The Artist Who Paints With Dead Fish

iStock.com/Jasmina007
iStock.com/Jasmina007

Heather Fortner’s Sea Fern Nature Printing Studio in Toledo, Oregon contains the usual artist's implements—brushes, paper, and ink—as well as a less conventional tool of her trade: whole raw fish. The scaly specimens aren’t intended for eating, but for printing. Fortner specializes in a particular style of traditional Japanese art called gyotaku, literally translated as “fish rubbings.” A direct application of the 19th century technique involves coating one side of a dead fish with pigment and taking a mirrored impression on a thin sheet of rice paper, whereas the indirect method dictates that ink should instead be applied to a paper pressed against the fish’s side–more like the way leaf and gravestone rubbings can replicate an image without altering the object itself. Messy as it sounds, the direct method is Fortner’s preferred means of practicing gyotaku.

Fortner encountered her first fish rubbing as a student at the University of Hawai’i on the island of Lana’i, where she was surrounded by the sea and channeled her fascination with marine life into a degree in Natural Sciences. After graduating in 1978, Fortner spent three decades on the water as a commercial fisherman, a deckhand, and an officer in the U.S. Merchant Marine. During her travels, Fortner took the opportunity to study with Japanese gyotaku masters in their studios, as well as to gather odd fish from around the globe.

Despite gyotaku’s contemporary reputation as an art form, it arose from a more pragmatic practice. When Japanese fishermen needed to prove their skill out on the sea before the invention of cameras and the classic “It was THIS big!” pose, they turned to fish rubbings. The direct relationship between the fish’s physical size and its image on the page was considered so reliable in mid-1800s Japan that the resulting prints were often treated as legitimate evidence of a fisherman’s prowess, and occasionally used to judge winners in fishing contests.

Though it seems odd that a fisherman would immediately coat their most prized fish in ink to prove its existence, the Japanese fishermen who documented their most impressive catches of the day using gyotaku didn’t necessarily have to choose between paper and plate. To avoid waste, the fishermen would wash the bodies completely free of ink after printing, then consume them as usual. Fortner employs the same no-waste philosophy, though she keeps art and appetite separate; she now primarily sources fish for gyotaku from the dead specimens that wash up on shore and makes sure to put them to use in multiple works before burying the bodies in her garden as fertilizer.

Fortner employs a variety of nature printing styles in addition to gyotaku. After taking the fish’s imprint, she must paint in the details, particularly the eyes. She may also add in true-to-life detail from rubbings of ferns or various seaweeds—the better to simulate a marine habitat. She applies the final touches in watercolor.

[h/t My Modern Met]

Art

Artist Turns 5000 Marshmallow Peeps Into a Game of Thrones Dragon

PEEPS® and Vivian Davis
PEEPS® and Vivian Davis

Game of Thrones returns to HBO for its eighth and final season on Sunday, April 14. Instead of worrying about which of Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons (if any) will survive to see the end of the series, distract yourself with some playful Peeps art inspired by the creatures.

In 2018, artist Vivian Davis (who's on Instagram as @tutoringart) constructed a Game of Thrones-themed dragon sculpture out of 5000 marshmallow Peeps as part of PEEPshow, an annual Peeps-themed event in Westminster, Maryland. The dragon has her wings outstretched, with a nest of colorful eggs in front of her. It's not quite life-sized, but it is massive—the candy model measures 8.5 feet tall, with a 7-foot wingspan. For comparison, Gwendoline Christie, who plays Brienne of Tarth, is 6 feet, 3 inches (or 75 Peeps chicks) tall.

A 'Game of Thrones' dragon made of PEEPS chicks with its wings spread
PEEPS® and Vivian Davis

Easter falls on Sunday, April 21 this year (also the premiere date of Game of Thrones season 8, episode 2) which means that Peeps season is in full swing. For more delicious Peeps content, check out these facts about the cute candy.

Airbnb Is Turning the Louvre’s Pyramid Into a Hotel for One Lucky Winner

Julian Abrams, Airbnb
Julian Abrams, Airbnb

As the world’s most visited museum, the Louvre in Paris tends to get pretty crowded, especially in the area surrounding the Mona Lisa painting—which, spoiler alert, is tiny.

However, one lucky winner and a guest will get the chance to inspect Mona Lisa’s smile up close and personal, without the crowds, while spending a night inside the museum’s famous Pyramid. As AFAR magazine reports, the sweepstakes is sponsored by Airbnb, which has previously arranged overnight stays in Denmark’s LEGO House and Dracula’s castle in Transylvania. (Accommodation on the Great Wall of China was also arranged last year, but was canceled at the request of local authorities.)

Upon checking into the Louvre, guests will receive a personalized tour of the museum led by an art historian. After getting their fill of art, they will enjoy drinks in a lounge area set up in front of the Mona Lisa, all while French music plays on vinyl. They’ll have dinner with Venus de Milo in a temporary dining room, followed by an acoustic concert in Napoleon III’s apartments.

“At the end of this very special evening, the winners will retire to their bedroom under the Pyramid for what promises to be a masterpiece of a sleepover,” Airbnb said in a statement. (They also guarantee that guests won’t be seen through the building's windows, so if privacy is a concern, rest assured.)

The Louvre sleepover will take place on April 30, but the winner will also receive complimentary stays at other Airbnb locations in Paris on April 29 and May 1. Round-trip airfare will be provided, as will all meals and ground transfers in France. To enter, all you have to do is answer one question: “Why would you be the Mona Lisa’s perfect guest?”

Check out more photos of the experience below, and visit Airbnb’s website to enter the contest.

A lounge area by the Mona Lisa
Julian Abrams, Airbnb

Napoleon III’s chambers
Julian Abrams, Airbnb

A dining area next to Venus de Milo
Julian Abrams, Airbnb

[h/t AFAR]

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