Sunday, February 24, 2013

Laika, and Other Dogs in Space

A surprising number of non-human animals have been to space, from as early as 1947, when fruit flies were placed aboard a U.S.-launched V-2 rocket. Animals have been pioneers of aeronautic exploration since 1783 when the Montgolfier brothers sent a sheep, a duck and a rooster up in a hot-air balloon. Of all the fruit flies, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, cats, dogs, frogs, goldfish and monkeys, perhaps none is as famous as Laika, a female stray dog, launched aboard the Soviet Sputnik 2 spacecraft, on November 3, 1957, into orbit. She died from over-heating (and no provisions had made to rescue her in the absence of technology to return from orbit), though at the time the Soviet governement had claimed she ran out of oxygen. Her mission did prove that higher organisms could survive being launched into orbit, and weightlessness, paving the way for humans to follow suit. She makes for a popular illustration subject. Here are some my favorite portraits of Laika and her colleagues.

Laika, First Dog In Space by Eric R. Mortensen. Source: via minouette on Pinterest

Phineas X. Jones (Octophant). 9.5" x 25" Screenprint. Seven Screens on French Nightshift Blue 100 Lb Cover. Edition of 38. Signed & Numbered. (By the way, you should go check out his entire portfolio of awesomeness. I have his Bathysphere on my wall because would could resist an ocean-exploring three-toed sloth screenprint? Not this marine geophysicist/printmaker).

Nick Abadzis. Source: via Explore on Pinterest

This is from the graphic novel Laika by Nick Abadzis (see an excerpt here).

Source: via Business on Pinterest

'Strelka The Space Dog' by Berkley illustration, who selected Strelka, who survived her time in space, rather than Laika, who did not.

Adam Quest. Source: via Nora on Pinterest

This illustration from a Russian matchbox is of Belka (Белка, literally, "Squirrel", but as a dog's name most likely means "Whitey", from Russian: "белый" (for "white")) and Strelka (Стрелка, "Little Arrow") who spent a day in space aboard Korabl-Sputnik-2 (Sputnik 5) on August 19, 1960 before safely returning to Earth.

Dribbble - Space Animal Stamp Series - Laika by Eric R. Mortensen. Source: via Katie on Pinterest

Friday, February 22, 2013

for the bees

One of the things I'm working on is an exhibit about the local biodiversity of bees. I've brought you art made by artists who collaborate with bees, like Hilary Berseth, and Aganetha Dyck. Since I have bees on the brain, today, I'll bring you more interesting bee projects.

K-abeilles Hotel for Bees, Muttersholtz, France, by: Photo: Stephane Spach. Source:

The K-abeilles Hotel for Bees, is a structure hut with shelter for people as well as micro-housings for wild bees in the outside hexagonal compartments which provide a variety of nesting materials, in Muttersholtz, France.

K-abeilles Hotel for Bees, Muttersholtz, France, by: Photo: Stephane Spach. Source:

The Microbial Home / 2011 - Peter Gal | Product designer | Amsterdam Source:

This is but a small part of Peter Gal's vision for 'The Microbial Home', "a domestic ecosystem which tackles the issues of energy, lighting, cleaning, and human waste disposal, embodied in a series of different components." The 'Urban beehive' would be a bee habitat within the home to provide honey and wax as well as awareness of bees and their importance for the home owner.

The Microbial Home / 2011 - Peter Gal | Product designer | Amsterdam Source:

A medical student in France in the early nineteenth-century, Dr. Louis Thomas Jerôme Auzoux (1797-1880), frustrated with the sparcity of anatomical models and the expense of wax, was inspired by papier-mâché puppet and doll-making techniques of the day. He developed his “Anatomie Clastique” approach making 'disectable' hardened paste paper models in separate parts which could be assembled and disassembled to see better understand the anatomy. (Read about his anatomical papier-mâché model factory here).

IMAGE: Detail from Penelope Stewart’s beeswax chamber at the Musée Barthète, inspired by the permanent collection. Photo courtesy of the artist. Source: via minouette on Pinterest

IMAGE: Detail from Penelope Stewart’s Apian Screen, via Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre. Photo courtesy of the artist. Source: via minouette on Pinterest

Canadian artist Penelope Stewart has made a number installation with beeswax including what she calls 'Sensory Architecture': immersive environments completed tiled with beeswax tiles, so the viewer in inside a sort of bespoke human beehive.

Similarly, German artist Wolfgang Laib used slabs of beeswax to construct a narrow, dim, sort of beeswax lined closet called Wachsraum at the Museum De Pont in the Netherlands.

Wolfgang Laib’s beeswax chambers: on the left is his 1992 Wachsraum at the Museum De Pont, and on the right is the cover of Wolfgang Laib – A Scented Journey, a booklet documenting the construction of a beeswax space in 1994, at the Henry Moore Foundation Studio in Halifax. Source: via minouette on Pinterest

I had made one linocut of bumblebee, when a conversation with local audio artist Sarah Peebles got me interested in making a whole series of prints highlighting how little our own native bees ressemble or sound like honey bees. Check out Reasonating Bodies. As part of this project about bee biodiversity, she's made a series of art installations including habitats for solitary bees, and listening stations so you can hear all the bee activity like what is shown below. I also really enjoyed the Resonating Bodies trading cards I got at Nuit Blanch at the Wychwood Barns a few years ago. There are several, complete with DNA barcodes, like the one shown below.

Resonating Bodies trading cards. Source: via minouette on Pinterest

Friday, February 15, 2013

Meteorites & Asteroids

Today, we've had two astounding stories about near-Earth objects. I think people often forget that our planet is racing through space where there are asteroids and other objects which could fall to Earth should we come within a given distance. Luckily for us, Earth is mainly ocean, and large portions of it are uninhabited, so most meteorites do not injure anyone.

NASA is reporting, somewhat surprisingly, that the meteor in Chelyabinsk, Russia, which impacted at 3:20:26 UTC on Feb. 15, whose explosion injured hundreds, is not related to asteroid 2012 DA14 which is flying by the Earth (at a distance less than that to our Moon and even geostationary satellites - you can watch their live reporting of asteroid 2012 DA14 here). The trajectories are quite different. The Russia meteor is the largest reported since 1908, when a meteor hit Tunguska, Siberia.

As you can imagine, such events have inspired awe and art over human history. I've rounded up a few notable examples of art inspired by asteroids, meteors, meteor showers and other near-Earth objects.

The image may be the Ancient Chinese Book Zhushu Jinian (known as the Bamboo Annals, a historical chronicle of the history of ancient China, spanning ca. 2400 to 299 BCE). It is claimed to contain details of comets, fireballs, and especially planetary conjunctions, though some feel this may be a more recent forgery.

This woodcut illustrates a 127 kg meteorite which impacted a wheat field near the village of Ensisheim in the province of Alsace, France, which at the time was part of Germany, on November 7, 1492 after a loud explosion. A young boy who witnessed this lead the villagers to the 1 m deep impact crater and they recovered the meteorite (though much of it has been chipped away by the supersticious over the last 500 years).

This print about meteors is from 1692 Hungary.

The Leonid shower of November 1833, is condsidered by some to be the greatest astronomical spectacle in recorded history. People witnessed countless meteors for nights on end; many flocked to churches fearing Judgement Day. There are many contemporary depictions.

This illustration from Harper's Weekly shows a 1860 meteor which inspired Walt Whitman's Year of Meteors 1859 '60

YEAR of meteors! brooding year!
I would bind in words retrospective, some of your deeds and signs;
I would sing your contest for the 19th Presidentiad;
I would sing how an old man, tall, with white hair, mounted the scaffold in Virginia;
(I was at hand—silent I stood, with teeth shut close—I watch’d;
I stood very near you, old man, when cool and indifferent, but trembling with age and your unheal’d wounds, you mounted the scaffold;)
—I would sing in my copious song your census returns of The States,
The tables of population and products—I would sing of your ships and their cargoes,
The proud black ships of Manhattan, arriving, some fill’d with immigrants, some from the isthmus with cargoes of gold;
Songs thereof would I sing—to all that hitherward comes would I welcome give;
And you would I sing, fair stripling! welcome to you from me, sweet boy of England!
Remember you surging Manhattan’s crowds, as you pass’d with your cortege of nobles?
There in the crowds stood I, and singled you out with attachment;
I know not why, but I loved you... (and so go forth little song,
Far over sea speed like an arrow, carrying my love all folded,
And find in his palace the youth I love, and drop these lines at his feet;)
—Nor forget I to sing of the wonder, the ship as she swam up my bay,
Well-shaped and stately the Great Eastern swam up my bay, she was 600 feet long,
Her, moving swiftly, surrounded by myriads of small craft, I forget not to sing;
—Nor the comet that came unannounced out of the north, flaring in heaven;
Nor the strange huge meteor procession, dazzling and clear, shooting over our heads,
(A moment, a moment long, it sail’d its balls of unearthly light over our heads,
Then departed, dropt in the night, and was gone;)
—Of such, and fitful as they, I sing—with gleams from them would I gleam and patch these chants;
Your chants, O year all mottled with evil and good! year of forebodings! year of the youth I love!
Year of comets and meteors transient and strange!—lo! even here, one equally transient and strange!
As I flit through you hastily, soon to fall and be gone, what is this book,
What am I myself but one of your meteors?


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