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The Dragons of Malaysia

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I recently had the pleasure of visiting the traveling exhibit, Wonders of Malaysia when it passed through the Royal Ontario Museum.

Among the artifacts of various island peoples was a fantastic display of some of the unique Fauna of the islands. Proudly displayed amongst them were a few skeletons of the only recently discovered “dragons” from the tiny island of Titiwbala off the coast of Borneo.

Damn I wish that were true.

I actually just finished a project that I wanted to share. It’s the second in a series of sculptures done in the style of museum pieces.

A while back I realized that the same dinosaur display that I had seen when I was a child, one that told me about the huge, cold-blooded, reptilian dinosaurs was still standing, but now it told a story of colorful ancestors of birds. Nothing had changed except some text. Upon closer inspection it even had caveats that declared that it was only current consensus. I have to assume that the old text said the same, but those statements were washed away by the Museum Effect.

I may have just made up that term.

The Museum Effect is how the dim lighting, glass cases, Latin subscript, dry copy, hushed tones and felt ropes all combine to give an aura of truth and infallibility. The display style for artifacts of historical worth has become so universally accepted that one can co-opt those same rules to create a compelling lie.

So I thought I’d try.

I started by eating a lot of chicken. I also ate some turkey. I then gathered their bones and cleaned them carefully before bleaching them in peroxide.

Chicken Bones Aplenty

The first thing to assemble was the wings. There are very few bones that are appropriate for the phalanges of a wing and the rest of the body needs to be proportioned with respect to those.

Completed Wings

The rest of the body could now be assembled with the wings as a guide. The bones are first drilled using a tiny bit in a pin vise and then pinned and glued together. This makes the structure strong enough to be self supporting.

 

Dragon Body In Progress.

Despite my best efforts, I have not been able to breed a chicken with an appropriate skull, so that had to be crafted out of polymer clay. It is first roughed out based on the proportions of the body.

Rough Skull Design

Once hardened, the skull can be carved to give it dinosauresque features and teeth and a jaw can be added.

Carved Skull

Finally the skull can be painted and attached to the body. Getting the paint to match the natural colour of the bones is a challenge. Even more so in different lighting conditions.

Finished Dragon Skull

For a final touch of artificial legitimacy, an engraved metal label is added including both a common and faux-Latin name.

Le Voila!

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22 Comments

  1. Wow! I love the museum effect, and you’ve done a great job there. So cool.

    Maybe we should meet up for your next ROM visit, do some sketching! Now I see you’re going to Waterloo.

  2. Okay, that is effin’ RAD!
    So of course you realize that your statement “The Museum Effect is how the dim lighting, glass cases, Latin subscript, dry copy, hushed tones and felt ropes all combine to give an aura of truth and infallibility. The display style for artifacts of historical worth has become so universally accepted that one can co-opt those same rules to create a compelling lie.” means that we have to mount an art/science exhibition called The Interdimensional Museum where we will all create fake artifacts and display them using The Museum Effect. Think of it! A display case containing ancient blueprints for a TARDIS, fantastical animal skeletons, video documentation of First Contact on different worlds, intergalactic drink recipes…etc.
    I reckon it’s probably been done before, but… we need to do this.

  3. OMFSM. This is made of so much FNCKING AWESOME.

    Any plans for other mythological creatures? I wonder how long it would take you to eat your way to a unicorn or a gryphon? 😉

  4. @quarksparrow.

    I’d like to do a full-sized dragon at some point but I need both space and materials so that’s a pipe dream.

    I think My next project is going to be a faerie made out of quails.

  5. @Ryan – yeah, I live a little west of downtown Toronto, near the little Italy/Portugal/Brazil area. Short biking distance to the ROM.

  6. “Despite my best efforts, I have not been able to breed a chicken with an appropriate skull” — SO curious…
    The dragons are magnificent!

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