Ilana Halperin: Myth-making molluscs and cool corals

Glasgow-based artist Ilana Halperin has been researching and developing ideas for a contemporary art exhibition inspired by National Museums Scotland’s collections. The exhibition, The Library, is open from 24 May-29 September 2013. Over the past few months, she’s been looking through National Museums Scotland’s collections, finding out about minerals, fossils, molluscs and rocks and uncovering some fascinating stories. In this series of blog posts, we share some of the fantastic things she’s found.

Artist Ilana Halperin has come across some incredible discoveries during her research at National Museums Scotland, but these have got to be some of the strangest. Who knew that snails were sculptors and molluscs were the real makers of the Golden Fleece?

“While at National Museums Scotland I’ve been branching out into other areas beyond geology and mineralogy: I’ve been spending time with corals and molluscs and the curators who look after those collections. I’ve been looking at some lovely things in those departments, such as carrier shells. As these molluscs grow their shells, they also pick up bits of rocks, coral or other shells and attach them to their own. So their shells become these crazy, fabulous sculptures.

Coral specimens in the National Museums Collection Centre
Coral specimens in the National Museums Collection Centre.
Hexacorallia (coral)
Hexacorallia (coral).
Tubipora musica (organ pipe coral)
Tubipora musica (organ pipe coral).
Xenophora conchyliophora (Atlantic carrier shell)
Xenophora conchyliophora (Atlantic carrier shell).

“I’ve also been looking at golden sea threads, which are rumoured to be the substance that the Golden Fleece was composed of. The threads are made by a particular bivalve to tether itself to a substrate, like an anchor. At various points these threads have been harvested and woven together. National Museums Scotland has a really beautiful pair of gloves and a matching scarf all woven from this thread!”

Gloves and scarf made from golden sea threads
Gloves and scarf made from golden sea threads.

You can visit Ilana’s website here.

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