Stacy Conradt
Stacy Conradt

History In The Making: Why the Crazy Horse Monument Is Taking So Long

Stacy Conradt
Stacy Conradt

Mount Rushmore may be one of South Dakota’s biggest draws, but there’s a sculpture just down the road that will eventually stand taller than the four colossal presidents.

With an estimated completion height of 563 feet, the memorial honoring Lakota leader Crazy Horse is on track to be one of the largest sculptures in the world. Someday. While the first blast occurred on June 3, 1948, the only identifiable thing that has emerged from the mountainside since then is a face.

Using dynamite to blast tons of pink granite is a tedious process, of course—one that has been slowed even more by Mother Nature. Crews working on the memorial have discovered seams and cracks in the underlying rock that have forced them to veer away from the original plan devised by sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski.

Another element that’s slowing the process is funding. Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum battled with federal officials over control and funds. Congress cut off funds in 1941 due to the war. Borglum died a week later, and some combination of the two events meant that the presidents’ bodies were never finished. Ziolkowski, already wary of government promises, watched the whole thing play out and vowed that his creation would be made without a penny of federal funding. Ziolkowski died in 1982, and decades later, his descendants have stayed true to that wish, using only admission fees and private donations to fund the project.

Even without the extensive delays, the project itself is not without controversy. Some Native Americans believe that the sculpture shouldn’t even exist, that defacing a mountain would go against everything Crazy Horse stood for. There’s also no authenticated photographic evidence of Crazy Horse, so some have issues with the accuracy of the depiction.

The Ziolkowski family is aware that Crazy Horse is taking longer than anticipated—their father had originally predicted 30 years—but they’re determined to go at their own pace. “[Korczak] said ‘Go slowly so you do it right,'” his late widow, Ruth, said in 2013. “And, I, for one, would like to have it go faster, but there are so many things that you have to do in order to do it right, that it takes the time."

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A Rare Copy of Audubon's Birds of America Could Break Records at Auction
Christie's
Christie's

American artist and naturalist John James Audubon published The Birds of America in the first half of the 19th century, and his massive “double-elephant” folio of life-size bird illustrations remains one of the most ambitious nature books ever produced. On June 14, a rare edition of the four-book set is hitting the auction block, and it's expected to fetch up to $12 million—more than any Audubon book ever sold.

This edition of The Birds of America was owned by the dukes of Portland from around 1839 to 2012. Because it was stored on the shelves of the family's Nottinghamshire, England estate for nearly a century, the set's prints of watercolor drawings have remained remarkably well-preserved.

In 2012, the copy was auctioned off to philanthropist and businessman Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. for nearly $8 million. Knobloch donated the books to the Knobloch Family Foundation (KFF) before his death in 2016. Now, the KFF is sending the books to auction once again. This time, all proceeds of the sale will go to nature conservation.

Set of red leather-bound books.

New York City auction house Christie's describes the set in a listing as "among the finest copies in private hands of this icon of American art, and the finest color-plate book ever produced." Each of the 435 double-elephant folio pages measures 39.5 inches by 26.5 inches, the largest sheets Audubon could get his hands on at the time, and they feature 1037 birds from 500 species. The books are bound in red Moroccan leather with gold detailing on the borders and spines. The four-volume set also comes with the Ornithological Biography, a collection of five books describing the specimens in The Birds of America and their habits.

Christie's estimates the set will sell for $8 million to $12 million when the final bid is placed later this month. To date, the most expensive copy of The Birds of America was a first edition acquired from Sotheby's in London for $11.5 million. That sale also broke the record for the most expensive printed book ever sold at auction, a record held until 2013.

Illustration of American birds.

Illustration of American bird.

Illustration of American birds.

Illustration of American birds.

Illustration of American birds.

All images courtesy of Christie's

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Courtesy of Emi Nakajima
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Artist Makes Incredibly Detailed Drawings of Famous Buildings Around the World
Courtesy of Emi Nakajima
Courtesy of Emi Nakajima

They say patience is a virtue, but for some artists it’s a necessity. Emi Nakajima’s detailed ink drawings of famous architectural sites, which recently appeared on My Modern Met, typically take about a week to complete. However, her most ambitious undertaking yet—a rendering of Thailand’s Wat Rong Khun (White Temple)—was a five-month endeavor.

Emi Nakajima holding up her drawing in front of the White Temple
Courtesy of Emi Nakajima

The Japanese-Thai artist told Mental Floss that the White Temple was particularly difficult to draw. She typically uses A3-sized paper (11.7 by 16.5 inches) for her projects, but she decided to draw the ornate temple on a much larger scale. The paper covered her entire desk—and getting each arch and spiral just right was no small feat. She took her time on the details, chipping away at the drawing after returning home from her day job as an administrative officer in Thailand.

Emi Nakajima drawing
Courtesy of Emi Nakajima

Details of the drawing
Courtesy of Emi Nakajima

Details of the drawing
Courtesy of Emi Nakajima

The completed temple drawing
Courtesy of Emi Nakajima

She’s amassed nearly 39,000 followers on Instagram, where she documents the progression of her projects from start to completion. Although her prints aren’t available for purchase online, she does sell her drawings locally.

European architecture features prominently in her work, with past projects including drawings of London’s Big Ben, Barcelona’s Sagrada Família basilica, and France’s Gothic churches. She occasionally branches out from architecture, creating 3D images of food and drawings of superheroes, movie characters, and animals.

Keep scrolling down to see more of Nakajima's architectural drawings, and check out her Instagram page (@emi_nkjm) here.

A drawing of Big Ben
Courtesy of Emi Nakajima

Drawing of a cathedral
Courtesy of Emi Nakajima

A pagoda drawing
Courtesy of Emi Nakajima

Details of a drawing
Courtesy of Emi Nakajima

A cathedral drawing
Courtesy of Emi Nakajima

[h/t My Modern Met]

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