Archive for the ‘art’ Category

When I was in Seattle over Memorial Day weekend, I went to Tacoma for an afternoon of beer, wildlife viewing (seals and bald eagles! In an urban park!), and glass. I love Tacoma’s Museum of Glass. The first time I was there, quite a few years ago, there was a glass octopus!


This time, there was an exhibition called Kids Design Glass. The idea is that perfectly simple kind of genius: kids make a drawing on paper and glass artists render that into a sculpture. Between the drawings, titles, and artist statements by the kids, it was absolutely laugh-out-loud funny. Apart from just being funny, it was also incredibly imaginative, exuberant, occasionally touching and sad, and beautiful. If you have a chance to get to the museum before the exhibition closes, I really really recommend it.

There were several repeating motifs in the sculptures: dinosaurs figured in several sculptures, as did pickles (?), and mollusks! One of them is a pickle/mollusk combo. Here’s the sculpture:


Sorry it’s blurry, but this is the Pickle Buck, who lives on an island called Lava Squid and has “squids strapped so it can go.” Here’s the sculpture:


I love the multicolor glass on those squid.

The other one was the Octopussy. Keep your giggles to yourself; this is a family exhbition. Here’s the drawing:

Evil octopus! And the sculpture:


Hm, five tentacles? We’ll chalk that up to imagination!

There’s a flickr set of the making of one of the (non-mollusk related) pieces. Check it out!

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I love the art and poetry in the subway. The art seen on the subway trains basically always depicts the subway somehow, but usually in a more fantastical way. This one I’m rather fond of features a train of submarines using eels as the third rail. And of course there’s an octopus at the controls.

I was also at the Prospect Park Zoo recently (baby baboons are hilarious, take it from me), and I saw this octopus topiary, or octopiary as I’m now calling it. I’m hoping to check it out this summer and see if they fill it in. It’s frankly a little menacing as is, not to mention a bit of a nonsequitur considering you have to go to the Aquarium if you want to see an octopus.

Spring is certainly in the air here in Central Park, although it hasn’t really been warm. There are still some signs, though.

Trees have been greening.

Daffodils springing.

And rocks turtling.

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Life’s tough choices

I’m back from San Francisco, and there will be more about that when I gather it all together, but here’s a cute photo of some public invert-related art I saw while jogging on the Embarcadero.

Meanwhile, I repeat, life has tough choices. This entire weekend, for example, is the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, a competition in which I’ve been an enthusiastically mediocre contestant over the years. On Sunday, there is also a meeting of the New York Paleontological Society, during which there will be a lecture on early molluscan evolution. The talk is by Jakob Vinther, who also authored some of the very cool papers that came out recently about pigment in dinosaur feathers. He thinks there’s evidence that chitons body plans are actually quite derived, and not primitive as other research suggests. I certainly want to hear more about this.

Plus chitons are just so lovely. Here’s an incredible photo of a faceoff (if you could call it that) between a nudibranch and a chiton.

Limacia & Friend
(photo: ken-ichi)

I’m really going to try to go to both tournament and talk on Sunday. Wish me luck with timing and transit.

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So if you read boingboing, this week you saw the special feature on Everybody Loves Cephalopods, which includes a great video on cephalopod neurobiology and behavior. If you didn’t catch it, you can enjoy it now!

What follows:
1. Cephalopods are awesome.
2. My last post was on mollusks inspiring art.
3. This week I also came across this video of an octopus coming out of a beer bottle:

The culmination of all of this stuff? This print I just found by artist Sally Harless, whose internet home is sadlyharmless.

You can buy a print from her etsy store! I came across this because she has another print of a scarf being knit by two narwhals acting as the needles. She has yet another print of musk oxen, yet another of my favorite animals, so I might just need a tryptic of her work in my apartment…

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I recently watched two documentaries (available instantly on Netflix) that got me thinking. One was called A Man Named Pearl, about an extraordinary topiary artist named Pearl Fryar, who lives in Bishopville, SC. The other was a documentary about paper folding/origami called Between the Folds.

A Man Named Pearl was interesting mostly because his topiaries are stunning and he himself is quite the dude. I got a bit annoyed with the movie for the same reason I gave up on the Ken Burns National Parks series despite my intense love for the National Parks system– it was weighed down with unnecessary religiosity. That said, it’s still a movie worth watching, and not just for the topiaries, because it also has some interesting commentary on race and class in the South.

Between the Folds was just fascinating, hands down. I liked how the film profiles people with different approaches to paper folding, from craftspeople to technicians to anarchists. I suppose most artforms can accomodate all those types. What I also hadn’t really ever thought about is how origami is a transformative art– there’s no adding of media (as there is in, say, painting), nor is there subtracting of media (e.g. some kinds of sculpture). That kind of constraint is really intriguing to me. One of my other favorite artforms, glassblowing, is similar in that regard, though not as rigid since adding and subtracting does happen. Thinking back to Pearl’s topiary, he’s got this incredible task of subtracting, transforming (by training branches, etc) and anticipating the addition that happens naturally and ever so gradually.

Fiber arts, my media of choice, also has that quality of transformation. Where paper folding is taking something two dimensional and giving it a third dimension, knitting and related crafts take something essentially one dimensional and transform it into higher dimensions. Cool stuff. It’s no coincidence that I’m a math geek and a knitting/crocheting enthusiast.

So what does this have to do with mollusks? Well, part of why I love mollusks is that people are so inspired by them, including both topiary artists and paper folders. I’m sorely tempted to attempt a wee topiary of my own, like so:

But there are some great topiaries to be seen: check these out!

And origami! Just check out the underside of this octopus!

Octopus (hunting) take 5
(photo: josephwuorigami)

Mollusks lend themselves wonderfully to paper folding, especially shells and snails.

There’s a bonanza of clickage in this post. If you missed the origami squid attacking the old timey ship, I urge you to retrace your steps!

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Molluscan street art

I had a little hiatus there while I was doing some working and traveling, but I’m back! I’ve seen a couple of really interesting street art pieces lately. The first is a mural I walk by in the Barrio. All four buildings on one particular corner are painted in this trompe-l’œil mosaic style, that’s all very Día De Los Muertos-y. How multiligual was that sentence? Phew! Anyway, I love this snail.

Also, last weekend I found myself in Poughkeepsie, New York, on the Walkway over the Hudson, which is a very cool project not unlike the High Line here in the city, in which an unused elevated rail line is commandeered as public space. This trestle is really high over the Hudson, enough to give one the oolies. It was also a glorious fall day with beautiful foliage and all that good stuff. Very cool. Too bad my photos are junky. Here’s one from from lulun & kame that captures the height well.
Walkway Over the Hudson

The overflow parking area was next to this building with the most puzzling mural I’ve ever seen. A realistic octopus, a stylized and rather bovine octopus, and a submersible that looks like an anglerfish, all in the same underwater scene. What exactly were the artists going for here? In any case, I think it’s pretty awesome.

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A few great things going on this week. Some in the world of science, some in art.

1. In art, there are some great upcoming opportunities to see large artfully rendered mollusks. An octopus you can walk inside of at SFMoMA, and some large purple snails on a Causeway in Miami Beach.

2. I don’t know if this counts as art or not. Also, I’m admitting my shameful secret that I watch America’s Next Top Model (my best defense is that I watch it socially as a part of a longstanding weekly ritual involving takeout, TV, and beer). This week the models had to be underwater goddesses or some such, and a few of the photos in fact featured what I believe may be actual octopus tentacles.

3. Onto science. And something actually pretty gross. Swimmers in Alameda, CA (the island perhaps best known these days for being featured in many a Mythbusters episode as the site of their hijinks) are itchy, and it’s because of parasitic flatworms coming from an invasive species of snails. I’ve never swum in the San Francisco Bay, and this may just keep me from doing it.

4. In the battle of invasive species, the Asian carp threatening to invade the Great Lakes may be unsuccessful because the invasive quagga mussels already there. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

Am I the only one who reads “Asian carp” and thinks koi? What a pretty invasion this would be. I kid, I kid.

Koi Pond
(photo: Brian)

That, in turn, makes me think of the pond near my house. In the summer there are often kids there feeding the turtles– this pond is so full of turtles. When I was walking by one day I heard a kid say something about wanting to feed the goldfish. My heart sank a little as I thought of this poor kid who hadn’t learned the difference between a goldfish and a turtle. I looked in the pond and sure enough, there’s a big ol goldfish (maybe koi, didn’t get a good look) among the turtles. Faith in education: restored! I didn’t see any this summer, which makes me doubt they can last a winter in that pond, which is artificial and gets mostly drained in the winter.

5. Good news in science as well. Ten new species of snails discovered in Australia. Biodiversity!

6. This last one is both art and science. An interview with Dr. Pat Krug about a new species of nudibranch, and also a song about the solar powered nudibranch. Thanks to the folks at Deep Sea News for bringing this one to my attention.

To round out the week, a couple of photos from my most visited patch of nature, the Harlem Meer. It’s not mollusks, but it’s what I have for nature at the time being, and it is really fun to walk by this place twice a day and see what’s changing and what’s not.

I saw my favorite duck family today. There’s this feral domestic duck and what I assume are his/her offspring. They keep to themselves and don’t mingle much with all the other ducks.

Then there was this flower that’s been blooming for the past few days. It looked very curious to me, so I walked over to check it out.

Flower indeed. We’ve got a regular Andy Goldsworthy on our hands.

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Maybe I’m a tourist in my own city, but I always jump at the opportunity to bring visitors to certain places I love– the zoo, the Met, the Natural History Museum, etc. This weekend included both the Bronx Zoo and the Met. The zoo was fantastic– no mollusks, as usual, but excellent sightings of some of my favorite animals who tend to be unconscious when I’m there: the slow loris and the red panda. Super adorable.

Then there was the Met. I love visiting the roof exhibition at the Met in the summer, because there’s a great skyline view over the park, and it’s just a cool place for an installation. This year is Big Bambú. This was a really fun installation. The summer installation breathes some life and energy into the Met, which can get a little laden down in classics and antiquities for me, as much as I do love that stuff to. Big Bambú reminded me of the City Museum in St. Louis, one of the best and most fun museums I’ve ever been to, and no doubt the most dangerous.

It’s a big bamboo structure.
Lashed together.
bamboo path & ties
There are paths through it into the upper reaches.
Big Bambu
But it also has this wild, birdsnest-like look to it.
big bambu
(photos there are from asterix611, marc dalio, Garrett Ziegler, and Rob Zand, respectively)

Because I do keep my eye out for these things, I did spot some mollusks in the art at the Met. First, this is a detail of a piece by Dali, that has some little shells on some sort of blob. Surreal!

Here’s the whole painting, The Accommodations of Desire.

Then in the European Paintings wing, there was this still life with oysters by Willem Claesz Heda.

Speaking of opulent meals, that evening was dinner at wd-50. What a weird, interesting meal! I started off with a cocktail that tasted exactly like Juicy Fruit gum and it was all fun and surprising tastes and textures from there. I want to go back for the 5 course dessert tasting. We also got a tour of the kitchen and met the chef, so it was a special evening. No mollusks were consumed by anyone at my table. This octopus in the bathroom seemed pleased about that. Or maybe surprised.

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Ooh, I’ve been told I can hear the sounds of the sea by putting a seashell up to my ear. What could the ocean be telling me?


(If you’re not up on your internet memes, let me help you with that)

There was some lovely public art in San Diego, kinetic and colorful and interesting, but only this cheeseball piece had discernible mollusk content.

My mollusk exposure in San Diego was limited to the limpets at La Jolla Cove, as mentioned in my previous post. Next time I’m there, I might be more willing to plunk down the $70 to see what Sea World has to offer me. I did, however, get a chance to spend a full day at the San Diego Zoo. The only invertebrates I saw there were arthropods, including these utterly delightful dung beetles doing their dung beetle thing. I’m sorry to be clogging up my mollusk blog with so many vertebrates as of late, but the San Diego Zoo is a truly exceptional place and I do love all kinds of lifeforms, after all. I especially loved the new elephant exhibit, whose focus was on the extinction of North American megafauna about 10,000 years ago and what extant species are related to those extinct ones. A very cool idea I’ve never seen before in zoos, which usually seem to organize by geographic area, cladistics, or by climate, e.g. the Rainforest house.

I do love seeing animals from far flung branches on the tree of life– I was very fortunate to see tuatara “in the wild” in New Zealand (the wild was an urban wildlife preserve; that kind of counts, right?) At the San Diego Zoo, I met my first monotreme friend, this here echidna.

I made some other friends, too.





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Please watch this video:

MARCEL THE SHELL WITH SHOES ON from Dean Fleischer-Camp on Vimeo.

I can’t even decide what my favorite part is. Maybe the lint dog.

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