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Brandon Ballengée, “RIP Great Auk: After John Gould” (1873/2014)

Artist Cuts Extinct Animals Out of Their Illustrations

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Brandon Ballengée, “RIP Great Auk: After John Gould” (1873/2014)

American artist Brandon Ballengée doubles as a biologist, and draws inspiration from his ecological field and laboratory research.

The scientific artist's "The Frameworks of Absence" pays tribute to the animals that have been erased off the earth by erasing them from acquired natural history lithographs. Ballengée cut the animals out of their illustrations and framed the empty outlines. The cut-out animals were then burned and placed in vials with labels that read "RIP."

The altered lithographs are currently on display at the Ronald Feldman Fine Arts booth in the Armory Show in New York City. They serve as a stark memorial for the animals that have ceased to exist. With their silhouettes on display, it's hard not feel their absence.

Ballengée explains on his website:

We are in the middle of a biodiversity crisis, often referred to as the Holocene or Sixth great extinction. Species are disappearing at upwards of a thousand times the natural rate. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of animals have disappeared from the Americas in recent centuries. Such extinctions started when the Europeans first colonized these new lands and have continued until today with recent losses like the Eastern cougar (2013), the Pinta Island Tortoise (2012), The Florida Fairy shrimp (2011) and many others.

The works currently on display are set up like a Victorian funeral. Each animal comes with an obituary that details the print's origin and how the animal went extinct. The walls are "Victorian" red to symbolize the destructive nature of man. “It’s this idea that was really born in the 19th century, that we could control nature,” he told Hyperallergic. “And as a result, we’re killing everything.” 

Also in the booth is a video of the cremation process. The vials—or urns—filled with the cremated animals come with the prints; buyers are encouraged to spread the ashes symbolically. 

"The Frameworks of Absence" is accompanied by The Book of the Dead, which comes in PDF form for download. 

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Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to Launch Mobile Interactive Art Museum
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Since not everyone in America has easy access to first-class culture, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts wants to bring it to them: As Smithsonian reports, the Richmond-based institution plans to launch an interactive mobile museum in fall 2018.

Called “VMFA on the Road,” the museum-on-wheels will visit rural schools, community centers, colleges, retirement homes, and small museums. At each stop, art lovers can enjoy lectures, distance learning opportunities, and rotating virtual reality tours of the museum's exhibitions.

The mobile museum is a modern offshoot of another VFMA initiative, the Artmobile, which was launched by the late architect and VMFA director Leslie Cheek Jr. From 1953 to 1994, the museum loaded tractor-trailers with works by artists like Monet, Rembrandt, and Picasso, and toured the state's remote areas to compensate for their lack of art institutions.

By the 1990s, the Artmobile program had swelled to include four high-tech Chevrolet tractor-trailers, each one laden with historic art treasures. Eventually, though, the VMFA discontinued its Artmobiles due to conservation and financial issues, including the challenges of protecting the artworks on the road.

As the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports, the VMFA's new traveling museum will be a specially designed, 53-foot Volvo tractor-trailer, paid for with corporate funds, foundation grants, and donations. It's been dubbed "Artmobile 2.0"—a fitting nickname for a high-tech take on a decades-old public service.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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Cephalopod Fossil Sketch in Australia Can Be Seen From Space

Australia is home to some of the most singular creatures alive today, but a new piece of outdoor art pays homage to an organism that last inhabited the continent 65 million years ago. As the Townsville Bulletin reports, an etching of a prehistoric ammonite has appeared in a barren field in Queensland.

Ammonites are the ancestors of the cephalopods that currently populate the world’s oceans. They had sharp beaks, dexterous tentacles, and spiraling shells that could grow more than 3 feet in diameter. The inland sea where the ammonites once thrived has since dried up, leaving only fossils as evidence of their existence. The newly plowed dirt mural acts as a larger-than-life reminder of the ancient animals.

To make a drawing big enough to be seen from space, mathematician David Kennedy plotted the image into a path consisting of more than 600 “way points.” Then, using a former World War II airfield as his canvas, the property’s owner Rob Ievers plowed the massive 1230-foot-by-820-foot artwork into the ground with his tractor.

The project was funded by Soil Science Australia, an organization that uses soil art to raise awareness of the importance of farming. The sketch doubles as a paleotourist attraction for the local area, which is home to Australia's "dinosaur trail" of museums and other fossil-related attractions. But to see the craftsmanship in all its glory, visitors will need to find a way to view it from above.

[h/t Townsville Bulletin]

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