Saturday, February 7, 2009

Fly Agaric

When I lived on Vancouver Island, I was amazed at the incredible variety, size and abundance of mushrooms. I know it is a temperate rainforest, really, but there were mushrooms which I had previously thought only occurred in fairytales, like some peculiar European convention: this is how you illustrate gnome houses. Also, mushrooms are known, of course, for their tendancy of producing neurotoxins... since these fungi were so unfamiliar, I had no idea how dangerous they might be. Was I tracking poisons around on my shoes after walking home from work?

Fly Agaric lino block print

The MSOE challenge for February is mycology, the study of mushrooms. They are quite remarkable life forms. I have chosen to add fly agaric to my cabinet of curiosities. There are great variations in texture in this fungus.

Amanita muscaria is the quintessential toadstool, the large, deep read, white-gilled, white-spotted mushroom we see in popular culture, from illustrations in children's literature to Super Mario. It is commonly known as the fly agaric or fly Amanita. It is a poisonous and psychoactive basidiomycete fungus, native throughout the temperate and boreal regions of the Northern Hemisphere, found in association with various deciduous and coniferous trees. It also plays a role in the religions of Siberia and possibly also in ancient Scandinavian culture. The name Fly Agaric likely comes from its use in Europe as an insecticide, when sprinkled in milk. Alternatively it may be that the term fly- refers not to insects as such but rather the delirium resulting from its consumption. This is based on the medieval belief that flies could enter a person's head and cause mental illness. Seriously! The things you can learn on wikipedia! Actually, I recommend this extry: it has everything from science, to Smurfs, to beserk Vikings, to the ancient Rig Veda texts of India, to Santa Clause and reindeers on shrooms, to ethnomycology. I did not even know one could study ethnomycology.

This is an original lino block print in red with a hint of brown on Japanese kozo paper. The sheets are 5 inches by 7 inches or 12.7 cm by 17.8 cm. Basically, these are life-sized. The edition is limited to 16 prints.

In other news, if the freaky weather gets any warmer, I am going to need a raft to retrieve my laundry from the basement!

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