Explore a Beautiful Victorian Album of Seaweeds

The Victorians had a passion for admiring stylized versions of the natural world from within the comfort of their own homes. Alongside taxidermy, arrangements of shells and fossils, preserved birds and flowers beneath domes, and hair art, an upper-class Victorian home might have sported an album or two of pressed flowers and, perhaps, seaweeds.

While we may not think of seaweed as particularly lovely today, Victorians used their bright reds and greens and lacy shapes to create pretty designs or semi-realistic compositions. The Public Domain Review recently spotlighted one such album now held in the Brooklyn Museum’s Special Collections department, which has been digitized for online viewing.

The leatherbound album, which features algae and seaweeds pasted on construction paper and framed by doilies, was created by one Eliza A. Jordson of Brooklyn around 1848. It was presented as a token of esteem to Augustus Graham, a member of the board of directors of the Brooklyn Apprentice’s Library, which eventually evolved into the Brooklyn Museum. The images are a feat of delicacy, using seaweed to create tiny houses and to spell out Graham’s name as well as the title of the book.

As Allison Meier noted when writing about the album for Atlas Obscura in 2014, the album is “definitely not a scientific work, but instead a social one.” The specimens aren’t mounted with scientific precision and contain no labels, although the album does include a poem on the “flowers of the sea,” which seems to have been a feature of other seaweed albums, according to the Public Domain Review.

Other surviving examples of seaweed albums exist: As Meier notes, Harvard holds one created by a Mary Robinson, probably around Martha’s Vineyard, circa 1885. An online exhibit devoted to the prints from that book contains an explanation of the scrapbooking process, which involved submerging both the seaweed and mounting paper in saltwater at the same time, bringing them to the surface with the seaweed on top, and arranging the specimen with a needle to bring out its details.

All images via Brooklyn Museum Libraries, Special Collections.

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Ape Meets Girl
Pop Culture
Epic Gremlins Poster Contains More Than 80 References to Classic Movies
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Ape Meets Girl

It’s easy to see why Gremlins (1984) appeals to movie nerds. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg and written by Chris Columbus, the film has horror, humor, and awesome 1980s special effects that strike a balance between campy and creepy. Perhaps it’s the movie’s status as a pop culture treasure that inspired artist Kevin Wilson to make it the center of his epic hidden-image puzzle of movie references.

According to io9, Wilson, who works under the pseudonym Ape Meets Girl, has hidden 84 nods to different movies in this Gremlins poster. The scene is taken from the movie’s opening, when Randall enters a shop in Chinatown looking for a gift for his son and leaves with a mysterious creature. Like in the film, Mr. Wing’s shop in the poster is filled with mysterious artifacts, but look closely and you’ll find some objects that look familiar. Tucked onto the bottom shelf is a Chucky doll from Child’s Play (1988); above Randall’s head is a plank of wood from the Orca ship made famous by Jaws (1975); behind Mr. Wing’s counter, which is draped with a rug from The Shining’s (1980) Overlook Hotel, is the painting of Vigo the Carpathian from Ghostbusters II (1989). The poster was released by the Hero Complex Gallery at New York Comic Con earlier this month.

“Early on, myself and HCG had talked about having a few '80s Easter Eggs, but as we started making a list it got longer and longer,” Wilson told Mental Floss. “It soon expanded from '80s to any prop or McGuffin that would fit the curio shop setting. I had to stop somewhere so I stopped at 84, the year Gremlins was released. Since then I’ve thought of dozens more I wish I’d included.”

The ambitious artwork has already sold out, but fortunately cinema buffs can take as much time as they like scouring the poster from their computers. Once you think you’ve found all the references you can possibly find, you can check out Wilson’s key below to see what you missed (and yes, he already knows No. 1 should be Clash of the Titans [1981], not Jason and the Argonauts [1963]). For more pop culture-inspired art, follow Ape Meets Girl on Facebook and Instagram.

Key for hidden image puzzle.
Ape Meets Girl

[h/t io9]

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Kehinde Wiley Studio, Inc., Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Barack Obama Taps Kehinde Wiley to Paint His Official Presidential Portrait
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Kehinde Wiley
Kehinde Wiley Studio, Inc., Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Kehinde Wiley, an American artist known for his grand portraits of African-American subjects, has painted Michael Jackson, Ice-T, and The Notorious B.I.G. in his work. Now the artist will have the honor of adding Barack Obama to that list. According to the Smithsonian, the former president has selected Wiley to paint his official presidential portrait, which will hang in the National Portrait Gallery.

Wiley’s portraits typically depict black people in powerful poses. Sometimes he models his work after classic paintings, as was the case with "Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps.” The subjects are often dressed in hip-hop-style clothing and placed against decorative backdrops.

Portrait by Kehinde Wiley
"Le Roi a la Chasse"
Kehinde Wiley, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

Smithsonian also announced that Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald has been chosen by former first lady Michelle Obama to paint her portrait for the gallery. Like Wiley, Sherald uses her work to challenge stereotypes of African-Americans in art.

“The Portrait Gallery is absolutely delighted that Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald have agreed to create the official portraits of our former president and first lady,” Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said in a press release. “Both have achieved enormous success as artists, but even more, they make art that reflects the power and potential of portraiture in the 21st century.”

The tradition of the president and first lady posing for portraits for the National Portrait Gallery dates back to George H.W. Bush. Both Wiley’s and Sherald’s pieces will be revealed in early 2018 as permanent additions to the gallery in Washington, D.C.


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