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‘The Diatomist’: Explore the creation of microscopic kaleidoscopic Victorian-era artforms


 
The Diatomist is a short documentary about Klaus Kemp, master of the Victorian art of diatom arrangement.

Diatoms are single cell algae that can be found virtually anywhere where there is standing water. Drains, ponds, bird baths, that’s where they live, invisible to the naked eye until the discovery of the microscope. For protection, the tiny organisms create a glass-like shell around themselves, almost like they are living jewels. During the Victorian era, microscopists would arrange diatoms into elaborate and kaleidoscopic patterns—think of it as a rough equivalent of building a ship in a bottle, but with some of the tiniest microorganism to be found on Earth. Their meticulous works, marrying art and science could only be viewed under a microscope.

Since he was a teenager, Mr. Kemp has devoted his career to creating stunning diatom arrangements and is acknowledged as the last great practitioner of this artform. Matthew Killip’s exquisitely beautiful short film The Diatomist showcases his incredible work.
 

 
Director’s Statement:

I’m really interested in the way people interact with the natural world (I’ve previously made a series of short documentaries for UK TV about working relationships with monkeys and apes. I’m also a huge admirer of the Victorian naturalists ... So I was very excited when I recently saw my first Diatom arrangements, by the German master JD Möller (1844 - 1907).  The arrangements really embody that beautiful combination of art and science one can find in the period, and I loved seeing the hand of man display the work of nature so beautifully. The overwhelming variety and intricacy of diatoms can’t help but recall Darwin: “endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

I was very curious to see if anyone still practiced diatom arrangement and also to find out how it was done. I managed to track down Klaus Kemp in the UK—he’s really the only person doing this to a professional level (he’s able to make a living from a small base of collectors) - and filmed with him for one afternoon in December 2013. During the filming Klaus told me all the Victorian diatomists took their secrets to the grave, so there was no accurate information on the practice when he first started, aged sixteen. It has taken him years to be able to create these stunning microscopic slides of arranged diatoms, and although The Diatomist is a modest short film I hope it does some justice to what really is Klaus’ life’s work.

 

 
All diatom arrangements and photographs by Klaus Kemp. Soundtrack by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Bernard Herrmann and Cults Percussion Ensemble.

Matthew Killip is an English filmmaker living in New York. His documentaries have been broadcast on UK television and exhibited in festivals around the world including Sundance and True/False.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘Local Grandmother Quilts Giant Penises’ (SFW)
09.18.2014
06:19 am

Topics:
Art

Tags:
penis
crafts


 
Holly Stewart, aka “HollyPolyester,” manages to combine cute, funny, feminist and kitsch with her Master’s thesis “Local Grandmother Quilts Giant Penises: An exploration of the phallus as the site of female empowerment and the rightful status of the crone in contemporary society.” The Kansas City grandmother is studying Studio Art at University of Missouri-Kansas City. and she worked for a time in a sex-toy factory, removing dildos from their molds. So really, her foray into chintzy wangs was an artistic inevitability! Though Stewart enjoys the giggles, her (pink) press release manages to convey an exhibit of genitalia with remarkable dignity:

UMKC student Holly Stewart (HollyPolyester) is to present her M.A. thesis exhibition, which will feature a variety of both large and small sculptural works and installations. Utilizing craft-oriented techniques and materials such as quilting and beading, Stewart appropriates the penis as a symbol of power while contextualizing her work within “third wave” feminist theory.

They’re not just penises, people—they’re penises with artistic legitimacy (which is way more than you could say for most dicks in art.) Today is actually the last day her work will show at the UMKC Gallery, but with all the praise her phallic crafts have received, perhaps her show should be extended.

Size is one thing, but duration’s really the key!
 

A Mike Kelley-influenced clusterfuck?
 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Via Beautiful Decay

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Keeping your eyes and mind busy: Jasper Johns Ideas in Paint
09.17.2014
08:51 am

Topics:
Art

Tags:
Jasper Johns

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Jasper Johns is circumspect when talking about his work. He has said it does not matter what art evokes “as long as it keeps your eyes and mind busy.”

You’ll come up with your own use for it. And at different times you’ll come up with different uses.

Johns thinks the meaning of art is a mood created between the viewer and the work. What inspired the work or what the artist thinks it may mean is of little interest—well, as far as Johns is concerned.

The thing is, if you believe in the unconscious—and I do—there’s room for all kinds of possibilities that I don’t know how you prove one way or another.

Saying too much can undermine the mystery which makes his work so involving, while explanations can often sound banal.

One would like not to be led, avoid the idea of the puzzle which could be solved, remove the signs of thought, it is not thought that needs showing.

Yet the human need for narrative structure and resolution has created a weight of academic and critical texts that range from curious insight to indefensible bullshit.

Though Johns has said he does not want his work to be an exposure of his feelings, his most recent exhibition Regrets shown early this year at MOMA centered around the loss of friends (Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon) and lovers (Robert Rachensberg, Cy Twombly). The source for his series of paintings and prints was an old photograph of Freud seated on a bed (taken by John Deakin, commissioned by Bacon) which seemed to offer a fascinating glimpse into Johns’ feelings on the death of his friends and lovers.

In 1988, Jasper Johns represented America at the Venice Biennale where he presented a series of:

...difficult works, intense, even hermetic, loaded with personal symbols, involved with issues of mortality and fate, with which American modernist art after Abstract Expressionism has generally been uncomfortable.

He won the Grand Prize and was hailed as the heir to Rembrandt. In this documentary Johns Jasper: Ideas in Paint we follow Johns in preparation for the show, hear friends and fellow artists discuss his work, and are given a rare interview with the artist himself, where he remains quietly cautious.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Awesome ‘Rockford Files’ diorama available on eBay
09.17.2014
08:43 am

Topics:
Art
Television

Tags:
James Garner
The Rockford Files


 
How incredible was the charm of James Garner? This is true: When I was a kid in the 1970s, my parents watched zero prime time TV programming, none; they were way too snobby for that, they looked down on TV. Back then there wasn’t anything good on TV, it would be said just constantly that TV was a cultural wasteland and there was nothing good on it. But such was the unsurpassed, easygoing likeability of James Garner that my parents did watch The Rockford Files. I’d be put to bed, and before nodding off I’d hear, from the next room over, that infectious theme song.......

Garner passed away in July, which makes this an excellent moment to indulge in this incredible diorama of Jim Rockford’s beachfront trailer situation, available on eBay. An enterprising Minnesotan put his or her blood, sweat, and tears into this beauty, and it can be all yours for ... well, we’ll see how much when the auction ends in a few days.

User toastiecoastie writes:
 

This is an HO scale diorama of the famous tv series The Rockford Files.The base is 12x12 inches.None of the details are attached to the base other than the rocks and foliage. This way you can set up the diorama any way you wish. All the details that you see in the photos are included. All is scratch built. The vehicles have been modified to represent those in the show. The figures are easily detached from their base as they are hobby tacked down.

 
I wonder if this diorama would be less alluring to me if I lived in Los Angeles…. the romance of a crappy trailer on the beach, it’s powerful stuff.
 

 

 

 

 

 
Here’s a supercut of all of the answering machine messages from the credits of Season 1:
 

 
via Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Move over Tom of Finland, macho Japanese gay comic art is soooooo hot right now
09.15.2014
01:28 pm

Topics:
Art
Fashion
Queer

Tags:
Japan
manga


 
Watch out Tom of Finland, there’s a new milieu of gay nationalist iconography in town! Massive is a new brand producing clothing, accessories, art and original and translated books centered on gay manga—meaning Japanese comic books celebrating bears, bears and more bears! I’m generally of the opinion that pin-up art has jumped the shark, but these manly men are just as delightful as they are niche—sort an army of Bettie Gay-ge’s!

The art itself is really charming: sophisticated, without being pretentious or self-important. Japanese artist Jiraiya comments on his work for the the sweatshirt above:

These two guys have the same muscle mass, but I’d guess different body fat percentages. In my opinion, they’re a perfect couple. But if they fight, their house will be partially destroyed.

And how!

I don’t know about you, but much I’d rather wear this than one of those bland, now ubiquitous American Apparel “Legalize Gay” shirts. Between that jumper and my Hüsker Dü tee, bear culture will always have a place in my wardrobe… but never in the closet!
 

 

 

 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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World’s first ever cake-themed edible Halloween ‘horror farm’
09.15.2014
10:07 am

Topics:
Animals
Art
Food

Tags:
Halloween
Miss Cakehead


 
As grotesque as the above image of a life-size slaughtered pig is, it’s actually a very well-crafted vegan cake made by Miss Cakehead. I’ve been following her work since 2009 and she never lets you down with her genius edible creations. Perhaps you’ll recall back in 2013 Miss Cakehead made a deliciously demented life-size Dexter cake in honor of the TV show’s final season.

This year for Halloween she’s outdone herself with the World’s first ever edible horror farm.

What is a horror farm you ask? Well don’t pry too much because we all know how the curious cat ended up… If you do want to come and investigate the strange goings on here though, you might do well to bring a friend – we don’t want anyone picked off. Those select few brave enough to venture into the woods will witness, gorge, and be hunted through the world’s most terrifying cake installation, and those that make it out will ensure it is THE most talked about scare attraction of 2014.

Now, I’m not entirely sure of this installation’s message since all the “animals” are made of cake. Is it to show meat is murder? The reality of a slaughterhouse? Or is it just a gross-out Halloween attraction that’s not really all that gross in the end? I don’t know.

The “edible horror farm” will be open to the public starting on October 29 and runs through November 1 in Letchworth Garden City, England. More then.

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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The Garden: A tour of cult filmmaker Derek Jarman’s home, a living work of art
09.12.2014
11:38 am

Topics:
Art
Environment

Tags:
Derek Jarman

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In his latter years, the film-maker, artist, diarist and writer Derek Jarman bought a small cottage on the shingle beach at Dungeness, in south-east England. It was a place of respite, a studio where he could write and paint, and a setting in which he created a beautiful garden amid the harsh, sea-lashed landscape.

Jarman first saw Prospect Cottage “on a springtime drive through Kent for a bluebell wood to Super-8 for the film which would become The Garden” in 1986. His partner, Keith Collins (HB) described the discovery of the cottage in the preface to Derek Jarman’s Garden:

Derek suggested eating at the Pilot Inn, Dungeness—renowned for serving ‘Simply the finest fish and chips in all England’.

Charmed by the landscape, we decided to visit the old lighthouse. Derek said: ‘There’s a beautiful fisherman’s cottage here, and if ever it was for sale, I think I’d buy it.’ As we neared the cottage, black varnished with bright yellow window frames, we saw the green-and-white ‘For Sale’ sign—the improbability of it made the purchase inescapable.

Jarman described the cottage in his collected journals Modern Nature:

Prospect Cottage, its timbers black with pitch, stands on the shingle at Dungeness. Built eighty years ago at the sea’s edge—one stormy night many years ago waves roared up to the front door threatening to swallow it… Now the sea has retreated leaving bands of shingle. You can see these clearly from the air; they fan out from the lighthouse at the tip of the Ness like contours on a map.

Prospect faces the rising sun across a road sparkling silver with sea mist. One small clump of dark green broom breaks through the flat ochre shingle. Beyond, at the sea’s edge, are silhouetted a jumble of huts and fishing boats, and a brick kutch, long abandoned, which has sunk like a pillbox at a crazy angle; in it, many years ago, the fishermen’s nets were boiled in amber preserve.

There are no walls or fences. My garden’s boundaries are the horizon. In this desolate landscape the silence is only broken by the wind, and the gulls squabbling round the fishermen bringing in the afternoon catch.

There is more sunlight here than anywhere else in Britain; this and the constant wind turn the shingle into stony desert where only the toughest grasses take a hold—paving the way for sage-green sea kale, blue bugloss, red poppy, yellow sedum.

 
derdunjar.jpg
 
Inside: Prospect cottage had four rooms. Jarman called his writing room and bedroom the “Spring room” a 10-foot by 12-foot space of “polished tongue and groove with a single window facing the sea.”

In front of the window is my desk: a simple 18th century elm table. On it is a reading lamp of tarnished copper, two pewter mugs full of stamps, loose change, paper clips, several bottles of ink, and pens, envelopes, scraps of paper on which to make notes for this diary, an iron spittoon used as an ashtray; in the centre a lead tobacco box in the shape of a little Victorian cottage, in which I keep my chequebook and money.

The cottage was overlooked by Dungeness nuclear power station that loomed like “a great ocean liner moored in the firmament, ablaze with light: white, yellow, ruby.”

Jarman started work on his garden “accidentally” from the “beach-combed treasures” found on the shore at low-tide. With the arrival of his friend the photographer and “keen plantsman” Howard Sooley Jarman’s plans for his sea-sprayed, shingle garden progressed:

[Howard] gave up London weekends to chauffeur Derek—via the nurseries of the south of England—to Prospect Cottage. With his collaboration the garden entered its second phase: the unexpected success of new plants and bulbs, flint and scallop-shell edged beds, honey bees enclosed in a raised herb bed, and more seashore-rusted metal and wind-twisted wood.

In the mid-1980s, Jarman had been diagnosed as HIV-positive. As the illness took hold, Jarman’s work in the garden took on a new meaning:

...the plants struggling against the biting winds and Death Valley sun merged with Derek’s struggle with illness, then contrasted with it, as the flowers blossomed while Derek faded.

Howard Sooley photographed Derek Jarman’s garden from the first day he arrived at Prospect Cottage in 1989, when the land looked like the surface of the Moon. Sooley documented Jarman’s unstinting hard work that changed the garden from shingle shore to hardy burst of beauty and color. Most recently, Sooley made this film about Jarman’s garden for Nowness, and together with Keith Collins he continues to tend to Derek Jarman’s last great living artwork.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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DRUGS: Trippy photos from a ‘unique’ volume of the ‘LIFE Science Library,’ 1969
09.12.2014
11:13 am

Topics:
Art
Books
Design
Drugs

Tags:
Drugs
LIFE


The cover of Life Science Library: Drugs

Back in the 60s LIFE had a series of hardcover books—26 volumes total—called the LIFE Science Library that tackled many subjects like Mathematics, The Mind, Health and Disease, Time, Food and Nutrition and so on. One of the volumes printed in 1967 was simply titled Drugs and it gave the history of medicines and how drugs affect the human body. Now if you were to judge a book by its cover, the LIFE hardback cover on drugs looks pretty boring, right? I woulda walked right past it without a second thought! The thing is, if you’d open it up, it’s chock full of trippy eye-candy delights.

Why such a boring cover with such delicious psychedelic imagery on the inside?


 

 

 

 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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More, more, Moore: How much is a Henry Moore sculpture REALLY worth???
09.12.2014
09:19 am

Topics:
Art
Crime

Tags:
sculpture
Henry Moore

01mooreportrait.jpg
 
So, how much is a Henry Moore sculpture really worth?

Well, if we were to judge this by the money some criminals have made from the theft of a few of Moore’s best known works, then we may be surprised to find that a giant bronze statue can be bought for as little as a few thousand dollars.

This was how much thieves made on one of Moore’s most revered sculptures “Reclining Figure” (1969-70) after it was stolen from the 72-acre Henry Moore Foundation estate in Much Hadham, England in 2005. Weighing over 3-tons and standing six feet in height and ten feet in length, this elegant bronze statue was valued at $5 million. The theft baffled police, who originally suspected the statue had been stolen to order, but on investigation discovered it had in fact been taken by “a group of travellers from Essex” who sold the giant bronze to a scrap metal dealer for $2,500. A bargain considering the value of the art work and the Henry Moore Foundation’s offer of $18,000 reward for the statue’s safe return.
 
recliningmoore.jpg
‘Reclining Figure’ (1969-70).
 
Over the past decade, Moore’s beautiful sculptures have been the unfortunate focus of thieves across England and Scotland who hope to make quick buck selling these giant art works for scrap metal. In 2012, two men were jailed after stealing Moore’s piece “Sundial” once again from the Much Hadham estate. The dastardly duo sold the sculpture for a mere $75. While “Standing Figure” (1950) was stolen from the Glenkiln Sculpture Park, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, and is also believed to have been melted down and sold for scrap.

So, it’s true—crime doesn’t (always) pay and thieves, it would seem, have no idea of the value of art.
 
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Moore by Allan Warren.
 
Henry Moore was one of the twentieth century’s greatest sculptors. Born in July 30th, 1898, the seventh of eight children, Moore was encouraged by his father and mother to be self-reliant and to value hard work:

She [his mother] had tremendous physical stamina. She used to work from morning till night until she was over seventy. To be a sculptor, you have to have that sort of energy and that sort of stamina. Sculpture is of all the fine arts the one which you have to have an absolute physical fitness. You can’t—in the early stages at least—be tired or ill if you want to be a sculptor.

 
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Moore later described his childhood as “a very good time” filled with “the warmth and friendship of a large family.” This was when he made his first tentative steps towards a career as a sculptor, playing games with friends at a local quarry where they made small wooden carvings and built clay ovens (“little square boxes with chimneys and a hole at the side, and we’d fill these with rotten wood and light it and blow on the fire to warm our hands in winter”) .

Moore was encouraged in his artistic ambitions by his father, on the condition that he had an alternative career to fall back on. In 1915, Moore became a teacher at his elementary school until he was called up to fight in the First World War, which he later described with characteristic understatement:

For me, the war passed in a romantic haze of hoping to be a hero. Sometimes in France there were three or four days of great danger when you thought there wasn’t a chance of getting through, and then all one felt was sadness at having taken so much trouble to no purpose; but on the whole I enjoyed the Army…After I was gassed at Cambrai I was in hospital for three months and it still affects my voice at times, but as they made me a PT instructor afterwards I suppose I must have got pretty fit again.

After the war, Moore attended the Leeds School of Art in 1919, where he considered himself “very lucky not to have gone to art school until I knew better than to believe what the teachers said.” At college he was influenced by such artists as Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Picasso, Epstein, and Eric Gill, and in his sculpture he intended to get rid of the:

..complete domination of later, decadent Greek art as the only standard of excellence.

Moore won a Royal Exhibition Scholarship in sculpture to attend the Royal College of Art, London, in September 1921. Here he fell under the influence of RCA Principal, Sir William Rothenstein, who encouraged creativity, originality and the belief that his students should not be held back by England’s class structures as “a man was what he made himself.” Rothenstein also introduced his students to established artists, writers and politicians. This was how Moore found himself one evening talking to the Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald:

Rothenstein gave the sense that there need be no barrier and no limit to what one can embark upon, and that is very important to a young student. Here was I, a student straight from Yorkshire, and it seemed perfectly natural for me to be standing in front of the fire and talking to the Prime Minister.

This new environment offered Moore the opportunity to try out different ideas in his work:

When I first came to London I was aware of Brancusi, Gaudier-Brzeska, Modigliani and the early Epstein, and of all that that direction in sculpture stood for. I couldn’t help—nobody can, after all—being a part of my own time. But then I began to find my own direction, and one thing that helped, I think, was the fact that Mexican sculpture had more excitement for me than negro sculpture. As most of the other sculptors had been moved by negro sculpture this gave me a feeling that I was striking out on my own.

 
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Animal Head.
 
Much more Moore after the jump, including The Art of Henry Moore documentary

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Trapped between realms: The ghostly photos of Christopher McKenney
09.12.2014
08:02 am

Topics:
Art

Tags:
Christopher McKenney


 
Human figures, their identities concealed with sheets, half their bodies missing, what remains suspended in air, as though they were transitioning between planes of existence, or between life and death, or, more horrifyingly, trapped between them. The eerie photography of Wilkes-Barre, PA artist Christopher McKenney recalls the portentous surrealist otherworlds of De Chirico and Magritte. His works, as you’ll see below, are dramatically staged, horrific tableaux. Knowing nothing about his working methods, I assume these are digitally crafted, though it’s far from impossible to achieve identical effects with film and darkroom skill.

McKenney, unsurprisingly, maintains a presence on Flickr and Instagram. Both are well worth following.
 

 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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