December 6, 2012 10:43 am
New York–based photographer Shinichi Maruyama has a knack for capturing motion on film. His Water Sculpture series completed in 2009, for example, seems to turn dripping, splashing liquid into glass sculpture. But his most recent collection, Nude, has been getting some attention for an entirely different reason.
In a magnificent blur of flesh and beige swirls, his nude subject becomes the opposite of a sculpture: motion embodied. By piecing together uninterrupted individual moments as a series of composite images and then putting them together to form one shot, the artist says, “the resulting image appears to be something entirely different than what actually exists.” According to the artist’s statement, “With regard to these two viewpoints, a connection can be made to a human being’s perception of presence in life.”
Maruyama was born in 1968 in Nagano, Japan, and studied at Chiba University. After graduation, he spent some time traveling and working as a freelance photographer. Maruyama moved to New York City in 2003 and started working on what would become his critically acclaimed Kusho series. His other work has appeared in several museums including Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall, as as part of the JapanNYC Festival, and the Peabody Essex Museum in Massachusetts among others.
More of the artist’s work can be found on his website.
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November 30, 2012 8:30 am
Calvin Seibert likes to play in the sand. He likes it so much that he has been sculpting sandcastles for the last 30 years. Images of his collection of castles and structures from the last six years have received attention on the web—for good reason too: These sculptures are not your average sand castle.
Seibert, 54, spends anywhere from four hours to a couple days on any given sculpture depending on his luck. He uses simple tools to craft the details: two plastic putty knives and a five-gallon bucket to fill with extra sand. Even if he doesn’t get to the beach as often as he’d like—sometimes only once during an entire summer—Seibert says one of the more accessible spots to sculpt is Jones Beach, right off of the train from New York City, where he’s based.
“I’ve spent all day on one castle if there are small enough details in the design. Sometimes I’ll spread it over two days if the castle is still there,” he says. “If it’s not the waves, it’s the children smushing it. If you turn your back on a seagull they will destroy the castle.”
As far as planning goes, Seibert says he mostly goes with the flow. Despite his interest in architecture, there are no blueprints for these castles.
“I pretty much do it on the fly,” he says. “I have some ideas of what I want to accomplish but usually I build off of castles I have built before. If spirals worked last time, I’ll use more in the next sculpture. I don’t have narratives but sometimes I toy with that idea.”
Seibert says one of his biggest influences is Brutalist architecture, a style that was popular in the 1950s to mid 1970s.
“Architects would design a lot of concrete structures,” he says. “A lot of the great ones don’t exist anymore because people think they’re ugly. I like them because they had this hard-edged quality that I use in my castles.”
Seibert built the castle pictured above last summer. Its distinct spirals and mountain in the foreground, he says, make it memorable. “I built this piece over the course of two days,” he says. “I started part of it one day and got lucky that it was still there the next day. It’s a good piece because it shows my attention to detail.”
“I like when they become complexes—these vast structures that appear as if they were built over different reigns,” he says. “As if the Vatican took all the stones from the Colosseum and built the Cathedral. There is a false sort of history in my design.”
“There is one that has kind of a castle next to it. It’s flat and feels industrial. The distribution of structures next to it speaks to my sense of humor where you’ve got this pretty castle and next to you’ve put a McDonald’s.”
To see more of Seibert’s castles below and on his Flickr page.
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September 26, 2012 8:12 am
Last Saturday, more than 100 mustachioed and bearded participants gathered in Wittersdorf, a town in eastern France, to strut their scruff at the 2012 European World Beard and M0ustache Championships. The competition’s more than 20 categories cover everything from the Amish beard to the Fu Manchu. We’re talking looks inspired by Rip Van Winkle and Curly Q’s, some of which require sticky tape to hold up.
While the competition is unusual, it’s been going on since 1990. The first event was held in a small, German village in the Black Forest: a group called the First Höfener Beard Club thought those with excellent facial hair should have a venue where they could proudly display their whiskers, and the first-ever World Beard and Moustache Championships were born. The second event was held in the neighboring city of Pforzheim in 1995. Ever since, contestants—anyone who can grow facial hair fitting to one of the contest’s categories—get together every 2 years to compete.
It wasn’t until 2003 in Carson City, Nevada, that festivities were held in America—something founder and self-appointed Captain of Beard Team USA, Phil Olsen, organized and waited years to see happen.
Olsen’s mustache-mission began in 1999, when he was vacationing in Sweden and heard that the World Championships were being held in the town of Ystad:
“When I wandered in, I was immediately enthralled by the spectacle I had never seen before or imagined existed. It was exciting to see that people were celebrating facial hair. In the states at the time, beards and sideburns were not especially popular and were kinda for hippies, kooks and communists,” Olsen says. “These guys took their facial hair seriously and had made bearding not only into a sport but also an art.”
When Olsen returned from his trip that year, he realized that this was a “sport” Americans should be participating in.
“It was overwhelming to me that this international event was going on and America was underrepresented,” he says. “I immediately realized what potential there was for this event to become a phenomenon beyond the group of people who were there and it became my mission.”
Historically, Olsen says, the event is German-dominated. There are between 10 and 12 beard clubs in that region alone and most of them are organized through the Association of German Beard Clubs (VDB). Until America got involved in 2003, members of the VDB always had the biggest representation.
“It’s crazy what people can do with their facial hair if they set out to do something with it,” he says. “America established itself as the premier power in world bearding at the 2009 event in Anchorage, but I have to say the Germans are still leaders in the freestyle category. It’s a whole art form these guys invented. There are a lot of Americans who are trying to discover their secrets, but the Germans are still the best at it no doubt.”
The next big beard-off will take place on a national level in downtown Las Vegas this November. So far, there are 130 competitors signed up from 34 of the 50 states, Olsen says. The winners of this competition may move on to next year’s World Championships which will take place on November 2, 2013, in Leinfelden-Echterdingen, Germany.
September 20, 2012 1:28 pm
A fire tornado? If you had asked Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton back in ’96 if that could happen, they’d probably have said: “When cows fly.” But filmmaker Chris Tangey, the man who captured a 100-foot-high twister of fire on tape leaving a path of destruction across the Australian outback on Tuesday, will tell you otherwise.
The rare footage of the whirlwind has spread like—ahem—wildfire on YouTube and other media outlets this week. In case you missed it, the report from a local news station:
According to the video, the last rainfall in Alice Springs, Australia, where the video was taken, was April 24. Combine that with the build up of dry, old growth and you’ve got the perfect conditions for a tornado of this kind. “It was a dance of giants in front of me,” Tangey says in the video, “I had never seen anything like it.”
Tangey was scouting movie locations in the Northern territory when he spotted the swirl of fire, the Australian Times reports:
“It sounded like a jet fighter going by, yet there wasn’t a breath of wind where we were,” Mr Tangey told the Northern Territory News.
“You would have paid $1000 a head if you knew it was about to happen.”
The column of fire raged for about 40 minutes, Tangey said.
To call the event a “fire tornado” may be a misnomer, however. According to Mark Wysocki, New York’s state climatologist and a professor of atmospheric sciences at Cornell University, the columns of dust are more similar to a dust devil. The Huffington Post reports:
“‘I would just call them fire vortices but that doesn’t sound so sexy to the public, so I would call them fire devils,’” he told Life’s Little Mysteries.
Like the dust devils that spring up on clear, sunny days in the deserts of the Southwest, a fire devil is birthed when a disproportionately hot patch of ground sends up a plume of heated air. But while dust devils find their heat source in the sun, fire devils arise from hot spots in preexisting wildfires.”
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September 18, 2012 1:41 pm
Today, in Rome, researcher Karen King announced a discovery of a 1600-year old piece of papyrus, no bigger than an ATM card, that will likely shake up the world of biblical scholarship.
Smithsonian magazine reporter Ariel Sabar has been covering the story behind the scenes for weeks, tracing King’s steps from when a suspicious email hit her inbox to the nerve-wracking moment when she thought the entire presentation would fall apart. When Karen L. King, the Hollis professor of divinity, the oldest endowed chair in the United States and one of the most prestigious positions in religious studies, first translated the Egyptian language of Coptic on the scrap of paper, a few lines jumped out:
The fragment’s 33 words, scattered across 14 incomplete lines, leave a good deal to interpretation. But in King’s analysis, and as she argues in a forthcoming article in the Harvard Theological Review, the ‘wife’ Jesus refers to is probably Mary Magdalene, and Jesus appears to be defending her against someone, perhaps one of the male disciples.
‘She will be able to be my disciple,’ Jesus replies. Then, two lines later, he says: ‘I dwell with her.’
The papyrus was a stunner: the first and only known text from antiquity to depict a married Jesus.
But King is quick to pump the brakes on assigning any biographical importance to these words—the text was most likely written in Greek a century or so after Jesus’ crucifixion before being copied into Coptic a few centuries later. The author is unknown. King will also be the first to admit that her theories about the text’s meaning are based on the assumption of the document’s authenticity—something she is sure will be a hot topic of debate in the coming months. No chemical analysis has been run on the fragment and until then, King’s article, provocatively titled, “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” will operate under the assumption that the document is unaltered and genuine.
What’s most important about this discovery, King says, is not whether the historical Jesus was actually married, but what it tells us about early groups of Christians:
What it does seem to reveal is more subtle and complex: that some group of early Christians drew spiritual strength from portraying the man whose teachings they followed as having a wife. And not just any wife, but possibly Mary Magdalene, the most-mentioned woman in the New Testament besides Jesus’ mother.
The questions a text like this raise are where the revelation lies: Why is it that only the literature that said he was celibate survived? Were texts written in Coptic by early Christians whose views had become less popular lost in the shuffle or were they silenced? And how does this factor into longstanding Christian debates about marriage and sexuality? The article continues:
“Though King makes no claims for the value of the ‘Gospel of Jesus’s Wife’ as, well, a marriage certificate, she says it ‘puts into greater question the assumption that Jesus wasn’t married,’ she told [Sabar]. It casts doubt ‘on the whole Catholic claim of a celibate priesthood based on Jesus’ celibacy. They always say, ‘This is the tradition, this is the tradition.’ Now we see that this alternative tradition has been silenced.”
Read more from Smithsonian’s exclusive coverage: “The Inside Story of the Controversial New Text About Jesus“