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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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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