Toothpick Artist Creates Detailed Toothpick Portraits of Celebrities

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Steven J. Backman, one of the world’s most talented toothpick artists, creates detailed portraits of celebrities and icons exclusively out of toothpicks.

The first time I visited Mr. Backman’s official site I was fascinated by his incredible models of famous landmarks made from a single toothpick, which I presented here on Oddity Central, a while back. But I remembered seeing a series of incredibly detailed portraits that the artist creates exclusively out of wooden toothpicks, and just had to show them to you guys.

Using dozens of toothpicks and glue, Steven J. Backman manages to create unique masterpieces that look like the work of a talented graphic designer. He obviously spends a lot of time working on them, because the likeness and attention to detail are simply amazing.

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The Wristwatch Motorcycles of Jose Geraldo Reis Pfau

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Talented Brazilian artist Jose Geraldo Reis Pfau creates beautiful motorcycle miniatures using only parts from old wristwatches.

Pfau’s passion for motorcycles began in the 1960′s. He owned various types of motorcycles, some of them modified and inspired by the movie “Easy Rider”. But the artist born and raised in Blumenau, Santa Catarina was also fascinated by the arts, and it was only natural that his artistic talent and passion for bikes combine in a unique project. At first, he developed several motorcycle images, but after reading about artists who created motorcycle miniatures out wood, pottery, wire and other materials, he decided to make similar artworks, out of a completely new medium – wristwatches.

The time pieces that inspired Jose Geraldo Reis Pfau’s creations were collected with a help of a friend who happened to own a wristwatch shop. Through an advertising campaign, clients were encouraged to give their old watches as a first installment on the purchase of a new one. This provided the artist with the necessary materials to experiment and create his unique wristwatch motorcycles.

Although Pfau only creates his art during the weekends, he has a collection of hundreds of motorcycles made exclusively from wristwatch components. They have been showcased at jewelry fairs and art exhibitions throughout Brazil and several other countries.

 

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The Hair Museum of Avanos

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Regarded as one of the weirdest museums in the world, the Hair Museum of Avanos, in Cappadocia, is definitely a must-see if you’re into bizarre tourist spots.

Ever since 3000 BC, Avanos has been known for its high quality earthenware, made from the mineral-rich mud of the Red River, but in recent years, the town has mostly been mentioned in relation to a unique hair museum created by skilled Turkish potter Chez Galip. The unusual establishment, located under Galip’s pottery shop, is filled with hair samples from over 16,000 women. The walls, ceiling, and all other surfaces, except the floor, are covered with locks of hair from the different women who have visited this place, and pieces of paper with addresses on them.

The story goes that the museum was started over 30 years ago, when one of Galip’s friends had to leave Avanos, and he was very sad. To leave him something to remember her by, the woman cut a piece of her hair and gave it to the potter. Since then, the women who visited his place and heard the story gave him a piece of their hair and their complete address. Throughout the years, he has amassed an impressive collection of over 16,000 differently colored locks of hair, from women all around the world.

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Thai Parliament Building Made from 200,000 Food Cans

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If you’re a fan of Canstruction art, you’re going to love this – a group of Thai students have built a replica of the new Thai Parliament building using around 200,000 food cans.

The event took place during the “Health Food and Ingredients Thailand 2011″ exhibition and, as you can imagine, grabbed a lot of attention. The 200,000 cans were all placed by hand, and this one-of-a-kind replica of the Thai Parliament will most likely find a place in the Guinness Book of Records.

Just like it happens in Canstruction events, I’m sure the cans will be donated to various charities, as soon as the sculpture is dismantled.

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Chicken Made of Eggshells Tries to Answer What Came First

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Using eggshells of different shades and tones, British artist Kyle Bean has managed to create an impressive sculpture of a chicken.

We’ve recently covered Kyle’s intricate matchstick insects, and mentioned that although he only graduated from art school two years ago, he’s a fast rising star of the art world, one who already has an impressive portfolio. He manged to prove me right by adding a few new works under his belt, including a unique chicken sculpture made of egg shells called “What Came First”.

It might not solve the ages-old question of what came first, the chicken or the egg, but it is clear proof of Kyle Bean’s talent, patience and attention to details.

 

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The Microchip Paintings of Yuri Zupancic

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American artist Yuri Zupancic creates unique microchip paintings that reflect how the “Smaller and Faster” catchphrase has replaced “Bigger and Better” in our everyday lives.

Yuri’s paintings cover a wide range of subjects, from animals and insects to humans and plants, but usually seeks poetic images that raise questions when painted on microchips. He sees his works as an attempt to broaden our perspective of modern electronics and acknowledge their position as extensions of the mind and its sentimental qualities”.

The size of these miniature masterpieces is most often less than a square inch, so paint is applied with very small brushes that the artist makes using his own eyelashes. As you can imagine, Zupancic’s microchip paintings are hard to fully appreciate with the naked eye, so magnifying glasses are supplied wherever they are exhibited.

 

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Fossil Cabin Museum Is Made of Thousands of Dinosaur Bones

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Often referred to as “the oldest cabin in the world”, the Fossil Cabin of Medicine Bow is a unique roadside attraction made of thousands of dinosaur fossils.

Located eight miles east of Medicine Bow, Wyoming, on US Route 30 is one of the most amazing tourist attractions in America – the Fossil Cabin. This starter cabin turned fossil museum is constructed of approximately 26,000 dinosaur bones extracted from the nearby Como Bluff dig site. It was designed by Thomas Boylan an entrepreneur who hauled out the dinosaur bones and together with his family completed the Fossil Cabin in 1933. Thomas had apparently been collecting dinosaur bones for seventeen years when he realized his entire pile of bones came from various species and there appeared to be no complete specimen, so he decided to use his collection as building material.

In 1938, Robert Ripley, of Ripley’s Believe It or Not dubbed it “the oldest cabin in the world” and judging by the primary building material, he wasn’t exaggerating one bit. It gained a lot of attention after that and it brought a lot of customers to Boylan’s neighboring gas station, but after he died, and Interstate 80 was built, business started to go downhill. The Fossil Cabin was sold to the Fultz family who managed it as a fossil museum. Inside visitors could admire and in some cases purchases various dinosaur bones, petrified sea-life, and other things that appeal to dinophiles.

Unfortunately, Fossil Cabin is currently closed to the public, pending acquisition of a new manager, but you can stop by and shoot some great photos of its dinosaur bone walls.

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The Book Autopsies of Brian Dettmer

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Brian Dettmer, also known as “The Book Surgeon” uses knives, tweezers and surgical tools to carve old dictionaries and encyclopedias into incredible works of art.

Born in 1974, in Chicago, Brian Dettmer studied art at Colombia College, where he focused mainly on painting. During his time working in a signage store, the artist started exploring the relationship between codes, text, language and art. He began producing paintings based on sign language, Braille and Morse Code, then moved on to layered works that involved pasting newspaper and book pages to a canvas, and it was just a matter of time before he would discover the talent he is now renowned for – expert book carving.

The Book Surgeon takes outdated books, dictionaries and encyclopedias that would otherwise end up at a landfill somewhere, and gives them new meaning and the chance at a second life, by carving them into intricate artworks. “Their intended role has decreased or deceased and they often exist simply as symbols of the ideas they represent rather than true conveyors of content. When an object’s intended function is fleeting, the necessity for a new approach to its form and content arises.” Dattmer says, explaining the philosophy behind his work.

Reference works are Brian’s favorite material, because of the rich illustrated content, but regardless of what he works with, he never inserts any new material or move the content of the book around just to make it more interesting. Using his trusty precision tools, he cuts out unwanted content stabilizing what’s left with layers of varnish. In the beginning, Brian Dettemer focused on carving one book at a time, but in recent years his art has become even more ambitious, as he began using sets of books to create the images he desires.

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Micromachina – The Hallowed-Out Insect Sculptures of Scott Bain

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Micromachina is a collection of real taxidermy insects fitted with various devices that is meant to show how we humans mistreat nature, forcing it to do our bidding.

Scott Bain’s creations show humanity’s disregard for nature in all its forms: genetic modifications, pesticides or massive urban expansion. There’s practically nothing we won’t do in our never ending quest for profit, and the artist believes there will come a time when nature will rid the world of its biggest pest, us.

The hollowed-out Micromachina insects were inspired by our way of using technology to control nature and turn every living thing into a tool.

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The Miniature Wonders of Ave Maria Grotto

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The Ave Maria Grotto is a four-acre park featuring 125 miniature reproductions of some of the most important Christian buildings and shrines, located in Cullman, Alabama.

Known as “Jerusalem in Miniature” this wonderful attraction was built from concrete, stone and seashells, by Brother Joseph Zoettl, a Benedictine monk of the nearby St. Bernard Abbey. Joseph was born in Germany, in 1878 and nearly lost his life to a flu epidemic that swept around Europe. He emigrated to the USA as a teenager, and settled in Alabama, where a freak accident left him scoliosis and a back injury. That’s probably the reason he decided to join the newly opened Benedictine monastery of Cullman. He took his vows at the age of nineteen and was put in charge of the monastery’s powerhouse.

It was around this time Brother Joseph began tinkering with stones, leftover cement and other junk he found outside the powerhouse. He would build Bible scenes from old ink bottles and rusted birdcages, and his handiwork soon attracted the attention of Father Dominic, who asked him to make two miniature grottoes for him to sell and raise money for the abbey. The artworks were so impressive they sold immediately, so what Joe though was just a one time deal turned into a regular business, and he ended up creating over 5,000 grottoes.

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The Button and Pin Artworks of Ran Hwang

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Instead of using pins and buttons to stitch-up clothes, Korean-born artist Ran Hwang uses them to create gigantic installations in the shape of birds and cherry blossom trees.

To create her unique artworks, Ran Hwang hammers thousands of needles into a wall and hangs colorful pins from them. Seen from up close, her pin and button works look pixelated, but from afar, the whole piece seems to come together naturally. “My immense wall installations are extremely time consuming and repetitive manual work. This is a form of meditative practice that helps me find my inner peace. Like the monks practicing Zen facing the wall, my work is a form of performance that leads to finding oneself.” Hwang says about her unique technique.

Asked why she uses buttons as an art medium, the artist replies “because they are common and ordinary, like the existence of human beings”. She uses no glue in her art, so the buttons are free to move or fall at any time, which reflects the irresolute nature of human beings.

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Beautiful Scotch Tape Sculptures at Off the Roll 2011

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“Off the Roll” is a yearly tape sculpture contest that challenges people to create the best artworks they can by using only Scotch tape.

I never knew it was possible to create sculptures out of Scotch tape alone, but after seeing some of the things people made for the Off the Roll contest, I started thinking this is one of the coolest materials available. Now that I think about it, I should have realized that sooner, especially after writing about the duct tape costumes of “Stuck at Prom”.

This year, Scotch is offering a grand prize of $5,000 to the most original and best executed sticky tape sculpture, as well as three other $500 prizes for runners-up and a people’s choice award. If you’re interested in participating, all you have to do is stock up on Scotch tape, create an impressive sculpture, take up to three photos of it and enter it in the competition by the end of February.

Check out some of the most beautiful Scotch tape sculptures entered in this year’s competition, and make sure you visit the Off the Roll contest page to vote for your favorites.

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Takanakuy – The Fighting Festival of Peru

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For most of us, Christmas day is a time of celebration and togetherness, but for the people of the Chumbivilcas community, near Cuzco, it’s the perfect opportunity to get into a fight.

Takanakuy, which means “when the blood is boiling” in Quechua, one of the oldest spoken dialects of Peru, is an annual celebration that gives people the chance to solve personal differences with members of their community the old fashioned way, through violence. The yearly festival, which takes place every December 25th, is an indigenous tradition that has a lot to do with family honor, reputation and distrust in the judiciary system. Takanakuy is viewed by many as the only way to put problems behind them, before New Year’s.

On the day of the festival, participants (men, women and children alike) gather in the local bullring, where they engage in a bare knuckle fight, supervised by local authorities who act as referees. Men mostly stick to punching, but in women’s matches kicking is very popular and while contenders don’t seem to be holding back much, injuries are rarely reported. Fighters are not allowed to hit their opponents while they’re down, and they risk getting whipped if they forget about this important rule.

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Kapala – The Human Skull Cup of the Gods

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The kapala is a sacred sculpted cup made from the top of a human skull frequently offered by Hindu and Buddhist worshipers to their fierce deities.

A legacy of the ancient tradition of human sacrifice, the kapala is nowadays perceived as a dark but fascinating form of sculpture. Tibetan kapalas, in particular, feature impressive bas-relief artworks depicting religious figures and scenes, and are often adorned with semi-precious stones and silver-work. The elaborate carvings were handmade and the skull was soaked in water to soften the bone.

In Tibet, skull cups are used at Buddhist altars to offer wrathful divinities either wine, which symbolizes blood, or dough cakes shaped as human eyes or ears. Through the force of tantric visualization based on meditation and deep philosophical study,  a sort of transubstantiation will occur and the wine will be transformed into the Wisdom Nectar, a liquid form of the enlightened mind of one or all the deities in the Celestial Palace of the Mandala. This is just one of the many uses of the kapala in Tibetan ritual culture.

Some modern-day kapalas are still shaped like the top of a human skull, but they are made of brass and while they are adorned with artistic motifs, they aren’t nearly as fascinating as  genuine human skull cups.

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Artist Creates Detailed Cardboard Busts of Famous Figures

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Scott Fife is an American sculptor well-known for his incredibly detailed busts of popular icons, made only from archival cardboard, drywall screws and glue.

Scott says he has been working with cardboard for the last 25 years, and he remembers he first decided to use it purely for economic reasons. He would find cardboard boxes on the streets, cut them up into pieces, paint on them and create unique artworks, but the high acid content of cardboard meant the lifespan of his works could be limited, so he eventually switched to archival cardboard. He liked the coolness of the blueberry coloring from the beginning, and it wasn’t that much different to work with than ordinary cardboard, so archival cardboard became his favorite material.

The cardboard busts Scott Fife creates look so realistic, it’s hard to believe he uses only low-tech tools. All he really needs is loads of archival cardboard, an Xacto knife, drywall screws, a screw gun, and glue.

Seattle-based Fife has been exhibiting his works across America since 1976, and while his technique hasn’t changed much since then, his incredible cardboard art is just as fresh and popular today as it was back then.

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