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This Pool-Shaped Sculpture Pays Homage to Van Gogh's Missing Ear

No one quite knows how Vincent van Gogh lost part of his left ear. Some say the Dutch Impressionist cut it off in a fit of depression after discovering his brother was engaged. Others claim that artist Paul Gauguin sliced it off after van Gogh threw a wine glass at him.

Regardless of what really happened, the story became an inextricable part of the 19th century painter’s legacy. Now, The Guardian reports that this spring a public artwork in New York City—an empty, ear-shaped swimming pool—will pay homage to the mysterious and grisly piece of history.

Berlin-based artists Elmgreen & Dragset (Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset) created the quirky sculpture, which is fittingly called "Van Gogh's Ear." It officially opens to the public on April 13 and will remain on view through June 3. 

The 30-foot high sculpture will sit on Fifth Avenue, right in front of Rockefeller Center. At first glance, it looks like your typical retro backyard swimming pool, complete with diving board and metal ladder. (Elmgreen & Dragset have created similarly inspired works in the past, including a diving board that hangs out of a window and the wax form of an art collector lying face down in a swimming pool.) Thanks to their chilly Arctic childhood, the Scandinavian artists “have an ongoing fetish with swimming pools,” Elmgreen told The Guardian. However, this particular pool is more “ear”-shaped than kidney-shaped—a silhouette that’s equally evocative of van Gogh as it is 1950s California.

Elmgreen and Dragset intended for the pool to conjure leisurely, sun-soaked afternoons, which juxtapose with both van Gogh’s grim life and New York’s stark urbanity. “The pool has the ambience of California, the plenty-of-space good life from the 1950s and 1960s,” Elmgreen told The Guardian. “And that is everything the Rockefeller is not, which is busy, east coast, dense and urban. We thought it would be interesting to put that symbol of the good, middle-class leisure life out in that environment.”

According to Artnet News, the pool sculpture was installed courtesy of the Public Art Fund, a New York-based non-profit that offers free art exhibitions to the public. (In 2009, Public Art Fund brought Jeff Koons’s Puppy statue to the same spot.) When it’s done showing in New York, the work will travel to China. In the meantime, expect to hear an earful (sorry!) about the sculpture from New York's art lovers.

[h/t The Guardian]

Original image
Courtesy Chronicle Books
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Design
Inside This Pop-Up Book Are a Planetarium, a Speaker, a Decoder Ring, and More
Original image
Courtesy Chronicle Books

Designer Kelli Anderson's new book is for more than just reading. This Book Is a Planetarium is really a collection of paper gadgets. With each thick, card stock page you turn, another surprise pops out.

"This book concisely explains—and actively demonstrates with six functional pop-up paper contraptions—the science at play in our everyday world," the book's back cover explains. It turns out, there's a whole lot you can do with a few pieces of paper and a little bit of imagination.

A book is open to reveal a spiralgraph inside.
Courtesy Chronicle Books

There's the eponymous planetarium, a paper dome that you can use with your cell phone's flashlight to project constellations onto the ceiling. There's a conical speaker, which you can use to amplify a smaller music player. There's a spiralgraph you can use to make geometric designs. There's a basic cipher you can use to encode and decode secret messages, and on its reverse side, a calendar. There's a stringed musical instrument you can play on. All are miniature, functional machines that can expand your perceptions of what a simple piece of paper can become.

The cover of This Book Is a Planetarium
Courtesy Chronicle Books
Original image
Noriyuki Saitoh
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Art
Japanese Artist Crafts Intricate Insects Using Bamboo
Original image
Noriyuki Saitoh

Not everyone finds insects beautiful. Some people think of them as scary, disturbing, or downright disgusting. But when Japanese artist Noriyuki Saitoh looks at a discarded cicada shell or a feeding praying mantis, he sees inspiration for his next creation.

Saitoh’s sculptures, spotted over at Colossal, are crafted by hand from bamboo. He uses the natural material to make some incredibly lifelike pieces. In one example, three wasps perch on a piece of honeycomb. In another, two mating dragonflies create a heart shape with their abdomens.

The figures he creates aren’t meant to be exact replicas of real insects. Rather, Saitoh starts his process with a list of dimensions and allows room for creativity when fine-tuning the appearances. The sense of movement and level of detail he puts into each sculpture is what makes them look so convincing.

You can browse the artist’s work on his website or follow him on social media for more stunning samples from his portfolio.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

Bamboo insect.

[h/t Colossal]

All images courtesy of Noriyuki Saitoh.

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