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Archive for the ‘Art Project’ Category

About 30-40% of the visitors to the Manchester Museum’s Entomology Department are art or design students and professionals, who come over to get inspired by the variety of insect shapes, colours and patterns, and to talk to the museum curatorial staff about what interests them. Museum’s curators are especially pleased when such visits result in something tangible, such as an installations, original ideas for contemporary product and/or jewellery design, and, of course, pure examples of fine art.

Here we are pleased to present an interview with Robin Gregson-Brown, a Lepidoptera artist as he calls himself, from Derbyshire (recorded 20th October 2016). At the age of 80 and in retirement, Robin has embarked a new career of poetic artist of nature. And what could be more beautiful nature’s beautiful creatures than moths and butterflies? Hardly anything! Robin is fascinated by Lepidoptera all his life and now started to satisfy his passion by painting them in mixed media.

In collaboration with the Derby Museum and the Manchester University Museum, he has produced a series of spellbinding images of endangered and extinct butterflies, which were displayed once in his personal exhibition at the Derby Museum (22nd May – 5th June 2016).

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During the field trip to Iceland, we have visited many places of interests, including of course pebble-beaches on sea shores made of  grey, smooth basalt pebbles.

Grey basalt pebbles on the sea-shore of western Iceland (Londrangar, Snaefellsnes)

Grey basalt pebbles on the sea-shore of western Iceland (Londrangar, Snaefellsnes)

To my surprise, the same pebbles can be found on shelves of many gift- or craft-shops that are available virtually in every hamlet, village or town of Iceland. However, the pebbles in shops are nicely hand-painted, representing examples of mini-artworks, often naive but always touchy (see on the photos below). In one shop the painted pebbles were crafted as ladybirds of various shapes and colours (from yellow and green to the traditional red-coloured beetles).

Lovely ladybird crafted from pebble, NW Iceland.

Lovely ladybird crafted from pebble, NW Iceland.

I don’t know whether it is indeed a national Icelandic tradition to hand-paint pebbles, such craft is suitable to everyone, from children to enthusiastic adults, allowing everyone to become a master of own mini-masterpiece. Someone called this the ‘beach stone craft’; further instruction and inspiration of this craft can be found here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Han-painted pebbles with diverse wishes, craft festival at Hrafnagil near Akureyri, NW Iceland.

Hand-painted pebbles with diverse wishes, craft festival at Hrafnagil near Akureyri, NW Iceland.

A collection of artworks (=painted pebbles) produced by students of a local primary school on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Natural History Museum in Heimaey Island.

A collection of artworks (=painted pebbles) produced by students of a local primary school on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Natural History Museum in Heimaey Island.

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On the second day of our staying in San Jose (11th June), we had a chance to visit the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum (Museo del Oro) – the archaeological museum organized by the Central Bank of Costa Rica in 1950. This Museum hosts temporary exhibitions on a variety of themes and also houses a remarkable permanent gallery of pre-Columbian gold objects crafted between 300 A.D. and the 16th century, the time of the first contact with Europeans.

Objects manufactured during this period present a mixture of styles generated by contact and exchange with neighbouring regions such as modern central Panama and modern Colombia. Objects exhibited in the Museum were used as trade goods between regions and as ritual ornaments and funerary offerings. Many figures depict men with animal masks, apparently pointing to some superhuman qualities of those leaders who wore them. There are many animal figurines, including those of frogs, which are especially numerous, jaguar, alligators, bat, and others. Of the arthropods, only figurines of butterflies, crustaceans and spiders were displayed.

Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, San Jose, Costa Rica

Pre-Columbian Gold Museum, San Jose, Costa Rica

Butterflies
In traditional stories of the indigenous people of Talamanca, the butterfly is a woman who serves as an intermediary between the natural and supernatural worlds. This role of messenger and special being is reflected in the criteria used to select the woman who can be trained to carry out ritual tasks. They must have positive traits such as honesty, bravery and dedication.

Butterfly-shaped pendants, with the body representing alligators - the common practice of combining animals within a single object.

Butterfly-shaped pendants, with the body representing alligators – the common practice of combining animals within a single object.

Crustaceans
During the pre-Colombian period the marine environment was intensely exploited for edible species such as shrimps, crabs, lobsters and fish. Figurines of all these animals were manufactured as shown below.

Crab-shaped pendants.

Crab-shaped pendants.


Lobster-shaped pendants and circular pectoral (in the centre). The pectoral was a symbol of high rank among pre-Columbian people.

Lobster-shaped pendants and circular pectoral (in the centre). The pectoral was a symbol of high rank among pre-Columbian people.

Spiders
I could not photograph the autentic gold spider-shaped pendant in the Museum, and here is a photo of nice replica manufactured by a contemporary artists from the open-air market near the National Museum of San Jose.

Replica of the spider-shaped bell, with a hanging smaller bell.

Replica of the spider-shaped bell, with a hanging smaller bell.

The explanatory text provided above is based on the captions displayed in the Museo del Oro and the book by P. Esquivel (2012) ‘Extraordinary pieces from the Pre-Colombian Gold Museum’

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Being fascinated by a range and diversity of Manchester Museum’s galleries and exhibitions, many of our visitors want then to visit a particular Museum’s store in order to know more about the collections deposited behind-the-scenes and/or people working there. The Manchester Museum’s Entomology store retaining some 2.5 million specimens of insects is a usual place for visits not only by specialists-entomologists but also by art, design or photography students. Photographic reports resulting from such visits are always welcomed by the staff, as they show how different maybe a visitor’s view compared to what we can think of as a usual place and/or routine practice. Here is a short report received from one of our visitors, George Burgess, a first-year photography student, who visited the Entomology store in late Nov 2013.

“For my first-year photography assignment I was producing photograms – images made without a camera – using bugs. On a visit to the museum, Dmitri’s display in the Manchester Gallery caught my eye and I wanted to know more. It was really interesting to visit the department and see how everything is labelled and the large quantities of insects.”

View of the entomology store and one of our reference collections of British butterflies

View of the entomology store and one of our reference collections of British butterflies

There are hundreds of store-boxes containing thousands of undetermined insects; Dmitri, the curator, is holding a draw of undetermined parasitoid British wasps

There are hundreds of store-boxes containing thousands of undetermined insects; Dmitri, the curator, is holding a draw of undetermined parasitoid British wasps

Besides insect collection, the Manchester Museum's Entomology department retains archive originated from the people who used to work in the Museum or who donated their collections

Besides insect collections, the Manchester Museum’s Entomology department retains related archives that originated from the people who used to work in the Museum or who donated their collections

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The Manchester Museum’s Entomology Department welcomes a wide array of visitors, from scientists coming to study our extensive insect collections to designers and artists exploring the diversity of shapes, colours or patterns of the many thousands of creepy-crawlies deposited here. Some time ago, the Entomology Department was visited by Ms Michelle Topping based at Mirabel Studios in Manchester. Michelle spent a day looking at and drawing various butterflies from our collection and here is her first result, the painting inspired by her visit.

The painting inspired by the visit to the Entomology department of the Manchester Museum

The painting inspired by the visit to the Entomology department of the Manchester Museum

Here is some information Michelle wrote about her own work:

My paintings explore the two worlds of reality and the virtual world of being online. The butterflies reflect a fragile impermanent beauty which can often be missed when attention has been stopped to the here and now. Most of my work involves portraits of people who have inspired me and others with certain characteristics and talents. It’s the word talent which interest me the most, as I like to explore the hard work and determination which hides behind it.

 Michelle is based at Mirabel Studios in Manchester. They have an open studio on the 9th May. Everyone is welcome. For more information go online.

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A new photographic exhibition devoted to complex interrelations of humans and neotropical nature has been opened on the 3rd floor of the Manchester Museum. A brief Summary of the exhibition is given below:

The Ecuadorian Amazon is one of the most endangered regions of our planet. Many people want to protect the biodiversity that remains, but the reality on the ground is a complex dilemma. Economic necessity means that trees are valued for their timber more than for their crucial role in the ecosystem. Scientist and photographer Johan Oldekop, who was originally trained as a biologist at the University of Manchester (UK), studied the complex interaction between social and conservation issues in Ecuador during 2006-2011. As a scientist, Johan is interested in the socio-economic factors and land-use in indigenous Kichwa communities and their effect on the biodiversity of Ecuadorian Amazon. This exhibition presents his findings through his own stunning photographs combined with specimens from the Manchester Museum’s entomology and botany collections.

The exhibition will be opened until the beginning of June, 2013. Everyone is welcome!

Here are a few shots taken just after the opening of this exhibition.

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One of the important aspects of the Manchester Museum’s work is to engage with the visitors, particularly children, in order to stimulate interest in the world around them. As part of this campaign to stimulate interest in the collections the Manchester Museum runs regular Big Saturday events across the year, which encourage visitors (of all ages) to directly interact with museum collections. Members of the museum staff are also available at these events to explain and answer questions about the objects presented on handling tables.

In 2011-12 academic year, the Manchester Museum’s Entomology Department was involved in a collaborative project with Arts, Design & Media students from the Stockport College (tutor – Ian Murray). Working with Dmitri Logunov, the Museum’s Curator of Entomology, and Anna Bunney, the Museums Curator of Public Programmes, the students were given the challenge to create artworks in response to different groups of creepy-crawlers (e.g., flies, cockroaches, butterflies, dragonflies, cicada, sacred scarab, spiders, scorpions, etc.), exploring not only the physical appearance of the creatures but also their historical and symbolic meaning.

In this collaborative project, students were asked not only to develop various artworks (artist books exploring bugs, 3D models or toys of various bugs, badgers with their images, and even bug animation), but also to contribute to a Museum’s Big Saturday event through their art and design skills. Such Big Saturday, called Bug Art, took place in the Museum in partnership with the Stockport College on 28/01/2012. During that day the visitors could get a closer look at some of the insects from the Museum’s collection, watch a family friendly Bugs and Insects film or watch maggots creating abstract art. Activities also included making origami Cicadas, bug headbands, bug badges, printing and stop motion animation.

Here is the short film produced by the students involved in Bug ArtBig Saturday who presented their own view on that great event. Just enjoy it!

Bug Art Big Saturday at the Manchester Museum

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