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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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Design Month: Skull Chairs

Who knew skull chairs were a thing? Here is a small collection of our favorite chairs that resemble the most iconic part of the human anatomy. Pictured above is the Skull Chair from the Vanitas collection by Vladi Rapaport.

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Caterina Rossato’s 3D Layered Postcard Landscapes

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Caterina Rossato creates 3D layered landscapes out of old postcards. She seeks to evoke both the familiar and the alien, the specific and the general. “I create landscapes made through a collage of other landscapes, combining images in which the sense of recognition of reality slips from one level to another and it is never clearly identified,” Rossato says in an artist’s statement.

The series, named “Deja Vu” plays with the idea of recognition and the sensation of recognition. Rossato explains: 
 
“The déjà vu is a psychic phenomenon which is part of the forms of alteration of memories (paramnesie): it consists in the erroneous sensation of having seen an image or of having lived previously an event or a situation that is occurring. Although improperly, it is also called ‘false recognition.'”

It’s interesting that she chose to use postcards, which often enable us to live vicariously through friends and family who are traveling abroad. In a sense, we’ve heard about the locations and they are familiar to us in name and description; however, we often haven’t traveled to those distant lands, not enough to know them personally or to have seen them up close. In a way, Rossato’s work brings up the question of how we can truly know something — or know that we know something. (via I Need a Guide)

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Lisa Hoke Installations Using Discarded Household Items Critique And Celebrate Consumer Culture

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Using an assortment of discarded paper goods and household items, artist Lisa Hoke creates large-scale collage installations on walls. From afar, you might not realize what materials that she’s used, but upon closer inspection you’ll notice there are cardboard boxes, trading cards, cups, plates, cups, stickers, and more. The use of these items is Hoke’s way of commenting on the amount of refuse we produced and how we overlook the beauty of these objects. She’s right. If you think about all of the work that goes into designing and producing packaging, then it is a shame to discard it. Her color-coordinating, lusciously textured work gives these objects a second life and a chance for viewers to appreciate it beyond it’s primary function. Hoke even allows them to participate by donating items to be used in her work.

In an article in Arts Sarasota, Hoke says, “Castaway treasures become my tools for expression of beauty.” Her work unfolds organically, as she recognizes that you can’t completely plan for any installation.When she’s finished, the work is often a surprise to not only the viewers, but herself.

There is a both a visual delight and over stimulation that comes from looking at Hoke’s installations. This representation of our over-abundant consumer culture has a dizzying amount of bright colors, logos and patterns. They vibrate against each other, competing for our attention. Here, it seems the old adage “art imitates life” rings true. (Via Junk Culture)

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Lou Paquet’s Stunning Photographs Merge Lonely Human Bodies With Nature

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Photographer Orlane Lou Paquet’s most recent work includes a number of models in a variety of landscapes. She places her subjects, nude in mythical, dreamlike landscapes and, by doing so, she has created her own magical land. Her dreams as well as notions of vast nature and solitude inspire her work. Her subjects can be seen lying on beaches, rocks and in forests and give a off a sort of atmosphere of silence that can only be found in nature.

She uses cool colors in her photographs in a such a way that they give off an eerie yet comforting energy that explores deeper notions of solitude and the relationship we have with nature. By placing the human body in such settings, she plays with the intertwining of humanity and Mother Earth in such a way that reminds of our place in nature.

She plays with the idea that nature, like solitude can both surround and engulf us in both frightening and beautiful ways. In this, the grandeur of nature is paralleled with the waves of emotion we are sometimes subject to as human beings, Paquet depicts humans as a small part of the greater detail and the mythological energy that fills her photographs is reminiscent of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the ways that is closely studies the power of nature and gives it a magical influence on human life. She focuses on the vastness of human emotion and aligns this vastness with the role nature plays in our lives and, on a greater scale our existence.

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The Tiniest Landscapes Painted On Miniature Pieces Of Food

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For the Turkish artist Hasan Kale, the tiniest morsel of food inspires visions of sweeping landscapes. Using his finger as a palate, he adorns almonds, M&Ms, and the most translucent layers of an onion with astonishing renderings of his native Istanbul. Where most landscapes take up entire museum walls, commanding attention with their sheer immensity, Kale’s work does the opposite. In these miraculous works of macro painting, the infinite nature of the earth, sea, and sky collides with the impossibly minuscule, heightening the preciousness of the Turkish terrain.

Here, snack foods become as wondrous as great feats of nature and man. On thin slice of banana, a storm rages, its brushstrokes transforming the very texture of the fruit into that of a saturated canvas. On the inner flesh of an almond, he imagines the legendary baroque architecture of the Nusretiye Mosque. The iconic building becomes vertically stretched as in a romantic masterpiece, extending upwards to conform to the natural shape of the almond. On these tiny surfaces, the grandiosity of the city’s architecture is expressed through the vibrancy of color and the dreamy, sweeping whims of the artist’s brush.

Perhaps the most poignant aspect of Kale’s work is its impermanence. Unlike the great canvases entombed in museums, these paintings will decay, perish, or be lost. The banana will rot into mush; the fragile quail egg might crumble. A stunning mosque might accidentally be eaten. But in the meantime, these imagined landmarks exist for the sake of our wonderment. Take a look. (via Colossal)

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27 Miles Of Scotch Tape Used To Create A Labyrinth Of Tunnels In The Sky

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Numen, a European design collective, used 27 miles of scotch tape to create their most recent installation at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. We’ve posted about Numen’s jungle gym and flexible staircase before on Beautiful/Decay, and they’ve caught our eye once again! Viewers/participants are allowed to explore translucent tunnels that weave around columns and down staircases, mid air. The installation belongs to a group show called ‘Inside’ that “delves into the murky territory of both physical and psychological interiority, thematising immersion, introspection, and probing of the depths of self.”

Numen says their intention was to…

“transform the whole building into a convulsive mind/body organism whose slippery inner limits a motivated explorer has yet to trace and confront. The stretched biomorphic skin of Tape Paris is marking the entry point of the whole experience, being a literal incarnation of an inner-directed, regressive environment – the sense of descent into the primordial always lingering around its openings.”

…A lot to basically say that Numen has created an installation that seems like throughways for blood cells or passageways through time, and looks like it would be incredibly fun to crawl around in. It’s impressive in terms of engineering, imagination, and entertainment value, and it’s not hard to see how it relates to “interiority”, though I wouldn’t have put it in such convoluted terms. I might sound bitter about their project statement, but that’s probably because I can’t get myself to Paris to experience the real thing! (Via The Fox is Black)

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Rena Littleson’s My 2 Cents

Australian artist Rena Littleson’s “My 2 Cents” is a RENAFIED experience of the gambling world. A colorful and comical creation of paintings, installations, games, fashion, fun and fortune, inspired by the years that Rena worked as an artist for a poker machine company. Check out some of Rena’s earlier work here.

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