|Gratuitous picture of the Palace of Fine Arts,|
because I'm going to miss it so much.
I love them for two major reasons: one, because of their devotion to collaborative, hands-on project-building and art-making, exploration, and play; and two, because they, like me, freakin' love cardboard. They have all these amazing artists coming in to teach museum visitors easy ways to make awesome things out of junk, and many of those artists are obsessed with cardboard. One of them was MIT masters student Jie Qi, who has become this month's absolute inspiration for me - and once you see what she's making, you'll understand why.
Jie Qi describes herself on her website as "interested in all things art, design, technology, DIY… and I love to make things that combine all four." What kinds of things? Well, like Pu Gong Ying Tu (Dandelion Painting), a interactive, light-up painting of dandelion flowers. Blow on the glowing "seeds," and they disperse and reform as new flowers. Or her blooming paper flowers, chrysanthemum-like blossoms that unfold their petals. Or her electronic popables, a pop-up book that sparkles with lights, sings, and moves. It features, among other things, a glittering solar system, a luminous coral reef, and a hungry Venus Flytrap. It's delightfully handmade, with drawn-on arrows that show you what tabs to pull to work the popups, and yet the technology is elegant and astonishing. But what really inspired me was her piece "Novel Architecture," a giant pop-up book you can literally step into. Inside, following the threads of her other works with flowers, lights, and moving parts, delicate paper blossoms light up and open and close like jellyfish or sea anemones.
The piece is beautiful and innovative, and it inspired me more than anything I've seen in months. I see plenty of art that's inspiring in a nonspecific way, and oftentimes I'll look at really beautiful or moving or unusual art and feel, "Wait, that makes me think of something I want to make!" But it's pretty rare on those occasions that I think of something specific, and even when I do, it's even more rare that what comes to mind is even remotely doable. Every time I see a cob house, for example, I'm inspired to make a specific building of my own, but at this point in my life I have neither the time nor the space to do so - I could get those things, of course, but it would require a pretty intense alteration of my life to do so. Looking at Jie Qi's piece, though, I thought - wait a second. That's a giant book, and it's amazing, but is there any reason you have to stop at one "page"? Or that you couldn't have a full text on the inside? And just like that, bam, I had a Project.
|An altered bookshelf I made as part of my thesis|
installation. It's made of, yup, cardboard. The
"branches" were cut from old boxes, padded
with newspaper, and papier-mached.
I'm working on a 1"=1' scale model right now, and a wonderful friend of mine volunteered to write music for the space! Encouraged by the wonderful ladies of Insatiable Booksluts, who saw an idle tweet about the idea and pounced on me about actually doing it, I'm now hoping to be able to build and install it somewhere book-friendly in the next 3-6 months. The eventual dream: charge a nominal admittance fee and donate the funds to nonprofits like Sheltering Books, which collects books to give to kids in homeless shelters across the US. (I also want the book to feature a gentle education on Norcal wildlife and the Northern Spotted Owl in particular; it's a threatened species and I'd be thrilled to be able to donate funds towards research, reforestation, and other pro-wildlife organizations.)
I started out just dawdling around on a great website, and look where I ended up. Hooray for the intersections of art and science! You never know what's going to inspire you.