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Anna Colette Hunt
Anna Colette Hunt

10,000 Ceramic Insects Swarm English Manor

Anna Colette Hunt
Anna Colette Hunt

From a distance, the dense river of insects surging up the walls and ceilings of Wollaton Hall is pretty creepy. But take just a few steps closer, and you’ll be rewarded with an astonishing surprise: the swarm is comprised entirely of ceramic bugs, each hand-made and unique. The thousands of pieces are an installation by artist Anna Collette Hunt, who draws on natural history and fairy tales to create her gorgeous, unsettling environments.

“Stirring the Swarm” began in 2012, when Hunt was invited to create a solo exhibition in the Nottingham Natural History Museum, which occupies a former manor house in Nottingham, England. Hunt tells mental_floss that, at first, the idea was a bit overwhelming. “It was such a large space,” she said, “and I didn’t even have a kiln or a studio!”

Casting about for inspiration, Hunt took a behind-the-scenes tour with the museum’s curator of taxidermy. “She took me around this labyrinth that is their collections warehouse,” Hunt says. “We had to squeeze past headless or damaged taxidermy animals, and all the specimens had plastic bags over their heads. There were jam jars of noses and a drawer of glass eyes.” The overall effect was unnerving.

After the tour, Hunt continued to the entomology room where she had what she describes as a peculiar sort of daydream. “It was late afternoon and the golden sunlight was flickering on the entomology cabinets—and it looked as if the pin-speared specimens were waking up! And this wondrous idea flooded into my mind, the tale of a entomology collection waking up, and smashing out of their time capsules and soaring off into the night.”

Hunt began to draw strange, hybrid insects, all with butterfly wings. She consulted an entomologist, who helped her create Latin names for each imaginary species. Hunt created models and molds of each species, and a team of assistants helped her cast and glaze them. Because Hunt envisioned the insects as native to the museum, she chose colors from the manor’s interior and even transferred some of the building’s wallpaper into their wings.

Hunt didn't forget the way she felt while looking at the museum's stuffed animals. She also recognizes their value. “The thought of the act of killing in this way makes me feel ill,” she says, “and I’ve had to reflect greatly on this, as I use museum collections for lots of my research. It’s too late [for these animals], but transforming them into exhibits at museums seems like the correct honor for their sacrifice. I think the museum specimens are treated with respect and can bring joy and knowledge to thousands."

As a tribute to the real insects pinned to boards in entomology collections around the world, Hunt added a trickle of gold to some of her insects’ bodies.

The exhibition ultimately comprised more than 10,000 insects, bursting from glass cases, climbing the walls, and clinging to the ceiling. After the show closed, Hunt took several thousand bugs on the road for a touring show. The rest remained in Wollaton Hall as a permanent display to startle and amaze museum-goers for years to come. Hunt’s studio is still producing bugs and sells them in an online shop.

Although her work in the museum is complete, Hunt’s passion for natural history burns on. “I have so much … wonder for this world,” she says. “The soil, the sea, the stars, and our expanding universe. The biodiversity of animals and plants, fungi, moss—our world is just a miracle, and I am awestruck.”

All images courtesy of Anna Collette Hunt

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The Getty Center, Surrounded By Wildfires, Will Leave Its Art Where It Is
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The wildfires sweeping through California have left countless homeowners and businesses scrambling as the blazes continue to grow out of control in various locations throughout the state. While art lovers worried when they heard that Los Angeles's Getty Center would be closing its doors this week, as the fires closed part of the 405 Freeway, there was a bit of good news. According to museum officials, the priceless works housed inside the famed Getty Center are said to be perfectly secure and won't need to be evacuated from the facility.

“The safest place for the art is right here at the Getty,” Ron Hartwig, the Getty’s vice president of communications, told the Los Angeles Times. According to its website, the museum was closed on December 5 and December 6 “to protect the collections from smoke from fires in the region,” but as of now, the art inside is staying put.

Though every museum has its own way of protecting the priceless works inside it, the Los Angeles Times notes that the Getty Center was constructed in such a way as to protect its contents from the very kind of emergency it's currently facing. The air throughout the gallery is filtered by a system that forces it out, rather than a filtration method which would bring air in. This system will keep the smoke and air pollutants from getting into the facility, and by closing the museum this week, the Getty is preventing the harmful air from entering the building through any open doors.

There is also a water tank at the facility that holds 1 million gallons in reserve for just such an occasion, and any brush on the property is routinely cleared away to prevent the likelihood of a fire spreading. The Getty Villa, a separate campus located in the Pacific Palisades off the Pacific Coast Highway, was also closed out of concern for air quality this week.

The museum is currently working with the police and fire departments in the area to determine the need for future closures and the evacuation of any personnel. So far, the fires have claimed more than 83,000 acres of land, leading to the evacuation of thousands of people and the temporary closure of I-405, which runs right alongside the Getty near Los Angeles’s Bel-Air neighborhood.

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This 77-Year-Old Artist Saves Money on Art Supplies by 'Painting' in Microsoft Excel
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It takes a lot of creativity to turn a blank canvas into an inspired work of art. Japanese artist Tatsuo Horiuchi makes his pictures out of something that’s even more dull than a white page: an empty spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel.

When he retired, the 77-year-old Horiuchi, whose work was recently spotlighted by Great Big Story, decided he wanted to get into art. At the time, he was hesitant to spend money on painting supplies or even computer software, though, so he began experimenting with one of the programs that was already at his disposal.

Horiuchi's unique “painting” method shows that in the right hands, Excel’s graph-building features can be used to bring colorful landscapes to life. The tranquil ponds, dense forests, and blossoming flowers in his art are made by drawing shapes with the software's line tool, then adding shading with the bucket tool.

Since picking up the hobby in the 2000s, Horiuchi has been awarded multiple prizes for his creative work with Excel. Let that be inspiration for Microsoft loyalists who are still broken up about the death of Paint.

You can get a behind-the-scenes look at the artist's process in the video below.

[h/t Great Big Story]

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