During a residency at the home of the late artist Roger Brown, Oli Watt was intrigued by the Chicago Imagist’s duck decoys. An avid collector, Brown cultivated numerous groups of objects and approached the items lining his shelves democratically, seeing all, no matter their cultural or monetary value, as of equal importance. Watt’s encounter with these quotidian trapping devices prompted a similarly impartial project with 101 Decoys, a series of sculptures that explores the relationship between form and function.
The Chicago-based artist, who teaches at the School of the Art Institute where Brown’s collections are housed, uses a range of found materials to construct his flock of waterfowl, from stacked Jenga blocks and pink, plush fabric to wine corks and a Bosch drill battery. Often structured around a wooden base, the final works vary in size and shape and are eclectic, lighthearted interpretations of hunting decoys. Departing from the object’s practical and historical uses, Watt describes his “useless” works as “an exercise in understanding, utilizing, and undermining repetition.”
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In artist Jennifer Halvorson’s (previously) collection of lustrous glass sculptures, there sits a group of glossy ducks. In some of her pieces, the water the birds sit within pours over the side, and each shiny piece looks wet to the touch as if it has dripped or melted into its shape.
Halvorson’s ducks are part of her pressed glass collection, which features a variety of light blue and chocolate brown sculptures that either are facing each other, swimming apart, or have their tails lifted up in the air as though they are diving to catch fish. They comprise her exploration into the history and process of factory pressed glass, and her work explores innovative ways of working with the medium.
Halvorson began her glasswork practice in 2007 when she was a Fulbright Fellow and began studying at Danmarks Designskole, a Danish Design School in Copenhagen. “For two weeks my glass course resided in Sweden, visiting various glass factories and studying at Riksglasskolan, the national school of glass in Orrefors,” she says. For Halvorson, the factory visits were influential in shaping her artistry. Developing an understanding of the medium and accessing production on a large scale enabled her to learn and appreciate a variety of glasswork techniques.
After her graduate studies, Halvorson was awarded a residency at Wheaton Arts in Millville, New Jersey, which houses the Museum of American Glass. Featured within the museum’s walls are historical machines and molds. “This was the first time I was taught and participated in a press production run,” says Halvorson. “Driving home to the Midwest after this residency, I stopped at Fenton Art Glass Company in West Virginia. At this time (2010), the factory was still operating, and I was able to view how efficiently the teams worked to create multiples.”
Three years since her visit to the company, Halvorson purchased a glass press machine—called Beatrix—from George Fenton, along with three cast-iron press molds. “Since then, I have learned how to operate the machine, acquired 15 molds, and received a grant to design and manufacture a new mold,” she explains.
Halvorson’s glass ducks are one of her most successful pressed sculpture series and originally were designed by the factory to cover a small dish. “Soon after the form is pressed, I alter the duck’s gaze to give the form a character,” says the artist. “After the glass production group cools, I form groupings to create narratives.” Then, Halvorson warms the pieces back up and works in more detail by pouring more material. “The fresh ladle of glass contrasts the factory press glass process and aesthetic and also gives the ducks an amorphic water puddle to swim,” she explains.
From her explorations into traditional pressed glass, Halvorson currently is working on two larger compositions: a stepping sock and plant leaves. Similarly to her ducks, Halvorson will combine pressed glass-making with contemporary techniques, a process which she also will bring to her new co-teaching position at the glass design course at Ball State University. See more of her process on Instagram.
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Minnesota-based wildlife photographer Brent Cizek was headed back to shore before a summer storm when he spotted the common merganser he would later nickname “Momma Merganser.” At first the mother duck was being followed by a brood of more than 50 fluffy ducklings, however when spotted the group again, the total had grown to 76.
“I happened to find this group of mergansers purely by luck, but I was absolutely amazed by what I saw,” Cizek tells Colossal. “At the time I didn’t know anything about the species, so I wasn’t sure if what I witnessed was a common occurrence or something out of the ordinary. All I knew was that I had never seen anything like that before.”
The scene is extraordinary indeed. Although the aquatic birds are known to lay their eggs in the nests of other ducks, a female duck can only incubate 20 at any given time explains Kenn Kaufman, field editor for Audubon. It is most likely that several dozen of the ducklings lost their mothers and were adopted into Momma Merganser’s own brood.
Cizek plans to continue following the extra large family, and posts his findings to on Instagram. To learn more about merganser habits, read the National Audubon Society’s piece on the surprising spectacle. (via Laughing Squid)
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This week conceptual artist Florentijin Hofman brought his gargantuan Rubber Duck artwork to Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong. The huge inflatable duck measures nearly 46 feet tall and 55 feet long and is shown above being pulled by a tug boat only a fraction of its size. Hofman is well known for his grandiose and whimsical sculptures that seem born with the primary goal of inducing as many smiles possible. Via the artist’s website:
The Rubber Duck knows no frontiers, it doesn’t discriminate people and doesn’t have a political connotation. The friendly, floating Rubber Duck has healing properties: it can relieve mondial tensions as well as define them. The rubber duck is soft, friendly and suitable for all ages!
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Highlights below. For the full collection click here.