Monday, November 3, 2014

New still life photos.

I have long intended to photograph still life details within the installation of The Lyric Cranium. Here are some examples of the most recent. The focus for most is teeth.

 These last two show some miscellaneous details that fascinate me.



Friday, March 28, 2014

Mini bell jars

As part of the grand scheme of things, the creation of ephemera is one of the goals of my Wunderkammer. Part of that process is to create objects that inspire said ephemera. So these three little bell jars with an enclosed artifact are my latest creations. The art works derived from these pieces are the photopolymergravure prints made from the manipulated photographs that document them (see below). The actual pieces will take their place amongst the scatter of artifacts in the shelves or in the display cases of THE LYRIC CRANIUM. The prints, however, will have a life of their own. One set will be sent to the Biennial International Miniature Print Exhibition (BIMPE VIII), and the remainder of each edition will be available to patrons of the museum.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Lyric Cranium Video

I made a quick video in July 2013 which showcased the space as it was at that time with most of the installations in place. More items have been added since, but a new video is still in the works. Please excuse the quality, it was shot with a small hand-held point-and-shoot camera.

As you can see, both halves of the space are fairly well developed at this stage: the traditional Wunderkammer half, and the simple black and white space, inspired by Klaus Oldenburg's Mouse Museum, seen at the MoMA in 2013.

The following earlier video from January 2013 shows it just after the wallpaper was completed but before any objects were in place. It also shows the operation of the secret door/shelf. People love this.....  Please excuse the heavy breathing. :-)

I hope to update this video collection with a new one in the coming months, one with better production values.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Broadside

As one of the first ephemera projects resulting from THE LYRIC CRANIUM installation, my printing assistant, Maria M. and I made this letterpress broadside using some antique wooden type and large lead type from my type inventory. The idiosyncratic words were collected over time and all have very appropriate meaning. The image cut of the figure was a newspaper advertisement and the pupae and moth are hand carved wood engravings for a 19thC entomology newsletter. This broadside was printed in two press runs in a varied edition.

Click image to see the detail.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Walls Need Frames

 Although an interesting feature in its own right, the customized wallpaper needed to be covered with framed photographs, art and miscellaneous ephemera. So, I turned to my collection of antique frames and 19th C. post mortem portraits. 

Victorian Memorial Hair and paper Wreaths

The above shot shows a few of the post mortem portraits in little frames and a post mortem painting on the wall. On the right side is a photo-and-sculptural piece by Diana Thonrneycroft. Below, another area includes some of my own work: an antique porcelain doll print and a photogravure of a badly taxidermied red squirrel (much like the others sitting below).

The opposite wall is devoted to animal skulls, a snake skeleton, a framed cat mummy, and shelves for more animal remains. Most of the skulls are still on the floor because I haven't figured out how to make skull brackets for them all yet.

A dehydrated cat mummy I found in Alberta in 1983 has been following me around ever since and has appeared in numerous artworks over the years. Now she has her final resting place of honour on the wall of the LYRIC CRANIUM.

Close-up of Fluffy's amazing snarl.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

More Human Skulls

One of the main foci of the LYRIC CRANIUM is its natural history and biological specimens. Since childhood, I've been fascinated by skulls and bones, animals and remains, so it is only natural that these items form the core of the exhibits on display. A human cranium and mandible, various animal skulls, antlers, and a cat mummy were the impetus for a much larger collection, one that is still growing.

In April, the skeleton vitrine began to fill with more skulls....

In April 2013, the vitrine contents grew.

By December 2013, two more human skulls were added thereby bringing the total to five individual skulls plus an articulated leg with foot.

More animals skulls can be seen in the background vitrine, too.

My favourite new skull is a geriatric skull with a set of dentures from a collection in England. I also received some real glass eye prostheses as well.

Another arrived shortly after, this time from a medical collection in the USA.

Along with these, I continue to find amazing animal skulls such as this peculiar little item, looking like a young dragon, but actually a Reeve's muntjac. Read more about them here.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Installation Begins

Let the hanging begin. I scoured the second-hand shops last summer for odd items and ornate old frames for some images from my post mortem portrait collection. The first to be hung were the framed hair wreaths. They looked great against the casket wallpaper.

Victorian Hair Wreath (bottom) Curled paper Memorial Wreath (top)

I built a shadow box frame for my fully articulated spitting cobra skeleton....

Javan Spitting Cobra

....and I built a display box for my little calf foetus, a vitrine for the piglet, and glass domes for the Pope mouse and the Hamlet mouse I found at Paxton Gate in San Fransisco.

Some skulls were still strewn on the floor for now. Soon, I will build either stands or brackets for most of them. 
The smaller skulls will go in a glass fronted cabinet.

Sheep (left), and two deer (mule and white-tailed)

Arctic muskox and gargoyle souvenirs from St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York City.

 Meanwhile, in the tall see-through cabinet built into the wall, some artifacts were forming nice little still lifes already.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Walls and Shelves

Before the museum installation can begin, the first requirement was to finish the walls. Then I needed shelves and cabinets to display and protect fragile items. I liked the look of 19th C. oak cabinetry normally found in old museums so I used stained oak for all woodworking. With my carpentry background, I was able to make vitrines and a bookcase that will hopefully pass muster. These photos from 26 March 2013 show how it looked with mainly bare walls at that time.

Wallpaper almost done with see-through cabinet finished.

Bookcase almost finished. Collection starting to appear.

Skeleton vitrine completed and occupied.
I was impatient to see objects installed. Before I finished construction, there was a lot of dusting required. That was another good reason for glass vitrines whenever possible. It is amazing to see long-hidden items come out into the light again. I missed them. For example, the ostrich and emu eggs were in storage for over two decades. Recently acquired items like the memory jug on the next-to-top shelf were later relocated into new cabinetry. And the skeleton I bought a couple of years ago is finally out of its box and upright in his (?) personal vitrine.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Constucting the Space

This is the start of a new blog about THE LYRIC CRANIUM. This is my Wunderkammer, my museum of oddities, my collection of all things morbid and dark. As a visual artist, I plan to use this space as a reference for other artwork; works on paper, film, video and more; and to provide a unique first-hand experience to visitors and invited guests.

The construction of the space began 12 December 2012 just before the start of a four-month sabbatical leave. At first, I needed to build walls to divide the existing space which was originally the waiting room in a medical clinic called THE MURRAY CLINIC. I plan to re-use the aluminum letters from its sign, so the palindrome THE LYRIC CRANIUM was painstakingly worked out.

New wall and wallpaper go up.
After framing and putting up sheet rock (drywall), I pasted up sheets of custom printed wallpaper using a pattern I designed and had printed at Colombia College of the Arts in Chicago by amazing artist and pressman, Clifton Meador. It was slow going but the result is great. It is subtle enough to not be too obvious until one accidentally discovers what the walls are covered with. I assume that the more picture frames I hang on the walls, the more subtle it will be. One pattern seen being installed above was created by layering scans of a 19th C. manuscript Last Will and Testament written on vellum. (see samples below)

Manuscript scanned from a Victorian Last Will and Testament on vellum.
Same pattern as above with added over-script in brown.
Antique Caskets from the early 20th C. photographs.
This last wallpaper sample was made from actual salesman photographs of the caskets in stock at The American Casket Company; photographs that were used to produce their ca. 1920 catalog.

By 08 February 2013, I was already placing pieces from my collection in situ, all the while continuing the construction of auxiliary spaces and display furnishings. More to come in future blog entries.