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Prison Art: The Story Of An Incredibly Detailed Monkey Bar Diorama Made From Scraps And Gifted To Henry Ford

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Henry Ford’s Digital Collections Initiatives Manager Ellice Engdahl recently wrote about one of his favorite artifacts of the 18,000 published online: The Monkey Bar diorama. This diorama was created by a man known as Patrick J. Culhane (various spellings) in 1914-15 during his time at the Massachusetts State Prison at Charlestown where he’d been sent after a conviction of “larceny from a conveyance.” Culhane carved and assembled this incredibly detailed piece of prison art by hand from a variety of materials, including peach pits, and scraps of wood, fabric, metal, cellulose, and plastic, all fitting into a base measuring only 16″ x 20″.

Engdahl notes that Monkey Bars were created by other prisoners in the early 20th century, and that “Culhane intended the diorama to depict many of the worldly pitfalls that had put him and his fellow inmates on a path to prison. The Bar is chock full of monkeys engaged in all kinds of rambunctious activities—drinking alcohol, gluttonous eating, smoking (cigarettes, cigars, and opium), gambling and gaming in many forms (craps, roulette, checkers, shell game, and cards), playing music, monitoring the stock market via a ticker, and even paying off a policemonkey. Clearly some of the monkeys are ready to check into (or out of) the associated hotel, as they have their suitcases with them and keys and mail are visible behind the desk.”

After Culhane finished his piece, he arranged to have it sent to Henry Ford, with a hand-written note, “Presented to Mr. Henry Ford / As a token of appreciation and esteem for his many benevolent and magnanimous acts toward, and keen interest in, prisoners / By A Prisoner.”

Engdahl surmises that Ford became interested in Culhane, and may have a hand in his release from prison, as Culhane was hired to work at the Ford Motor Company in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1916 and Ford’s secretary corresponded with Culhane regularly.

All photos courtesy of The Henry Ford. (via Slate)

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Jim Lambie Interview

As a musician myself I am always fascinated by the intersection between visual art and music. Jim Lambie is a musician who played in the Glasgow band Teenage Fanclub, and was also shortlisted for the Turner prize. His colorful installations often reappropriate pop cultural items in fresh ways. In this video he discusses his installation “Zobop,” which used vinyl tape on the floorspace of the Tate, to reveal the idiosyncrasies in the architecture in a dazzling floor display. Check out the Bay City Rollers album in his studio!

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Tattoo Artist Transforms Scars Of Domestic Violence And Mastectomies Into Empowering Works Of Art

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Flavia Carvalho is a Brazilian tattoo artist who provides voluntary service for women left with scars from domestic violence and mastectomies. The project’s name is A Pele da Flor (The Skin of the Flower), deriving from the Portuguese expression “A flor da pele” (deeper than skin). In support of the healing and empowerment of women, Carvalho’s scar tattoos are entirely free—all the client needs to do is to choose a design. Her goal is to help women feel better about their bodies and selves by reclaiming their scars as marks of transformation and strength.

Everything began two years ago, when Carvalho worked with a client who had been stabbed in a nightclub by a man she turned down. Over her abdominal scars, Carvalho tattooed blooming flowers and a bird—symbols of beauty, sensitivity, and growth. After seeing how deeply touched the client was with her tattoo, Carvalho decided to bring her services to more women. Since then, her project has received deservedly positive reception on social media, raising important issues related to domestic violence, the battle with cancer, and body image.

In an interview with Huffington Post, Carvalho speaks about the emotional impact of her project—turning feelings of shame into self-love—and the deeply rewarding connections she creates with her clients:

“The feedback I have gotten from women who were helped by this project has been extremely surprising. The sense of affection, sisterhood and camaraderie is deeper than I ever imagined. They contact me from all over the country, as well as from abroad. They come to the studio, share their stories of pain and resilience, and they show me their scars. Embarrassed, they cry, and hug me. Then we design the tattoo and we schedule the session. They become excited, optimistic. It is wonderful to see how their relationship with their bodies changes after they get the tattoos.” (Source)

Visit Carvalho’s Facebook and stay up to date with her inspiring project. (Via Bored Panda)

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Video Watch: JR re-caps the TED-sponsored Inside Out Project

Watch a TEDTalk entitled “One Year of Turning the World Inside Out”,  in which Prolific French photographer/street artist JR, who made our  Top Ten Public Works of 2011 post, details a year’s worth of results from his TED-sponsored Inside Out Project. The Project enables large-scale printing and shipping of  photographs from participants all over the world. The prints are then applied toward public art projects of social, cultural, and aesthetic importance.

Make sure to visit the Project’s website, where you can find extensive coverage of the work so far, and info for those who’d like to get involved. Video after the jump.

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Carl Kleiner

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Stockholm based Carl Kleiner, is a wonderfully talented still-life photographer. I love his work on the manequins and fruit assemblage. Endearingly quirky, and cute. Make sure to check out his photographic diary! Not only will you find an extension of his style (and more,) but a wonderful example of his take on every day life.

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RANDALL ROSENTHAL’s Solid Wood

Nope this isn’t all the subscription money i’ve been stuffing in my mattress for the last ten years. Rather it’s a trompe l’oeil sculpture by Randall Rosenthal. Each sculpture is hand carved from a single block of wood and then painstakingly painted for months. See more of Randall’s amazingly realistic wood sculptures after the jump.

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Caitlin Ducey Makes Beautiful And Obsessive Art With Drinking Straws

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Caitlin Ducey - sculpture

Portland, Oregon based artist Caitlin Ducey uses plastic drinking straws as the focus of her sculptures.  In her exploration of material, process and pattern, Ducey appreciates the simplicity and accessibility of the straw.  She notes that it is such a mundane, everyday, disposable item.  For her the idea that it is so commonplace is part of the appeal.   The act of devoting so much time and attention to something as simple as a straw becomes part of her process.

To create her pieces Ducey carefully stacks each straw usually using no glue or adhesive.  Her method is obsessive and detail oriented.  It also gives the sculptures a fragility that makes them all the more alluring.  As a viewer passes by her works she will experience a kind of tunnel vision, only able to see through the straws immediately in her path.  It is this feature that gives the sculptures the life-like quality that I found most captivating.  Ducey manages to transform an ordinary plastic object into an entrancing sculpture with a remarkable organic quality.

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World’s First 3D Printed Room

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The fascinating possibilities of 3D printing are getting bigger, particularly with the unveiling of one of the most ambitious printed projects yet, the Baroque-by-way-of-Bitmapped sculpture titled Digital Grotesque. Conceived by architects Michael Hansmeyer and Benjamin Dillenburger, the duo claim their project is the world’s first 3D printed room. Computer algorithms designed most of the structure’s 260 million surfaces, which were printed in sections using a composite sand and binding agent to create a sandstone-like material. When each 4 meter tall, 1 meter wide and 3 meter deep sections were manually placed, the enclosure measures 16 feet and weighs a staggering 11 tons.

According to their website, the architects believe that “New materials and fabrication methods have historically led to radical changes in architectural design. They have indeed been the primary drivers in its evolution. Today, additive manufacturing heralds a revolution in fabrication for design. Yet in architecture, this technology has up to now been used only for small scale models. Digital Grotesque takes additive manufacturing technology to a true architectural scale. Not a small model is printed, but the actual room itself.”

Perhaps most compelling from an art perspective (or at least an art-historical perspective) is the logical conclusion the duo’s project makes. “The Digital Grotesque project opens the door to the printing of architecture. It suggests that 3D sandstone printing can be applied both to restoring historic buildings and to constructing new ones.” One can only imagine the possibilities that this technology will yield for museum research, archaeological recreation, and art exhibitions in the coming decades. (via oddly_even)

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