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8 People Who Owe Everything to a Breakup

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Nietzsche—and Kelly Clarkson—said it best: "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." These 8 people might not have amounted to much, if they hadn't had their hearts broken.

1. Ira Glass

There’s a great This American Life episode about breakups, but it doesn’t include host Ira Glass’s story. During the publicity tour for Mike Birbiglia’s Sleepwalk With Me, a film This American Life produced, Ira Glass told Nerve about two ex-girlfriends who shattered his heart—and self-confidence: “I just thought, ‘Wow, you’re smarter than me, and way funnier than me, and more interesting than me, and you have better values than I have.’ And in one case, she totally agreed with me... And I think that those are the relationships you just have to get out of. It was really only when the relationship ended that my work got better and I felt a sense of confidence.”

After those relationships ended, Glass continued to work on his “dumb little radio stories,” as he called them. This American Life debuted on WBEZ Chicago in 1995 and remains a hit.

But here’s a twist to the story: Glass wasn’t always a loving, supportive boyfriend. Cartoonist Lynda Barry told the story of their doomed relationship in her 2002 graphic memoir One! Hundred! Demons! The chapter’s called “Head Lice and My Worst Boyfriend.”

2. Olinka Vištica and Dražen Grubišić

When Olinka Vištica, a film producer, and Dražen Grubišić, a sculptor, broke up in 2003 after four years together, they had accumulated enough stuff to fill a museum. Three years later, they decided to actually make one. They asked friends to contribute their own failed relationship artifacts and curated an exhibit in their hometown of Zagreb, Croatia.

The exhibit eventually toured the world, collecting cast-off mementos, love letters, and forget-me-nots, along the way. In 2010, the Museum of Broken Relationships settled in a permanent spot in Zagreb’s Upper Town neighborhood. It was awarded the 2011 Kenneth Hudson Award for being the most innovative museum in Europe.

3. Jonathan Mann and Ivory King

During their five years of dating, Jonathan Mann and Ivory King enjoyed recording original songs on YouTube together. And they finally went viral when they announced they were breaking up … in a song. “We’ve Got To Break Up” shares the reason for the split with heartfelt lyrics, harmonica and clarinet accompaniment, and silly dance moves.

4. Nev Schulman

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What do you do when you find out your online girlfriend doesn’t really exist and you don't play football for Notre Dame?

You do what 25-year-old Nev Schulman did and make a documentary about it with your brother and his friend. The story goes that Schulman knew something was fishy about his online girlfriend Megan, whom he met on Facebook. But he had no idea how much work had gone into her deception ... until he met her in real life. Directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost filmed the lies as they unraveled and coined the term “catfish” to describe a person who perpetuates fake relationships online by posting false information.

Many critics say the film about an online hoax is a hoax itself. If that’s true, then Nev Schulman is catfishing us all the way to the bank. The 2010 film Catfish led to Catfish: The TV Show on MTV, which Schulman hosts and executive produces. Directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost moved on to 100 percent fictional horror films and directed Paranormal Activity 3 and 4. “Catfish” became part of the online lexicon. And Megan, who never was, continues to not exist.

5. Joni Mitchell

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When Kris Kristofferson first heard Joni Mitchell’s 1971 album Blue, he cried out, “Please! Leave something of yourself!” Mitchell was heartbroken after breaking up with long-term boyfriend Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills & Nash (the folk-rock group, not a law firm). And she sang all about it.

Blue was a critical and commercial success. In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked it #30 on its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, the highest position of any album by a woman ever. The album Déjà Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young also made the list—at the less impressive #148.

6. Edvard Munch

Expressionist Edvard Munch’s most famous work is a series of paintings and pastels called "The Scream." And surprise, it may have been inspired by a breakup! In a 1892 diary entry, Munch wrote, “One evening I was walking along a path, the city was on one side and the fjord below. I felt tired and ill. I stopped and looked out over the fjord—the sun was setting, and the clouds turning blood red. I sensed a scream passing through nature...” What else was happening at the time? A tortured, two-year affair with his cousin’s wife.

Munch struggled with alcoholism, and love was another powerful addiction. His on-again, off-again mistress Tulla Larsen inspired later works, including "The Dance of Life." That affair ended when Larsen shot off one of Munch’s fingers with a revolver during an argument. The artist was still able to paint, but he never forgave the woman who did him wrong. She later married one of Munch’s colleagues. Awkwaaaard.

7 & 8. Adele … and Amy Winehouse ... and so many more

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Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills & Nash said, “There are three things men can do with women: Love them, suffer for them, or turn them into literature.”

If you want to be a successful contemporary female musician, you should try all three. Singing about heartbreak is nothing new, but breakup music has been the soundtrack of the aughts. Last year, Adele won six Grammys, including Record of the Year, for an album of songs inspired by her ex-boyfriend.

But she might never have set fire to the rain—or the U.S.—without Amy Winehouse's 2007 album Back to Black. Winehouse culled material from failed relationships to write songs that made people want to cry … and dance. A new wave of soulful British torch singers was born.

Whether you prefer the gritty “Back to Black” or the tearjerker “Someone Like You,” both singers have earned a permanent spot on breakup playlists, along with so many more. Who wrote your favorite breakup song?

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© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
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Animals
Boston's Museum of Fine Arts Hires Puppy to Sniff Out Art-Munching Bugs
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Some dogs are qualified to work at hospitals, fire departments, and airports, but one place you don’t normally see a pooch is in the halls of a fine art museum. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is changing that: As The Boston Globe reports, a young Weimaraner named Riley is the institution’s newest volunteer.

Even without a background in art restoration, Riley will be essential in maintaining the quality of the museum's masterpieces. His job is to sniff out the wood- and canvas-munching pests lurking in the museum’s collection. During the next few months, Riley will be trained to identify the scents of bugs that pose the biggest threat to the museum’s paintings and other artifacts. (Moths, termites, and beetles are some of the worst offenders.)

Some infestations can be spotted with the naked eye, but when that's impossible, the museum staff will rely on Riley to draw attention to the problem after inspecting an object. From there, staff members can examine the piece more closely and pinpoint the source before it spreads.

Riley is just one additional resource for the MFA’s existing pest control program. As far as the museum knows, it's rare for institutions facing similar problems to hire canine help. If the experiment is successful, bug-sniffing dogs may become a common sight in art museums around the world.

[h/t The Boston Globe]

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Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.
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History
Mütter Museum Showcases the Victorian Custom of Making Crafts From Human Hair
Palette work from the collection of John Whitenight and Frederick LaValley
Palette work from the collection of John Whitenight and Frederick LaValley
Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.

During the Victorian era, hair wasn’t simply for heads. People wove clipped locks into elaborate accessories, encased them in frames and lockets, and used them to make wreaths, paintings, and other items. "Woven Strands," a new exhibition at Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum, explores this historical practice by featuring dozens of intricate works culled from five private collections.

According to Emily Snedden Yates, special projects manager at the Mütter Museum, hair work—as it’s called today—was common in England and America between the 17th and early 20th centuries. The popularity of the practice peaked in the 19th century, thanks in part to Queen Victoria’s prolonged public mourning after her husband Prince Albert’s death in 1861. People in both the UK and U.S. responded to her grief, with the latter country also facing staggering death tolls from the Civil War.

With loss of life at the forefront of public consciousness, elaborate mourning customs developed in both nations, and hair work became part of the culture of bereavement. "[The 19th century was] such a sentimental age, and hair is about sentiment," exhibition co-curator Evan Michelson tells Mental Floss. That sentimental quality made hair work fit for both mourning practices as well as for romantic or familiar displays of fondness.

Palette work culled from the collection of Evan Michelson and featured in the Mütter Museum's "Woven Strands" exhibition.
Palette work from the collection of Evan Michelson
Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.

Most hair artworks were made by women, and created solely for the domestic sphere or as wearable trinkets. Women relied on multiple techniques to create these objects, fashioning wreaths with hair-wrapped bendable wires—a process called gimp work—and dissolving ground hair into pigments used to paint images of weeping willows, urns, and grave sites. Watch fobs, necklaces, and bracelets were woven using an approach called table work, which involved anchoring hair filaments with lead weights onto a table and using tools to twist them into intricate patterns through a hole in the furniture’s surface. Yet another technique, palette work, involved stenciled sheets of hair that were cut into various shapes and patterns.

Hair work remained popular until World War I, according to Michelson, who co-owns New York City's quirky Obscura Antiques and Oddities shop and organized "Woven Strands" along with 19th century decorative arts expert John Whitenight.

“Women hit the workforce, and death occurred on such a huge scale that it really swept away the old way of mourning and the old way of doing things,” Michelson says. By the early 20th century, tastes and aesthetics had also changed, with hair work beginning to be viewed “as something grandma had,” she explains.

The Mütter’s exhibition aside, people typically won’t see hair work in major museums. Being a craft primarily performed by women at home, hair works were usually passed down in families and often viewed as worthless from a financial and artistic perspective.

“A lot of hair work was discarded,” Michelson says. Many owners repurposed the shadowbox frames often used to display hair work by removing and tossing the artworks within. Works stored in basements and attics also frequently succumbed to water damage and insects. Antique dealers today typically only see hair jewelry, which often featured semi-precious materials or was encased in a protective layer.

Sepia dissolved hair culled from the collection of Jennifer Berman and featured in the Mütter Museum's "Woven Strands" exhibition.
Sepia dissolved hair from the collection of Jennifer Berman
Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.

Yet examples of hair wreaths, palette work, and other delicate heirlooms do occasionally surface. They’re prized by a small group of avid collectors, even though other connoisseurs can be grossed out by them.

“People have this visceral reaction to it,” Michelson says. “They either gasp and adore it—like ‘I can’t get over how amazing it is’—or they just back away. There are very few other things where people are repulsed like this … In the 19th century no one batted an eyelash.”

“It’s a personal textile,” Snedden Yates explains. “It’s kind of like bone in that it doesn’t really decompose at the same rate as the rest of our bodies do. It’s not made of tissue, so if you keep it in the right environment it can be maintained indefinitely.”

Table work culled from the collection of Eden Daniels and featured in the Mütter Museum's "Woven Strands" exhibition.
Table work from the collection of Eden Daniels
Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.

“Woven Strands” features examples of gimp work, palette work, table work, and dissolved hair work. It’s often hard to trace these types of artworks back to their original creators—they typically don’t bear signatures—but the curators “really wanted to find hair that you could connect to an actual human being,” Michelson says. “We chose pieces that have provenance. We know where they came from or when it was made, or who actually donated the hair in some cases, or what the family name was. We also picked out things that are unusual, that you don’t see often—oddities, if you will.”

Woven hair culled from the collection of Jennifer Berman and featured in the Mütter Museum's "Woven Strands" exhibition.
Woven hair from the collection of Jennifer Berman
Image courtesy of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Mütter Museum. Photography by Evi Numen 2017.

Displayed in the Mütter Museum’s Thomson Gallery, “Woven Strands” opens on January 19, 2018, and runs through July 12, 2018. On April 7, 2018, master jeweler and art historian Karen Bachmann will lead a 19th century hair art workshop, followed by a day-long historical symposium on the art on Sunday, April 8.

Michelson hopes that “Woven Strands” will teach future generations about hair art, and open their minds to a craft they might have otherwise dismissed as parochial or, well, weird. “We hope that people see it and fall in love with it,” she says.

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