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In ‘Ocean Sentinels,’ Jason deCaires Taylor Installs Eight Hybrid Sculptures as Coral Guards
A new cast of hybrid characters continues Jason deCaires Taylor’s effort to revitalize the Great Barrier Reef. Recently installed off the coast of Townsville, Australia, as part of the Museum of Underwater Art, Ocean Sentinels is comprised of eight figurative sculptures that meld the textures of marine life with the likeness of influential conservationists.
Similar to “The Coral Greenhouse,” which was embedded in the aquatic landscape in 2020, these works are made of pH-neutral, low-carbon concrete and stainless steel and are created with the intention that sea creatures use them as homes. “It is hoped that in years to come a variety of endemic species such as corals, sponges, and hydroids will change the sculptures’ appearance in vibrant and unpredictable ways. Like the Great Barrier Reef itself, they will become a living and evolving part of the ecosystem, emphasising both its fragility and its endurance,” Taylor says.
Due to warming waters caused by the climate crisis, much of the reef is experiencing coral bleaching, a stress-induced reaction that causes the sea creatures to expel algae in their tissues and drain themselves of their characteristically vibrant colors. Taylor’s works are designed to help spur new growth, offer a sanctuary for the endangered lifeforms, and lure away curious divers from more vulnerable areas.
Ocean Sentinels include stylized renditions of Indigenous leader Jayme Marshall, marine scientist and “godfather of coral” John Veron, and nine-year-old Molly Steer, who led an initiative to stop the proliferation of single-use straws, among others. See more of Taylor’s underwater sculptures before and after sea-creature colonization on his site and Instagram.
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History Illustration Science
Jean Baptiste Vérany’s Wildly Influential Cephalopod Chromolithographs Depict Sea Creatures in Stunning Opalescent Color
In 1851, French pharmacist-turned-naturalist Jean Baptiste Vérany (1800–1865) published a collection of illustrations that captured the subtle colors and tonal variances of cephalopods. A class of mollusks that includes squid, octopus, cuttlefish, and nautilus, cephalopods have pronounced, often bulbous heads, symmetric bodies, and arms and tentacles known to produce ink. The marine creatures became a source of fascination for Vérany after a research expedition with Franco Andrea Bonelli, a preeminent ornithologist and entomologist, who helped usher in the young naturalist’s interest in zoology.
Some of Vérany’s most-recognized contributions to natural history include the chromolithographs—lithographs with several layers of color—released in his book Mollusques Méditeranéens: observès, decrits, figurès et chromolithographies d’après le vivant, or Mediterranean molluscs: observed, described, figured and chromolithographs from life. The volume includes 41 illustrations that are rendered in exacting detail and exemplify Vérany’s unparalleled understanding of color. Subtle shifts from pink to aqua, vivid reds, and vast explorations of opalescence characterize his works, which sought to capture “the suppleness of the flesh, the grace of the contours, the flexibility of the membranes, the transparency, and the coloring,” according to Public Domain Review.
In addition to depicting the lively sea creatures with unprecedented accuracy for the time, Vérany also affected the work of several influential figures, including novelist Victor Hugo, glass artists Léopold and Rudolf Blaschka, and even the lauded biologist Ernst Haeckel, who Vérany first introduced to cephalopods in 1856. Haeckel even copied some of his mentor’s plates for Kunstformen der Natur, a volume of 100 prints recognized as one of the first books to close the divide between art and science.
Explore more of Vérany’s pivotal works in the always free and accessible Biodiversity Heritage Library (previously).
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A Pair of Contrasting Prints by Seb Lester Gilds Popular Aphorisms in Elegant Lettering
Lewes-based artist Seb Lester (previously) vacillates between the maximal and minimal in a new pair of aphoristic prints. Die-stamped in gold ink, the calligraphic works are studies of the relationship between medium and message, all filtered through elegantly gilded lettering.
“Carpe Diem,” the popular Latin maxim to “seize the day,” is the ornate of the pair and embedded with swords, flowers, and elaborate motifs. “I’ve drawn from many influences, including Victorian Memorials, Medieval Cathedral Inscriptions, and the work of the finest Writing Masters of the 18th century,” Lester says. “The letterforms are all highly ornamental and drawn especially for the project—warm Lombardic Capitals paired with a softened Textura lowercase.”
As a counterpart, the other print is more austere, reading “Illegitimi Non Carborundum,” which roughly translates to “don’t let the bastards grind you down.” Using bespoke Roman Monumental Capitals depicted “as if lovingly carved and gilded in marble into a magnificent ancient monument,” the mock-Latin phrase is graceful and refined, a contrast to the otherwise audacious message.
Both limited-edition prints are available in Lester’s shop, and you can find more of his calligraphy on Instagram.
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Composite Images From NASA’s Most Powerful Telescopes Reveal Mind-Boggling Details of the Cosmos
Combining data from some of NASA’s most powerful instruments, four new composites highlight the enormity of the cosmos in unprecedented detail. Imagery from the Chandra Observatory and the James Webb and Hubble telescopes—plus infrared information from the Spitzer telescope’s final missions—mesh together to generate mesmerizing views of iconic nebulae and galaxies.
Messier 74, a spiral galaxy more than 30 million light-years from Earth, is sometimes called the Phantom Galaxy due to its relative dimness (despite hosting around 100 billion stars!). Webb captured its swirling network in infrared, spotlighting gas and dust, while Chandra provided X-ray data of high-energy stars. Returning a little closer to home, for the Pillars of Creation in Messier 16, a.k.a. the Eagle Nebula—about 7,000 light-years away—Webb contributed the dusty forms that shroud fledgling stars and Chandra included the glowing blue and red dots.
Explore in-depth analysis of the images, plus the individual sources, on the Chandra Observatory’s website, which also include a star cluster called NGC 34 and the “barred spiral” galaxy NGC 1672. (via PetaPixel)
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Guadalupe Maravilla Transforms a School Bus into an Immersive Installation for Sound-Based Healing
Chrome plating, fringe made of humble kitchen cutlery, illuminated chandeliers, and symbolic sculptures of flora and fauna adorn a school bus parked at the ICA Watershed in the Boston Harbor Shipyard. The elaborately retrofitted vehicle is the largest project to-date by Guadalupe Maravilla and the latest addition to his Disease Thrower series.
Born out of the artist’s traumatic experience immigrating as an unaccompanied minor and suffering from colon cancer as an adult, the ongoing body of work evinces the healing power of sound and vibration. Titled “Mariposa Relámpago,” or lightning butterfly, the new work has had several lives before making its way to Boston: the bus was first used for transporting students in the U.S., then sent to the artist’s native El Salvador, and finally ended up in his studio where it underwent its current transformation.
Fastened to the vehicle’s body are several objects Maravilla found while retracing the 3,000-mile route he traveled as an eight-year-old to reunite with his parents, who had fled the country’s civil war. Included are references to Mayan cosmology and indigenous practices, spiritual emblems, and more contemporary imagery of disease and medicine, including a model of human anatomy resting atop the hood. Gongs and other tonal objects suspend from the sides, which Maravilla rings during his ritualistic sound baths. These sessions, which he’s hosted specifically for undocumented immigrants and those dealing with cancer, are known to reduce stress, anxiety, and tension that can worsen the pain of illness and injury.
Also in the exhibition at the Watershed are smaller paintings, scale models, and Disease Thrower sculptures made of mixed natural and synthetic materials that similarly reflect the artist’s exploration of displacement and recovery. Immersive and totemic, the works are part of the artist’s effort “to confront trauma in order to heal.”
Guadalupe Maravilla: Mariposa Relámpago is on view through September 4, with two sound baths scheduled for June 10 and August 13.
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Conner Griffith Animates the World of Objects Through Historical Engravings in ‘Still Life’
“Still Life,” a short animation by Los Angeles-based filmmaker Conner Griffith, opens with a classic game of “guess which hand.” As the illustrated hands open and close, a tiny ball morphs into a series of tools and other household objects, and we are whisked off on a journey through more than 1,000 historic engravings. Collecting images from sources like the Iconographic Encyclopedia of Science, Literature, and Art and Gray’s Anatomy—both published in the 1850s and now in the public domain—Griffith examines how items and materials help to define lifestyles, attitudes, and consciousness of the world around us. “The film explores the idea that we live in a world of objects and a world of objects lives within us,” he says.
Find more of Griffith’s work on his website and on Vimeo.
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Editor's Picks: Animation
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