- Art is everywhere.
It might be a sculpture in the park or a painting on the wall.
It might be a vase on your bookshelf or a picture on your fridge.
It might be a story you've known forever or one you haven't even written yet.
It might be the music that's playing right now because art is incorporated into almost everything and we're excited to explore that everything with you.
Welcome to Art Inc.
In this episode, we're taking you outside for art and nature and nature and art.
- [Speaker] If you want to know what's going on-- (funky music) - This artist went from designing with plastic bricks to making little sculptures out of acorns and sticks.
- I think I was always curious as a kid what it would be like to be a tiny little person going in through the woods.
I think that's pretty universal, really.
Like what kid doesn't like to get down on their knees and check things out?
Becorns are little characters I make out of acorns and sticks.
I take them outside and I pose them in a little scene.
I wait for animals to come and then I take pictures of them interacting with wildlife.
There's a wide variety of personalities in the becorn world.
They tend to be gentle.
They're almost always curious and up to something.
There are warriors that are defending against squirrels.
They definitely are nurturers.
They feed the wildlife and care for them.
My first job out of school was as a toy designer at Lego.
The real beginning of becorns was when I worked at Bionicle.
- [Speaker] Bionicle takes off the new wings, weapons and boosters-- - Normally when you build with Legos, you try and build in a really structured way, but we would just hack them apart and hot glue them together to quickly arrive at a prototype.
Then we'd show them the kids and get their feedback and I just loved hearing their thoughts.
I learned so much.
After five years, I left Lego and I was at home sweeping my mom's driveway thinking wow, what a great job that was and what am I doing now?
And I looked down at all these sticks and acorns in my feet and I kind of realized like, oh my God, everything I did at Lego I can do with these sticks and acorns and kind of create a whole world with them.
I was building the figures and I was like, okay, what do I do with them now?
And sort of the clear first step was to take pictures and it sort of evolved from there.
So every time I go for a walk, I'm always on the hunt for good sticks and good acorns.
The perfect stick is about as the thickness of a barbecue skewer and it's got knobby parts and I like them to have like a slight bend in it cause I've found if they're straight, then the characters don't really look alive.
But if they have like just a slight bend, then they look more alive.
And then the perfect acorn has a cap that like goes most of the way around and then just has a perfect little circle and like the nose just sticks right out in the middle.
A lot of times I have a a pretty good idea about the scene I'm trying to go for when I build it.
And so I'm trying to think of what the right pose should be and as I'm building, I'm kind of thinking about the mechanics and how they hold their weight and like if they're running they should be leaning forward or if they're kind of scared, like are they leaning back?
So I kind of have a pretty good idea of what I'm going for.
And on the day when the light's good, there's no wind, I'll go outside and I'll set up the scene.
I'll set up the camera and I use a remote control.
I stand way back far enough that I can kind of see what's going on and then when the animals come, I push my little button and hope for the best.
Almost always something different happens than what I expected.
Usually there's a surprise that's great.
It'll like jump on its head and suddenly it tells this other story that I hadn't even imagined.
The pinnacle of becorn lore is when I built this character, it's holding a basket and I filled it with seeds and I set it out and I was trying to get a cardinal to come eat from the basket.
Instead, a squirrel came and carried it away off into the woods and I chased it into the woods.
I kind of felt like an idiot chasing it into the woods.
At some point I was like I'm not gonna catch the squirrel, what am I doing?
So then I built another.
The first one that was taken was named Joony with two O's and then the second one was Joony Junior and Joony Junior also was carried away by a squirrel into the woods.
So then I really wanted the shot, like I'm not gonna give up on this shot.
So I built a third Joony, Joony the Third who still lives today.
I choose names that kind of speak to the personality.
One of my favorite characters is named Dink.
He has his arms in front of his face and anything you put in his hands, he's like automatically excited about.
You put a berry in his hand and he's like really excited to eat it or you put a flower in his hand and he's really just in awe of this flower.
I have two characters named the John John Brothers and you can put kind of anything in their hands to be carrying and they're always kind of up to something.
They always have a plan.
So if they're carrying this like squash, it's like what are they doing with the squash?
I have them carrying like a bunch of grapes and then they're like offering the grapes to this sort of elder becorn.
I was scrolling Instagram one day and I saw this picture of a bird splashing a bird bath and it just looked so fun and lively and I just thought like, wow that's a scene I want to get with a becorn.
So I started sketching.
My favorite at first was to get a becorn in a boat and the bird would be next to it kind of splashing and getting it wet cause I wanted some kind of interesting interaction.
And then I did this other sketch which I think is so much more fun where the two are just like splashing and playing and it reminded me of being a kid in the summer splashing with my friends in the water and this was the one I had to do.
(upbeat music) Let's see if the birds come.
I'm really happy with the shots I ended up with.
I think some of them really did capture that like joyful summer celebration that I was going for and then I got some surprising shots too.
So as usual, I kind of started out with a plan and like the birds took over and gave me stuff that's just better than I ever could have asked for.
Kind of the essence of becorns is this wonder about the natural world and sort of experiencing nature and the wonder of nature in kind of a really pure way.
And a lot of people have said like I haven't felt that since I was a kid.
And I didn't even realize like that I was missing that feeling.
As an artist, that's the dream.
It's really a gift.
- What's more artistic than a dizzying array of color and sound or leaving new life in the wake of your last meal?
This story is for the birds and for you bird lovers too.
- My name is Charles Clarkson and I am the director of Avian research for the Audubon Society of Rhode Island.
The Audubon Society is a large national conservation organization that is devoted to conserving birds and the habitats that they rely on.
James Audubon was a collector and there's no doubt that a big part of what kind of pushed him to do what he did was this desire to fill in the Avian community for us to get a better handle on what the diversity is and how birds interact with each other and with the environment around them.
But there's no shortage throughout his writings where he just professes about how beautiful the birds are that he's out and he's witnessing.
And I think there's that connection for anybody who studies birds.
You're a backyard bird.
The reason you're doing it is because you are attracting these birds that you find absolutely beautiful and meditative, and you can sit on your back deck all day long and watch these vibrant blue jays and red cardinals and yellow warblers.
I am no artist, but I cannot deny that birds are like a palette unlike anything else on this planet.
Having big fleshy appendages or traits on your feathers or producing a song that is incredibly robust and dynamic all in an effort to be the male that is successful at attracting a mate or repelling rivals and gaining its territory.
For me it's scientific and it is emotional, I'm emotionally connected to the birds that I research.
I felt that from a very young age.
I grew up in Virginia.
My dad was a carpenter and he got this big farmhouse in the middle of nowhere and I just very quickly gravitated to nature in general and then being the most obvious part of nature, I immediately kind of went towards birds because they're everywhere.
You can see them, you can hear them and I developed this appreciation for bird life.
It wasn't until I took a college course in Ornithology that I just realized how unbelievably cool birds really are from an evolutionary perspective, an anatomical perspective.
And during that period of evolution, they've just been shaped to these perfect organisms that are capable of not only surviving but thriving in some of the most hostile environments the world over.
Birds have the highest resting basal metabolism of any vertebrae that I think of them as metabolic hot rods that have been on this planet for 160 million years.
These are organisms that are constantly walking the tightrope between life and death on a daily basis.
They are artists and themselves over millions of years of evolution at how they've deposited seeds from around the world and caused vegetational communities to sprout up.
We manage roughly 10,000 acres here in Rhode Island.
What we are primarily interested in is understanding what the bird community is that can be found across all of the properties we manage.
We have roughly 150 point count stations established.
So for each one of these points, I visit the point two times, once in the non-breeding season and then again during the breeding seasons.
I'll start navigating to my first point using a GPS unit.
By going off trail, you're also more likely to find bird populations that might shy away from the presence of humans.
With the volunteer surveys, which are not timed, you can spend all day out birding.
Volunteers are welcome across all of our volunteer surveys.
And if you don't know your birds very well and you wanna learn, this is a great opportunity to do so.
And there's a wood brush from up ahead right... We get a lot of information that is scientifically useful and they get a wealth of information in terms of the world around them.
And so it's just a win-win for everybody.
There was a great paper put out in the late eighties by Paul Larlick and he likened biodiversity and functioning ecological communities to the metal rivets found on an airplane.
And the analogy is that every one of these rivets is important.
If you start removing rivets from this airplane, eventually if you remove enough, the airplane is just gonna fall apart and fall from the sky and crash.
And if you think about the planet that way, we are very much part of the biodiversity around us.
This is a web, a web of nature, and we are part of that web.
Humans cannot survive without nature.
I love my job.
Yeah, I think I'm one of the few very lucky people on this planet that decided early in life what it was that excited me and then proceeded to follow that path.
This is what I want to do.
I want to do what I can in my role as a conservationist to make this planet in this small state of Rhode Island better for the birds that reside here.
Whether they're wintering here or breeding here, I want to do whatever I can what's in my power to make their jobs easier.
- You know all about carnivores, omnivores and herbivores, but what is an orbivore?
Can you keep a secret?
- My name is Jen Knock and I'm a glass artist and co-owner of the Glass Station.
- I'm Evan Horton, I am a glass artist and co-owner of the Glass Station with my wife.
(light music) - What's unique about glass?
- The industrial quality of glass.
You're working with heat and it's loud and fiery and dangerous and immediate.
- Glass blowing is like playing a musical instrument.
I'm playing the guitar, Jen's playing bass and you can just play together.
- We both have the sheet music so we know exactly what we're playing and so it really does become like a dance.
We never get in each other's way and we've never burned each other have we?
When you understand how glass holds heat and how it wants to move at different temperatures, that's when the magic starts to happen.
- All of the glass is in this furnace.
It's 2,060 degrees in there and there's 350 pounds of glass inside this thing in a bowl.
So as I'm twisting and turning and lifting, it's like scooping honey out of a honey pot.
So now I'm gonna go into this little cast iron tool, this cools the surface of it.
I'm gonna put a bubble in it.
So now it's hollow.
Squeeze it down, blow it up a little more and that makes the flose hollow part.
You see how that's all nice and round, tap this.
Now I'm gonna gather up some more glass and this will be for the seal that goes on the top that has the shape of Block Island on it.
(funky music) In 2010, I started the Glass Float Project.
Every year there's 550 floats that we make and they get hidden in small batches pretty much every day on Block Island between the first weekend in June and Columbus Day weekend.
- So how do you pick your hiding spots?
- I like to say that they pick me.
I'm just looking for a certain tree that might hold a float the right way.
- So where's the strangest place you've ever hidden one?
- In the mouth of a dead striped bass.
- That is totally weird.
(funky music) - I started hiding glass on beaches in Rhode Island.
In 2010, I chose a glass float to use because it's such a simple form.
It's one of the quicker things to make.
When I started it, I had no idea that it would become as popular as it did.
- One of the most interesting parts of the project is the community that has sprung up in the Glass Float Project Facebook page.
There's over 11,000 people at this point.
It's an interaction between an artist, a piece of art, and the public, and I think the environment is a part of that art installation as well.
- Pablo Picasso said the purpose to life is finding your gift.
The secret to life is giving it away.
- And that's the nature of the gift too that when you give it away, you're not allowed to tell who you've given it to, how they can use it.
The gift is the giving away and then you release and then you back away and let that gift go.
- Do you wanna know the buzz?
Well, I heard that insects are nature's art.
In this next art in short short, we'll find out if it's true.
- [Narrator] Numbering just single group of animal in this film, we shall consider what insects are and how some are injurious to man and others beneficial.
- Insects are the most numerous group of animals on earth.
80% of all animals are insects.
We call it nature's art.
It's like a flower to someone who likes flowers.
It's just beautiful.
- And I was actually kind of afraid of insects, but then I started working in Dr. Alm's lab and I really like started falling in love with bees and butterflies and they're just really amazing.
- Liz has taken the pollen off of some of the bumble bees that we collected back in the early 1900s, and you can still analyze that and see what plants they were collecting that pollen from at that time.
We can actually see what their preferred flowers were and we can maybe try and enhance that in the environment to bring them back to the numbers they were at one time.
- So this is one of our native bees.
You can see that she has quite a bit of pollen on her back legs there, she was pollinating the crab apple trees here.
One of my favorite thing about insects is that it's kind of like you get a little insight into a whole different universe.
- They're so important in food chain.
Other animals like birds, reptiles, amphibians.
- [Narrator] Hunting for insects and finding them is fun.
Few of them will harm you, but there are many books to help you learn which ones may not be safe to handle it.
- We do the collecting usually in the fall and most insects are not gonna make it through the winter.
We use insect pins that do not rust.
You pin right through the thorax.
- [Narrator] All insects have certain characteristics in common.
For instance, three distinct body parts: An abdomen, thorax and a head.
- Move that up a little bit to make it look natural like it's in flight.
Okay, pretty even.
You just let that dry and then it'll stay like that forever.
There's about a million named insects at this point.
Some figure at least another million that we haven't even discovered yet.
That's why we do the collection.
- Sometimes it's the birds and the bees.
Sometimes it's a little sculpture hiding in the trees.
Art is all of these things and more because wherever we find ourselves, we'll find art.
Thanks for joining us and we'll catch you next time on Art Inc. - [Speaker] If you want to know what's going on.