In the small city of Muncie, Indiana stands a three-story house with white columns lining the front stoop. Now unassuming, the brick structure formerly featured a sign at its entrance reading “WIPB TV,” denoting the camera crew inside recording beloved icon Bob Ross, who filmed more than 400 episodes of The Joy of Painting in the space from 1983 to 1994. Today, the house has been transformed to honor the legacy of the PBS artist, whose joyful manner and positivity inspired his devoted fans for more than a decade.
Formally called the Bob Ross Experience, the $1.2 million permanent exhibit and masterclass series pays homage to the painter by recreating the set where his soothing voice echoed instructions on blending pinks and blues for a sky or adding highlights. A rotating selection of his original paintings, like “Gray Mountain” and “Sunset Aglow,” line the home, which also features a 1980s-style living room complete with a plaid lounger. His personal items, including keys and hair pick, are on display, along with memorabilia celebrating Ross. Other than the artist’s palette knife, easel, and brushes, many of the artifacts are free to touch.
Opened in October, the museum is housed at the Lucius L. Ball House on the Minnetrista campus, a year-round gathering place with historic buildings, children’s entertainment, and workshops. About a half-mile up the street, the interactive exhibit continues in a building where “Certified Ross Instructors” teach masterclasses a few times each month. Participants are encouraged to embrace “happy little accidents,” just as Ross advocated in his episodes—many of which are available to watch on YouTube—as they paint serene landscapes, sunsets, and wildlife.
In the coming months, Minnetrista organizers plan to convert the upper levels of the house into gallery and studio space, according to The New York Times. To follow updates on the renovations or book your own Bob Ross Experience, visit the organization’s site.
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Watch the 14th-Century Construction Process of Prague's Charles Bridge Unfold in a Meticulous Animation
Up until the mid-19th century, the only way to cross the Vltava River in Prague was to head over the gothic stone arches of the Charles Bridge. The project of King Charles IV, construction of the now iconic structure began in 1357 after a flood damaged the existing walkway. A short animation by Engineering and Architecture peers back into history to chronicle the centuries-old building process as it shows wooden trusses framing the structure and bricks seemingly sprinkling into place. While the video collapses decades of work into less than a minute, the Charles Bridge wasn’t complete until the early 15th century.
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Situated in a mountainous region of the Gifu Prefecture is a small village of Gassho-style homes, uniquely Japanese structures with thatched roofs that are built to withstand heavy snowfall. Dating back to the 11th century, the historic community of Shirakawa-go was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. While the designation draws tourists each year who are keen on studying the architecture and local history as they pass through the village, an unusual attraction draws inordinate crowds to the region.
Simply called the Water Hose Festival, the biannual event involves testing the site’s ability to respond to fire. The flammable and historic nature of the structures spurred caretakers to install massive sprinklers and hoses to prevent extensive damage. Each year in December and May, they test the lines and douse the homes, according to the video above that shows a similar process occurring at a site in Miyama. The systems are concealed inside structures that mimic the original architecture, and the new buildings open from the center allowing water to erupt into the air, a spectacular and almost comical process. (via Spoon & Tamago)
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Watch the Birdie: A Restored Brass Gadget Dating Back 140 Years Reveals a Historic Photography Trick
Prior to asking subjects to grin and “say cheese,” photographers would entreat those awaiting a portrait to “watch the birdie.” Now generally out of use, the phrase dates back to 1879 and references a technique to capture both kids’ and adults’ attention at just the right moment: Photographers would attach a little brass bird to the top of their lens—the 1950s film Watch the Birdie erroneously positions a songbird on the main character’s hat rather than his camera—and squeeze a pneumatic bulb, making the creature chirp and flap its wings as they snapped an image.
Austria-based Markus Hofstätter recently restored one of the historic gadgets, a process he demonstrates in a new video. He begins by degreasing the 140-year-old pieces, 3D printing a new base, and finally attaching the water-filled device to his wet plate camera. After removing the lens cap and blowing into a tube, he reveals the bird’s whistles.
For more tutorials and explorations into historic photography techniques, check out Hofstätter’s YouTube and Instagram. You also might enjoy these similarly chirping antique boxes that feature singing bird automata. (via PetaPixel)
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Through his bronze sculptures and public installations, Hank Willis Thomas (previously) examines history’s repetitions. The Brooklyn-based artist critically considers identity, social justice, and pop culture by visually weaving together the remains of the past that surface in present day. “Art is a platform where histories meet,” he tells Colossal.
Thomas’s sculptural pieces include a series of hands clenching a barbed wire fence, an oversized hair pick lodged into concrete, and a gleaming basketball balancing on players’ fingertips. No matter the medium, the interdisciplinary artist begins by examining advertisements and archival images and the messages those contain. “The transfer of a photograph into a three-dimensional expression allows the viewer to delve within a photograph and form an intimate understanding of the ideas it represents. That relationship inspires critical thought about the viewer themselves and the world around them,” he says.
Many of Thomas’s artworks reflect on historical moments, like the Holocaust and South African apartheid, and explicitly connect them to contemporary struggles. Photographs of mid-century Germany inspire sculptures, like “If the Leader Only Knew,” that evoke images of migrants detained at the United States-Mexico border. He ties a glimpse of mining workers to “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” a cry to end state-sanctioned police violence, which informs the outstretched arms in “Raise Up.” “History repeats itself, and art is one cultural framework through which we engage with these profound moments, hopefully awakening our consciousness,” the Brooklyn-based artist says.
For Thomas, art and activism are inextricable. In recent months, he’s been considering their critical intersections particularly in relation to creative movements like Wide Awakes and For Freedoms, an organization he co-founded that has been spearheading public projects prior to the 2020 election. “Art is not unaffected in this moment; it is the context that unifies our experiences of joy and even those of growth and pain. Art is the human experience. I am also curious about how people and society will change, and I think of my existence within this change as a man, as a Black man,” he says.
Thomas’s work will be part of the group exhibition Barring Freedom at the San José Museum of Art, which runs from October 31, 2020, to April 25, 2021. A book surveying his decades-long practice, titled Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal, is available on Bookshop, and you can stay updated with his latest projects on Twitter and Instagram.
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Artists Explore Self-Expression Through Bizarre and Whimsical Masks at Denver's Vicki Myhren Gallery
There is perhaps no symbol more representative of contemporary life than the humble face mask. A simple health device crucial to saving millions of lives around the world from a deadly COVID-19 pandemic spread by invisible airborne pathogens, and yet an object that’s been quixotically politicized at the callous expense of humanity for the gain of an elite few. A new exhibition at the University of Denver’s Vicki Myhren Gallery approaches the lighter side of face coverings: the ancient tradition of masks as self-expression.
Arranged on mannequins lining the gallery space, more than 40 artists present interpretations of protective face wear in MASK, currently on view by appointment through December 1, 2020. The collection of whimsical, grotesque, quirky, and beautiful masks are medically non-functional but guaranteed to provoke a reaction through their novel construction. Several designs mimic natural filtration systems like foliage or a coral reef, while others use repurposed objects like zippers or pipes to create wholly unusual face sculptures.
“Through this project, we hope to call attention to the significance and signification of masking as an issue of public health and demonstration of civic responsibility,” the gallery shares in a statement. “As the selected artists show, masking is also a mode of outward self-expression and opportunity for creativity. In turns utilitarian and fantastical, the wearable artworks shown demonstrate how makers and thinkers are engaging with the pandemic and applying their skills and individual styles to a newly important medium.”
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Editor's Picks: History
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.