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Art

An Annual 'Giant Letter' Installation Displays a Heartfelt Note from a 100-Foot-Tall Boy Named Bobby

January 21, 2022

Grace Ebert

2020 in Austin. All images © Giant Letter, shared with permission

Every year on December 12, a handwritten letter on oversized lined paper appears on a residential lawn in Chicago or Austin. The massive constructions, which stand between 8- and 12-feet high, are part of an ongoing project that shares heartfelt messages between an imaginary 100-foot-tall boy named Bobby and those who matter most in his life (aka his mother Lucinda, cat Mr. McFluffins, and Santa).

Chicago-based artists Caro D’Offay and Laura Gilmore began Giant Letter back in 2012 as a way to connect with their community following the tragic killings at Sandy Hook Elementary. Marj Wormald joined the pair a few years later, and together, they’ve installed 10 iterations. “We’re trying to create an atmosphere,” D’Offay said in an interview. “The person standing there can in a way feel very small but also have big emotions. It can be transformative for someone, and they’re just walking their dog.”

 

2021 in Chicago

During its decade-long run, Giant Letter displays have included microscopes and astronomy books, huge pencils and cups of tea, and of course, chocolate chip cookies and milk. Every piece also sets a “Bobby box” nearby that encourages visitors to drop in messages they’d like to share with the child. In the most recent version installed at the intersection of Glenwood and Albion avenues in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood, a 35-foot tool stretches alongside a letter from Bobby’s mother detailing her cancer diagnosis. “I know this is a much bigger tape measure than you probably need but I want you to dream big and make giant magic!” it reads.

Organizers say the 2021 installation will stay in its current spot indefinitely, although they’re hoping to transfer the project to a museum or gallery in the future. You can follow their progress on Instagram.

 

2021 in Chicago

2019 in Austin

2016 in Austin

2016 in Chicago

2014 in Chicago

2013 in Chicago

2012 in Chicago

2012 in Chicago

 

 



History Science

Researchers Digitally Unfold a Renaissance-Era Letter Using X-Ray Technology

March 4, 2021

Grace Ebert

A 3D rendering of the letter as it unfolds. All images via Unlocking History Research Group archive

Three centuries after it was penned, the contents hidden inside a Renaissance-era letter plucked from a trunk at The Hague are finally readable. The correspondence, which we now know was likely spurred by questions about an inheritance, was part of a larger collection of nearly 600 letterlocked notes, a complex method that involves meticulously folding, rolling, tucking, and adhering the paper into its own envelope. Prior to the advent of other sealing practices, this security measure ensured that no one transporting the note became privy to its contents.

According to an article in Nature, a group of MIT researchers, who work as Unlocking History, digitally unraveled the letter, which otherwise would have to be opened by cutting through the paper, damaging the object and potentially leaving it unreadable. Instead, they employed a particularly sensitive X‐ray microtomography scanner designed for dental practices, including mapping the exact mineral content of teeth. After scanning the paper, researchers constructed 3D models alongside an algorithm built to determine specific folding patterns, allowing them to open the note without physically altering the artifact.

Dated July 31, 1697, the letter contained a request for a death certificate from a man named Jacques Sennacques to his cousin Pierre Le Pers, who lived at The Hague. “His request issued, Sennacques then spends the rest of the letter asking for news of the family and commending his cousin to the graces of God,” researchers said. “We do not know exactly why Le Pers did not receive Sennacques’ letter, but given the itinerancy of merchants, it is likely that Le Pers had moved on.” It’s unclear why this letter or the hundreds of others, which are written in Dutch, English, French, Italian, Latin, and Spanish, never reached their recipients.

Head to Vimeo to watch Unlocking History unfold replicas of infamous and fictional correspondence—the collection spans from Mary Queen of Scots to Harry Potter to Beethoven—and dive further into the practice on the group’s site, where you’ll find folding guides, a lengthy history, and an entire archive of discreet missives. (via Science Alert)

Update: This article originally stated that the letter was written six centuries ago, not three.

The scanned letter from July 31, 1697

Digital rendering of the letter as it unfolds

The trunk at The Hague that contains hundreds of letterlocked notes

 

 



Design Photography

Marmalade Type: Colorfully Illuminated Letters Created with Photographic Interference

October 30, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

Graphic designer, artist, and photographer Rus Khasanov (previously) plays with color and perception in a new alphabetical series called Marmalade Type. “This is a bright and colorful typography captured with camera,” Khasanov clarifies in a brief statement on the project. “There is not a drop of any paint here only the phenomenon of interference.” (Learn more about birefringence here).The resulting letters appear to pop off the page as shimmering multi-colored blobs. Explore the full series on Behance, and see more of the multi-disciplinary creative’s work on Instagram and Vimeo.

 

 

 



Craft

Embroidered Calligraphy by Olga Kovalenko Plays with Notions of Time and Gesture

October 8, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

“Kafkaesque”

Embroidery and calligraphy merge in Olga Kovalenko’s gestural stitched lettering. Evoking the style of loose, ink-splattering calligraphy, Kovalenko replicates each speck of “ink” in carefully places, minuscule stitches. The artist shares with Colossal, “the main idea in this project was to connect two arts—the fast (expressive calligraphy) and the slow one (hand embroidery). It makes you think about the deceitfulness of time.” Kovalenko studied type design at Moscow State University of Printing Arts, and pursued further calligraphy studies with Evgeniy Dobrovinsky. See more of her multi-media lettering work on Behance and Instagram. (via Colossal Submissions)

“Uncertainty”

“Uncertainty” detail

“Rise”

“Rise” detail

“Ennui”

“Ennui” detail

“Mourn”

“Mourn” detail

 

 



Art

140,000 Pieces of Paper Form a Colorful 'Universe of Words' Installation by Emmanuelle Moureaux

September 8, 2019

Andrew LaSane

All Photography: Daisuke Shima

Tokyo-based French architect Emmanuelle Moureaux (previously) recently hung 140,000 pieces of paper from the ceiling to create rainbow passageways in celebration of a Japanese soft drink company’s centennial. Each piece of paper is cut in the form of a symbol from the Japanese writing system, hiragana. The colorful installation, titled “Universe of Words,” opened this summer during the Tanabata Festival and was inspired by the tradition of writing wishes on paper and hanging them from bamboo branches.

There are 46 basic hiragana characters. According to a statement about the installation, Moureaux chose the simple language because of its use during Tanabata. “The universe created by these floating hiraganas evokes an emotion through its stillness and its endlessness.” Aligned in three-dimensional grids by color, sections of the installation were removed so that visitors could immerse themselves in the alphabetical tunnels, viewing them up close while also looking around at the seemingly endless rows of symbols.

“Universe of Words” is a part of Emmanuelle Moureaux’s ongoing 100 Colors series. To see more of her artistic and architectural work, follow Moureaux on Instagram.

 

 



Art Design

The Full English Alphabet Painted on Store Shutters in 26 Different Fonts by Ben Eine

August 3, 2019

Andrew LaSane

PHOTO CREDIT: OurTypes 2019

Nearly a decade after completing the “Alphabet Street” project in East London, English artist Ben Eine has again painted all 26 letters from A to Z on over 40 shop shutters. “Alphabet City 2.0” uses 26 bespoke fonts and a wide range of spray paint colors to transform the area into a vibrant street art destination.

Made in association with Global Street Art and the Poplar Housing and Regeneration Community Association (HARCA), the “Alphabet Street” shows the evolution of Eine’s style over the past 30 years. Bold letters emerge from the metal shutters with deep drop shadows and layered graphic elements. Each glyph has its own personality and dimensionality that allows it to stand alone while also being a part of the larger set.

It’s that exploration of type that Eine and his team are bringing to clients with their new creative agency; “Alphabet Street” also marks the launch of Eine’s new creative design studio, Our Types. “Our minds are always busy, even when sleeping, it refuses to rest,” he said in a statement. “It is the only true tool for manipulating the world about us. Our Types is going to be the visual drug your brain has been looking for.”

To learn more about Our Types’ fonts and projects, visit the agency’s website. To see more of Ben Eine’s street art, follow the artist/creative director on Instagram.