with sea creatures
Clusters of Diaphanous Textile Sculptures by Mariko Kusumoto Evoke the Ocean Floor
Japanese artist and designer Mariko Kusumoto (previously) shapes gossamer coral and sea creatures from soft fibers like polyester, nylon, and cotton. Embedded with tiny ripples or airy pockets, the standalone sculptures and wearables are translucent renditions of lifeforms, and their delicate compositions correspond with the fragility of the subject matter. The Boston-based artist tends to cluster the individual pieces into larger works, creating sprawling reefs and diverse ecosystems brimming with color and texture.
Kusumoto is currently preparing for a solo exhibition next November at Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach, Florida, and until then, you can find more of her ethereal works on Instagram.
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Imaginative Glass Specimens Are Suspended in Jars in Steffen Dam’s Cabinets of Curiosities
Held in tall, transparent jars are recreations of tiny jellyfish with wispy tentacles, plankton, and other delicate sea creatures by Danish artist Steffen Dam (previously). He sculpts the miniature organisms in glass and displays the exquisite creations in wooden boxes or medicine cases that evoke the 16th Century wunderkammers or cabinets of curiosities. Generally in the possession of aristocrats and monarchs, these encyclopedic collections predated museums and held objects that were valuable for scientific study and their ability to inspire wonder and awe. Although Dam’s sculptures reference the colors, textures, and shapes of real-life specimens, his imaginative works are inventive interpretations of evolution and biology.
Find more of the artist’s recent works on his site and at Heller Gallery in New York, where he’s represented.
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Art Design Food
Wine Streams Through Sea Creatures in Playful Glass Decanters by Charlie Matz
In the sleek decanters designed by artist Charlie Matz, wine and other spirits trickle through a crab’s claws, a shark’s open jaws, and the belly of a branzino. The playful aeration vessels are handmade with borosilicate glass and position marine life at the necks of the carafe, ensuring that the creatures flush with reds and pinks with every pour. Matz, who works at the Chicago-based Ignite Glass, has a few of the decanters available in the studio’s shop, and you can follow his functional creations and new releases on Instagram.
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Innumerable Spines Cover Amorphous Sea Creatures Sculpted in Clay by Marguerita Hagan
Prior to sculpting the prickly lifeforms that comprise her Marine Abstracts series, Marguerita Hagan plunged into the waters surrounding the Cayman Islands to get a glimpse of the coral and sponges inhabiting the region. “My research is important to my work, whether from seeing firsthand like diving, which manifested the sponge and coral-inspired Marine Abstracts, or visiting labs and working with my scientist friends,” the Philadelphia-based artist says. “I am passionate about learning, and I immerse myself into the life of each piece/species.”
Mimicking the porous bodies of the aquatic creatures, the resulting works are amorphous in shape and hand-built in sweeping gestures from low-fire clay. Hagan subjects the ceramic forms to anywhere between three and eight rounds of firing in the kiln before they’re airbrushed with pastel glazes. Pocked with holes and covered in tiny bristles arranged with meticulous precision, each piece can take months to complete.
When presented in a gallery space, Hagan contextualizes many of her works by pairing them with animated projections, creating holistic installations that situate individual sculptures within a larger ecosystem. It’s a way to generate conversation about interdependence and the need to protect these fragile forms, the artist says, explaining the concept further:
Microscopic marine organisms form the basis of all life on our planet and connect in exquisite systems or colonies. These one-cell plankton gems, our primary producers provide over 50% of the oxygen for the planet with light from the sun. Rich diversity and reciprocal sharing power thriving communities and environments. This light-giving flow has enabled all life to thrive for eons…We are in a time of epic shifts and are responsible for the changes needed now. The work intends to uplift spirits, awareness, renewable action and timely sustainable investments for all life.
You can see many of the abstracted pieces shown here, alongside dozens of Hagan’s sculptures, as part of Biospheres, which is on view both in-person and virtually at HOT•BED in Philadelphia through May 8. For a larger collection of the artist’s works, check out her site and Instagram.
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History Illustration Science
Page Through a Fantastical Compendium of the World’s First Color Illustrations of Marine Life
In the early 18th century, publisher, bookseller, and apparent fish enthusiast Louis Renard compiled the seminal compendium of color-illustrated ichthyological studies. The volume contains more than 450 species rendered in vibrant hues that, while somewhat anatomically accurate, feature embellishments in color and characteristics. From beak-like mouths to extraordinarily patterned skins, the vast illustrations of marine life are unusual, bizarre, and sometimes psychedelic. One of the most fantastical illustrations even depicts a mermaid (shown below).
A digital copy of Renard’s work—which officially is titled Fishes, crayfish and crabs, of various colors and extraordinary figures, which one finds around the Moluccas islands and on the coasts of the Austral lands—is available in the Biodiversity Heritage Library, an incredible open-access digital archive. Overall, the library estimates that about 9 percent of the illustrations are fabricated, a detail that’s unsurprising considering the Dutch publisher never traveled to the East Indies to complete his studies. Instead, he copied 460 hand-colored copper engravings from other artists, many of which were contributed by soldier and painter Samuel Fallours who was based in Ambon, Indonesia. In a similarly duplicitous manner, the library also believes that Renard identified himself as a secret agent to the British crown as a way to sell more copies of his work.
The tome was published in three editions, and only 16 of the initial printing, which happened between 1718 and 1719, are known to exist. Thirty-four copies of the second version from 1754 remain, which is also the iteration shown here. There are just six books left from the third printing in 1782.
Page through the entire compendium in the digital library. To enjoy the vivid illustrations off-screen, Maria Popova, of Brain Pickings, is selling masks and prints of the enhanced creatures.
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Underwater Realm: Black and White Photos Capture Breathtaking Moments Amongst Life in the Sea
Mexican photographer and anthropologist Anuar Patjane captures black and white moments of life underwater as a way to bring awareness to a part of the world most do not get a chance to see. Patjane searches for awe-inspiring snapshots to connect viewers with images of fish and other underwater animals. He hopes his photographs create an empathy towards these creatures and their environment while also expressing the impact that our choices have on their trajectory as species of the sea.
“With the [Underwater Realm] series, I try to drive our attention towards the beauty of our oceans a a truth usually unnoticed: We are brutally overfishing in our oceans, and our attention should be concentrated on the way we fish, as well as what we eat from the ocean,” he explains in an artist statement about the series. “We see and care when a forest is gone because it is visible to everybody, but we don’t see when we destroy life underwater.”
Patjane not only captures life underwater, but landscapes from all over the globe that may often go unnoticed. You can see more of his series, including images shot in Antarctica and Iceland, on his website and Instagram.
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Editor's Picks: Animation
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.