This hardcover collection of photographs of unusual, bizarre, and striking objects gathered by the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! global franchise has been given a surprisingly classy art-book treatment.
Unlike Ripley’s publications that are clearly aimed at a juvenile audience or that lean garishly on the freakish and/or gruesome, this sharply designed, 144-page, 9-inch-square picture book, which includes historic objects and works by professional contemporary artists, takes a serious, adult approach—even when the object is a toothpaste version of Vincent van Gogh’s self-portrait, an Etch A Sketch of a Gone with the Wind movie poster, or Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper rendered in…laundry lint. Other objects featured within the double-page spreads of well-framed, crisply captioned photographs include a painting with delicate, curving lines made, we’re told, by a live hissing cockroach, its legs dipped by the artist in nontoxic paint; a life-size skeleton from the Philippines crafted from found pieces of dead coral; Spanish sculptor José Manuel Castro López’s seemingly malleable stone carvings; California sculptor Benjamin Newman’s giant moth made of vintage spark plugs and the hood of a car from the 1940s; and elegant scrolls of cold steel, “bent by hand using traditional strongman techniques.” Among the most striking pieces is Michael Kalish’s image of Muhammad Ali emerging from carefully aligned layers of steel. The book’s smattering of brief artist profiles, while informative, seems somewhat random; these include a photographer whose telescopic views of space are actually scans of various foods, a limbless painter of vivid flora and fauna, and Paul Baliker, creator of Ocean’s 11th Hour, the cover piece, a towering driftwood sculpture addressing “the dangers of extinction caused by ocean pollution.”
Fans of well-designed art-book collections of oddball objects will find much to enjoy.