Artists Hatched A Plan To Embellish Ostrich Eggs

Scrambled, fried, poached, boiled, pickled in beet juice, or whipped to a light, fluffy consistency, eggs provide essential protein, vitamins and minerals to sweet and savory dishes alike.

Their smooth shells are so naturally lovely that they were pursued by Victorian-era gentlemen who collected them as a hobby. The naturally pastel-hued shells of eggs from Araucana chickens inspired Martha Stewart to create a line of 22 paints for Fine Paints of Europe, with beautiful names like Pinfeather, Oceana, Silkie White, Crevecoeur, Golden Campine and Buff Cochin. And Augustus the Strong, ruler of Saxony, collected ostrich eggs that silversmiths and jewelers fashioned into precious objects, storing them in a lavish treasure chamber known as the Historic Green Vault in Dresden, Germany.

Even their ovoid shape is artistic. The dominant shape of Northwest Native American art also inspired children’s book author and illustrator Jan Brett to use the ovoid as the basis of her signature hedgehog drawings. (Click here and you’ll see what I mean.)  They famously inspired Peter Carl Fabergé to create jeweled masterpieces for Russian Tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II to give to their wives and mothers as Easter gifts.

But when their shells are painted, dyed, lacquered, adorned with photos and collages, highlighted with gold leaf and glass, or serve as the surface for sculptures and pen-and-ink drawings, eggs can also be considered as works of art.

Forty-eight embellished ostrich eggs are the subject of Art 360°: Contemporary Art Hatching Across Ohio, an exhibition currently on view at the Columbus Museum of Art. Using a range of media — from oil, acrylic and watercolor paints to fiber and ceramics, photography, printmaking, pen and ink, and sculpture — Ohio artists transformed these eggs into unique works of art.

Working with a three-dimensional object can be a challenge for artists used to two-dimensional creations, but all accomplished the task in extraordinary ways. Here are a few of my favorites.

Mariana Smith employed oil paint and silver to create Acqua Alta, an ethereal view of Venetian landmarks like the Bridge of Sighs, the Doge’s Palace, the Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Basilica.Art 360°, Columbus Museum of Art

Oeuf Couture was Debra Dawson’s iridescent, glittery and fashionable answer to the challenge.Art 360°, Columbus Museum of Art

Blue transferware porcelain inspired Sophie Knee to create this gilded monotype relief of leaves.Art 360°, Columbus Museum of Art

Josh Sutton transformed his ostrich egg into The Leap of Life, a sculpture made with 3D printing and digital sculpting.Art 360°, Columbus Museum of Art

Look at the detail Amy Casey captured with acrylic paint and a fine brush in Knot.Art 360°, Columbus Museum of Art

In Broken Melodies-Discordant Fragments, Audra Skuodas transformed a collage of tiny fragments of sheet music into a kaleidoscopic masterpiece.Art 360°, Columbus Museum of Art

The exhibition opened at the Southern Ohio Museum & Cultural Center in Portsmouth from January through March of this year. It will remain on view at the Columbus Museum of Art through August 14, 2016. Next, it travels to the Massillon Museum, where it will be on display from October 15 to the end of 2016.

To watch footage of a Broad and High segment about the exhibition that aired on WOSU earlier this year, click here

For more about Victorian-era egg collecting, see The Lost Victorian Art of Egg Collecting,” from the March 25, 2016 issue of The Atlantic.

This entry was posted in Art, Birds, Columbus, Museums. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Artists Hatched A Plan To Embellish Ostrich Eggs

  1. Thank you so much for writing this blog about the Art 360 Project. I am Debra Joyce Dawson, artist of “Oeuf Couture” which you pictured. I would like to share you post, but haven’the found a way to do that yet.

    You are a powerful writer, thank you.

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