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Art History

This Warty Pig Painting Is Thought To Be the Oldest Cave Art in the World

January 14, 2021

Grace Ebert

Deep within Leang Tedongnge, a cave tucked away on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, archaeologists discovered this mulberry-hued painting of a warty pig and two hand silhouettes potentially belonging to the artist, which is now believed to be the oldest figurative work in the world. A study published in Science Advances this week says the impeccably preserved rendering is at least 45,500 years old, which predates previously discovered depictions of mythical creatures in the region. Those prior findings date back about 43,900 years.

Questions remain about the exact age of the work and who made it. Archaeologists from Griffith University, who helmed the mission, utilized uranium-series dating to determine how old the speleothem, or mineral deposits, of the cave is rather than the actual painting. There’s also debate about whether modern humans are responsible for the renderings, a question that’s complicated by the fact that the only skeletal remains that date back at least 45,500 years in Sulawesi belong to early hominins.

Dr. Adam Brumm, who co-authored the study, told The New York Times that researchers expect to discover similar artworks in the region, although the cave paintings are deteriorating at a rapid rate and could fade before they’re ever uncovered. “It is very worrying, and given the current situation the end result is likely to be the eventual destruction of this ice age Indonesian art, perhaps even within our lifetime,” Brumm said.

 

 

 

 



Photography

A Massive Octopus and Floating Fish Comprise the Imaginary Universe in Ted Chin's Surreal Composites

January 8, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Ted Chin, shared with permission

In Ted Chin’s surreal dreamland, it’s not uncommon to see massive anglerfish swimming through the sky or a figure scooping up shooting stars. The San Francisco-based artist merges idyllic landscapes and outdoor scenes with fantastical details, choosing to upturn an evergreen in mid-air or position an oversized octopus underneath a floating house. Simultaneously uncanny and calming, the composites are eye-catching and rooted in imagination. “There are things in the world that inspire childlike wonder and awe, and it is my passion to recreate and share them with the world,” the artist says.

All of the digital works here, which blend stock images and Chin’s own shots, fall under the scope of Ted’s Little Dream, the fictional universe that the artist created years ago and continues to work within. “Storytelling has always been something that inspired me. When I was in grad school, I was not able to travel as much as I wanted to,” he says. “I’ve always dreamed about visiting different places, to see and experience new things, and to tell stories.”

If you’re a Photoshop user, you’ve probably spotted Chin’s cloudy flamingo work (shown below) as part of the 2021 Photoshop splash screen. To dive further into his meditative universe, head to Instagram, and pick up a print from his shop.

 

 

 



Animation

Freeze Frame: A Meditative Stop-Motion Short Explores Preservation and Decay Through a Tedious Ice Harvest

December 30, 2020

Grace Ebert

Brussels-based director Soetkin Verstegen bills her methodical and nostalgic animation “Freeze Frame” as a “miniature cinema inside an ice cube.” Produced in a grainy, vintage style, the black-and-white short loosely follows workers as they harvest and attempt to preserve the frozen blocks. Amidst scenes of the monotonous, assembly-line efforts are insects, frogs, and various creatures swimming across the frames and eventually, crystallizing into skeletal ice sculptures.

In a conversation with Short of the Week, Verstegen spoke to the difficulty of using such a transient material, calling it “the most absurd technique since the invention of the moving image.” The tedious nature of stop-motion further matches the repetitive movements of the film’s subjects, forming “a playful puzzle with formal ideas around early cinema, decay, and preservation.”

You can find more of Verstegen’s short films that experiment with animation techniques on Vimeo.

 

 

 



Illustration

Dreamy Illustrations by Daniela Gallego Merge Human Experiences with Fantastical Images

December 17, 2020

Christopher Jobson

Colombian illustrator Daniela Gallego takes us on a delightful journey through a world tinged with magic and brimming with plants. Her subdued color palette enhances the effect, firmly planting each of her drawings somewhere between fantasy and reality. The Barcelona-based artist creates works for children’s picture books, editorial, and corporate clients, and produces some of her own prints or calendars that you can request on Facebook. Explore more of her work on Behance. (via Booooooom & Hi-Fructose)

 

 

 



Art

An Eccentric Cast of Hybrid Creatures Mirrors the Diversity and Humor of Human Experience

November 24, 2020

Grace Ebert

Right: “Eagle Pose” (Yoga Parakeet) (2016), stoneware and mixed media, 12 x 6 x 13 inches. All images of Alessandro Gallo, shared with permission

From a dowdy California quail to an incendiary horned lizard, Alessandro Gallo’s peculiar menagerie of animal-human hybrids is teeming with personality. The colorful characters reflect the breadth of interactions occurring every day throughout public spaces as folks encounter others unlike themselves, like a parakeet contorted into a yoga pose or a suit-wearing hooded merganser.

Based in Helena, Montana, the Italian artist likens the animalistic features to a mask or caricature. “I combine it with the silent language of our body and the cultural codes of what we wear in order to portray not only a specific individual, but also the larger groups and subcultures they belong to and, ultimately, the common habitat we all share,” he says.

Generally spanning one to two feet tall, the anthropomorphic sculptures are modeled after a meticulously rendered reference image complete with distinct choices on posture, clothing, and facial expression. Gallo creates an armature from plumber’s piping before hand-building the clay figures. As they dry, he carves in minute details and adds color with acrylic paints.

Gallo’s creatures are included in Intersect Chicago 2020, which runs through December 5. Based in Helena, he’s currently an Archie Bray Foundation resident, and you can find details about his process and works-in-progress on Instagram.

 

“Evening empire” (2019), ceramics and mixed media, 15 x 15 x 12 inches

Detail of “I will not burn bridges” (2020), stoneware and mixed media, 23 x 10 x 10 inches

“Jack of Spades” (2019)

“I Don’t Want to Grow Up” (Jonathan bearded dragon)(2016), stoneware and mixed media, 18 x 6 x 6 inches

“I will not burn bridges” (2020), stoneware and mixed media, 23 x 10 x 10 inches

“Lost in Thought” (2017) in collaboration with Beth Cavener

“We Are Not Who We Seem” (2016) in collaboration with Beth Cavener

 

 



Science

Under UV Light, Platypuses Radiate a Fluorescent Green-Blue Hue—But Scientists Aren't Sure Why

November 16, 2020

Grace Ebert

From left: visible light, ultraviolet light, and yellow-filtered UV light. Photo by Jonathan Martin

The platypus has puzzled researchers for centuries. From its venom-filled spurs, milk-secreting skin, and ability to eat a quarter of its body weight every day, the egg-laying mammal even had European zoologists believing it was a hoax well throughout the 19th Century.

A recent study published in the journal Mammalia adds to the duck-billed creature’s lengthy list of peculiarities. Apparently, when illuminated with ultraviolet light, the platypus’s dull, brown coat glows. The discovery happened after Jonathan Martin, an associate professor of forestry at Wisconsin’s Northland College, shined a UV flashlight on a flying squirrel in his backyard, which he found emitted a candy-colored pink hue. He then joined a few colleagues to visit Chicago’s Field Museum, where they replicated the process on the institution’s platypus collection, revealing the animals’ bright green and purple coat.

According to one study, the fluorescent substances are found embedded within mammals’ hair follicles, although scientists aren’t sure why. Sensory biologist Sönke Johnsen told The New York Times that “just finding fluorescence doesn’t mean it has any particular purpose.” Similar radiating colors exist in coral reefs and sea turtles, among other organisms, although the phenomena are less common in mammals.

Overall, the discovery has prompted further questions about whether the platypus can see UV light—most humans cannot, except for on certain items like white T-shirts—and even more interest in what we’ll discover about the curious creature next.