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Nature's Art Forms, Crystals, Become Mind-Bending Sculptures

Chris Ritson, Kyle Montgomery, and Tyler Thrasher grow crystals to create sculptural magic.

The naturally occurring phenomena of crystallization is a time-sensitive process that requires just as much patience as it does a love for science. The Creators Project tracked down three artists that each use this method to their advantage, creating delicate works while releasing control during the process.

Chris Ritson works through the crystallization process though the use of the mineral bismuth. Ritson acquires bismuth that is mined and refined in Peru and imported by a Californian metal retailer. He says, “The metal is melted to a liquid state in a ceramic crucible and the crystallization process occurs as the metal cools—I control the size and complexity of the crystal by varying the speed by which the metal cools and instigate the crystallization off the forms directly by dipping them into the molten bismuth. The crystals typically form in four to eight minutes and the colors form instantly as the crystals are removed from the molten pot and react to the atmosphere. It is caused by oxidation (rust).”

Chris Ritson, bismuth and ceramic sculpture. Photo courtesy of the artist and VSCO

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“My practice has always been concerned with how we, as humans relate to Nature. I try to produce art that is the result of a partnership with natural phenomena, creating an artwork that partially forms itself, as opposed to the traditional artistic representation of phenomena,” Ritson says. ”Crystal growth makes us question our notions about what life is.  A crystal makes visible the atomic structure of its material, bringing the ineffable concept of physical matter and energy to a perceivable physical form.”

Chris Ritson, bismuth and ceramic sculpture. Photo courtesy of the artist and 

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On the other side of the world, romanticized imagery of the Holy unknown is reinterpreted through crystallization by Australian artist Kyle Montgomery. By using the classic icon, Montgomery incorporates found Virgin Mary sculptures in his work, letting the crystals have their way with the pieces. As juxtapositions of science in a vessel of creationism, Montgomery's Virgin Mary's are representational in many forms. They are statuesque depictions of growth in motherly bodies, giving and holding life through science in geometrical atoms and molecules.

Kyle Montgomery, crystallized ceramic sculptures. Photo courtesy of the artist

“I do not grow any crystals,” Montgomery tells The Creators Project. "All minerals are naturally formed and come from the earth. The reason behind this is that when formed naturally certain information and properties are created within each piece. Some can take one to two days and some can take months. It all depends on the way I feel and if I can mentally connect with the task.”

Kyle Montgomery, crystallized ceramic sculptures. Photo courtesy of the artist

In Tyler Thrasher’s work, the process of yielding crystals can range from fairly simple organic chemistry, to a series of reactions that he uses to yield unique formations and specimens. The crystals can be in a solution from two days to two weeks. He says, "There are some crystals I had grown over the course of two months, but that's completely dependent on the compound used to grow the crystals.”

Tyler Thrasher, crystallized cicada. Photo courtesy of the artist

Thrasher tells The Creators Project that it has definitely been a learning process mainly due to the caution he uses around the chemicals. Thrasher explains, “Everything I decide to use is incredibly fragile. One of the main pieces that I include on my shop are crystallized cicadas, which are already naturally fragile without having to subject them to boiling hot solutions over and over. Crystal growth is fairly random and sometimes the size and quantity you want doesn't occur.”

Tyler Thrasher,  Photo courtesy of the artist

As for the future of crystallization, things may keep getting more interesting. Thrasher says, “I have a list of dream projects and elements I want to get my hands on. My big goal is to synthesize and grow real genuine minerals, such as real emeralds or sapphires. I also plan on crystallizing the entire inside of a fallen tree and displaying it in a museum." 

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