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Beautiful and Historic Glass Models of Sea Creatures Are on Display in New Exhibit

In the early 1850s, a young Czech craftsman named Leopold Blaschka lost both his wife and father in quick succession. In an attempt to find some relief for his grief, Blaschka set out on a year-long journey to the United States, hoping to indulge some of his passion for natural history. When winds becalmed his ship in the Azores for two weeks, he became fascinated with the bioluminescent jellyfish in the waters, the likes of which he had never seen before. A member of a family of glassmakers going back to 15th century Venice, it wasn’t long before he imagined creating these creatures—and other marine invertebrates that had fascinated him in the waters—out of glass.

By the end of the 19th century, Leopold and his son Rudolf had created a thriving business in Dresden, Germany, manufacturing at least 700 types of models of marine creatures in glass, with touches of enamel, paper, and paint. The models (father and son are said to have produced over 10,000 total) served as teaching aids and often-affordable decorative curios all around the world, ending up as far away as New Zealand and India. They played into the era’s fascination with natural history, and provided a way to see forms of life impossible to preserve in taxidermy, tricky to capture as wet specimens, and generally inaccessible at the time in their natural habitat.

As lifelike as they were, the models were eventually forgotten after photography and video came on the scene, as Allison Meier notes for Hyperallergic. Many languished in storage, including 500 that Cornell University purchased in 1885. After being rescued from storage in the 1960s, the Cornell models were painstakingly restored, a process that took decades. Now, about 70 of them, alongside intricate preparatory drawing and original tools, are on display at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York.

The models in Fragile Legacy: The Marine Invertebrate Glass Models of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka serve multiple purposes: they are objects of beauty, testament to incredible craftsmanship, and a time capsule of marine diversity now in peril. On the latter note, the exhibit also includes a documentary by filmmaker David Owen Brown (narrated by Ted Danson) that tells the story of the models and ties them to the urgent need for ocean conservation. It’s also an excellent chance to gaze at some of the rippling, translucent, glowing creatures that first enchanted Leopold Blaschka. You can watch a trailer for the film below; the exhibit at the Corning Museum of Glass is on view until January 8, 2017.

Fragile Legacy from David O. Brown on Vimeo.

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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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