableaux before his death in 1890; this piece was auctioned at Bonham’s (along with most of the collection) in 2003 for £21,150 (around $35,500). Among those present at the auction were artists Peter Blake, David Bailey, and Damien Hirst, who reportedly bid £1 million (almost $1.7) for Potter’s entire collection, but it was rejected by the auctioneers. This caused the owners of the collection to sue Bonham’s because they believed such an offer should have been immediately accepted in order to keep the collection in tact. In 2007, Hirst told The Guardian that “Kittens’ Wedding” was one of his favorites of Potter’s work: “All these kittens dressed up in costumes, even wearing jewellery. The kittens don’t look much like kittens, but that’s not the point.”

The Telegraph notes, “To a modern eye […]these ‘freaks of nature’ appear eerily macabre. Indeed, some Victorian viewers were outraged by the grotesquery and criticised Potter for abuse of animals, despite a museum disclaimer stating that no animals had been deliberately killed for the collection.”  But then they later explain that not all of Potter’s tableaux were sourced ethically. Before neutering was commonplace, freely roaming farm kittens would often be killed off. Potter had an agreement with a local farmer who provided the kittens; this would explain the high number of participants in his tableaux.

The accompanying images are sourced from Dr. Pat Morris and Joanna Ebenstein’s book about Potter and his work, “Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy,” released earlier this year. Ebenstein says that she’s interested in “the context that creates these things, and why certain things come to be seen as bizarre to us, when obviously they weren’t at the time.” (via telegraph)

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Norman Mooney’s Explosive Burst Sculptures

NYC based artist Norman Mooney makes works that are at once physical and metaphysical. His works explore the elemental and cyclical synergies of nature. Materiality, pattern, scale and experience are key concerns within his practice. Although he works in a wide array of materials his massive burst sculptures are completely jaw dropping. Radiating from every angle these incredible explosions shimmer and shine like a star far off in the galaxy. (via)

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Samuel Fosso

Samuel Fosso

Samuel Fosso is one of the most renowned and prodigious young African photographers. His fantastical portraits of different types of people – from African Chiefs to American women – are revealed, upon closer inspection, to be self-portraits. A witty and ironic exploration of self-identity, Fosso’s work has been shown in major global venues such as the Photographers’ Gallery in London and the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

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Jonty Hurwitz’s Sculptures Are So Small They Can’t Be Seen By The Human Eye

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Size matters. Anamophic artist Jonty Hurwitz’s new sculpture series recreates the smallest human form ever at 20x80x100 microns, or roughly the scale of a human sperm. According to Hurwitz’s website, the size of these sculptures approximately equals the amount your fingernails grow every 5 or 6 hours. These tiny art works are too small to be seen by the naked eye!

We’ve previously covered Hurwitz’s warped sculptures on beautiful/decay, which also used physics to challenge human perception. These new nano sculptures, “Trust”, “Cupid and Psyche: The First Kiss”, and “Intensity”, explore the idea of science vs. legend, myth vs. reality. Created with a ground-breaking 3D printing technology, the work is ultimately created using two photon absorption—art made with Quantum Physics.

“As technology starts to evolve faster than our human perception is able to handle, the line between science and myth becomes blurred.

We live in an era where the impossible has finally come to pass. We have, in our own little way we have become demigods of creation in our physical world…. The nano works that I present to you here represent more that just a feat of science though. They represent the moment in history that we ourselves are able to create a full human form at the same scale as the sperm that creates us in order to facilitate the creation.”

Despite their microscopic size, these are detailed sculptures, with individual feathers in Cupid’s wings and tiny fingers, belly-buttons, and ears. It’s almost impossible to imagine that these realistic, emotive human figures are much smaller than an ant’s eye.

“The absolute fact is this: the human eye is unable to see these sculptures. In your hand all you see is a small mirror with … nothing on it. The only way to perceive these works is on the screen of powerful scanning electron microscope. Can you be sure of its existence if your basic senses are telling you that nothing is there?”

These sculptures were created in collaboration with The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the Weitzmann Institute of Science and involved over 10 people as a working team over several months.

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Holly Stewart, Kansas City Grandmother, Loves Crafting Penises

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Kansas City grandmother Holly Stewart is arousing lots of love and laughs over her current art show at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, featuring intricately crafted penises. Some beaded, some quilted, they range in size and shape, as do those which they are modeled after. Using Kickstarter to fund this show, which is titled “Local Grandmother Quilts Giant Penises,” she has had no trouble drawing in a crowd. Her impetus to create these sorts of pieces came from a past job working in a sex toy factory, where Stewart de-molded dildos. As a painter, she was exploring penis themes when one day she randomly had an impulse to put pins into some foam core in a certain assortment, which her professor told her “looked like a dildo.” And thus craft penis-ing was born.

“Local Grandmother Quilts Giant Penises,” is up now until September 19th at the UMKC Gallery of Art. One reporter spoke very highly of the show, saying:

“Now that the exhibition is up and running, we can officially report that the massive, quilted man parts are more wondrous than we ever imagined. The works are as feminist as they are hilarious, as affirmative as they are transgressive. Sparkly, colorful, big and small, hard and soft, the penises on display truly capture the manifold possibilities of a phallic shape when separated from the shackling confines of human flesh.” (Source)

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Lila Jang’s Warped And Bloated 18th-Century Furniture

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South Korean artist Lila Jang is a sculptor who creates distorted effigies of traditional 18th-century French furniture. From bloated footstools to levitating wall lamps, Jang’s anthropomorphic furniture subverts upper-class affectations into warped Lewis Carroll-inspired imagery, evoking wonder and bewilderment in equal measure at the surreal shapes her furniture take on. Jang received her BFA in Sculpture from Honik University in her hometown of Seoul before moving to Paris to attend École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts for her MFA, and has since gained international acclaim through group shows and art fairs around the globe. According to Jang, her work is a representation of the current state of humanity, stuck “in the midpoint of that constant struggle between reality and the ideal.”

Jang drew inspiration for the series of fantasy furniture from the limitations she found within her cramped apartment in Paris, where tables and chairs only seemed to fit if they were bent out of shape first. The surreality behind the work is also inspired by Jang’s desire to break away from a quotidian routine, turning familiar, unremarkable furnishings into exceptional works of art. Although the pieces are gestural and whimsical in design, the true achievement of the work lies in its retention of the practical applications of the furniture. Even with the canapé climbing the wall, don’t you still want to curl up in it with a book? It’s all the same with Jang’s less functional pieces, such as the warped dining chairs: one can easily picture her pieces fitting right in at any number of houses built by contemporary architects. Jang’s most recent solo exhibition took place at the Centre Culturel de Coreen in Paris where she now lives, presumably in a larger apartment filled with her collection of fantastically anthropomorphic fittings.

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Video Watch: Jo Hamilton’s Animated Crochet Portraits


 

You may remember our popular post last year about the gorgeous crochet portraits of Jo Hamilton. Well the artist decided to document the process of creation via stop motion animation. Watch as an abstract tangle of yarn gets transformed into a portrait through the power of 300 photographs and a lot of patience!

“This is a stop motion video I made to document my process of crocheting one of my larger than life portraits in yarn from start to finish. In my work I use a traditional basic crochet technique taught to me at an early age by my Gran. I work one knot at a time, from the inside out, row by row. In making the crochet portraits I always begin in the middle with the eyes and work out from there until the piece is completed. I work directly from photographs, using no sketches, graphs or computer imaging. Each piece is handmade, labor-intensive, instinctively composed. Nothing is planned ahead; I make it up as I go along. I spend a lot of time simply looking, unraveling, and reworking until I get it right. To make this video I photographed the work after each new yarn color or two was added, and edited the photos into a sequence. This 30 second sequence contains over 300 photos of the work in progress. The portrait is of my dear friend Arthur Cheesman, who is sadly no longer with us.”

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Emily Stoneking Hand-Knits Dissected Frogs To Cuddle With

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If you ever dissected a rodent or amphibian in science class and found it nauseating, then Emily Stoneking’s knitted anatomy might agree with you. Art and science intersect through her Etsy shop called aKNITomy, and she hand-knits artwork featuring dissected frogs, rats, and pigs. The cute and cuddly are pinned (not glued) using T-pins and framed for display on your wall.

Stoneking knits the body of the animal/figure using a kid mohair and silk blend, and then she needle-felts the innards by hand. These adorable creations are the result of the artist’s larger interest, which is using cozy, crafty materials to create objects that usually make people squeamish.

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