Simurgh Watching

When we were in the midst of planning for the M. C. Escher exhibition, a team came together to discuss some fun programmatic elements for the fall. One great image that emerged was the unusual simurgh depicted in several works in the show. 

Tim Lee’s simurgh design for the NCMAIn Persian mythology the simurgh was a benevolent, winged creature in the form of a bird with the head of a dog or human. Our Escher exhibition features a sculpture of a simurgh–a gift from Escher’s father-in-law, who purchased it in Baku (present-day Azerbaijan). Escher was clearly taken with the gift, because he included it in some of his drawings and prints (including Still Life with Spherical Mirror and Other World). The sculpture occupied a prominent place in the family home in Rome.

We are taken with it, too. 

When you visit the NCMA to see the M. C. Escher exhibition, go on the hunt to see if you can find all the different adaptations of Escher’s simurgh.

Here are a few:

Betabox’s simurgh, created with a 3-D printer

1. Our first manifestation of the simurgh was a 3-D—printed creature created by Betabox, a custom prototyping lab built inside of a shipping container, when they were here for the opening of the exhibition. See if you can find him in East Building! (Hint: He likes to eat chili.)  

Black-light poster inspired by M. C. Escher’s Other World, Collection of Jerome Walker

2. Seek out a simurgh in a black-light poster of Other World, created in the 1960s as an homage to Escher’s work and its counterculture following. This and 14 other Escher-inspired black-light posters from the collection of Jerome Walker will be featured in January at our Emcee Escher party.

Betabox used laser cutters to create this wood block print of Tim Lee’s design.

3. Our favorite representation of the simurgh can be found in the Exhibition Caf©, situated in the Blue Ridge Atrium of East Building, one level below the exhibition. Fantastic local artist and musician Tim Lee–a member of the Hey Brothers bluegrass band whose work has been featured in Walter Magazine, the News and Observer, and IBMA World of Bluegrass Festival –agreed to create a fun illustration of the simurgh for us. This quirky-kooky guy embodies the fun and imaginative side of M. C. Escher and the exhibition.

4. And lucky for us Adam Peele, of AhPeele Studios, was able to print Tim Lee’s design onto fabulous t-shirts so we can all have our own simurgh. Both adult and children’s sizes are available only in the Exhibition Caf© for a limited time. Check out AhPeele Studios for another fun M. C. Escher reference–one of the Escher quotes displayed by the Raleigh Murals Project adorns his studio’s storefront.

Be on the lookout for more simurgh fun to come. This elusive creature could pop up in any dimension!

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