When I first saw a video of a person stretching the head of a solid, white marble statue into a long wavy string of taffy, I cried “Bullshit!” and suspected that the video editor had used a special effects program to create the illusion. It’s no illusion though — it’s merely the odd art creation of 38-year-old Chinese artist Li Hongbo.
Fascinated by the compactness and flexibility of China’s folded paper lantern decorations, Hongbo incorporated the lanterns’ glued paper structure into his paper statues to make them similarly compact and flexible.
First, Hongbo paints narrow glue strips onto large sheets of paper using a stencil, then stacks each sheet onto another until he ends up with a block about 500 sheets high. After stacking several 500-sheet blocks onto each other, he sculpts the combined blocks into Grecian-style busts using chisels and a sander.
His finished sculptures resemble the white marble busts that we’re used to seeing in art museums, except that each one can elongate and stretch into unbelievable snake-like proportions. Sadly, museum goers aren’t allowed to stretch his statues on their own — each one has a designated assistant trained in gently unfolding each one to demonstrate its movement without damaging it.
You might leave Hongbo’s exhibition wanting one of his statues as your own, but he refuses to discuss prices and his increasing popularity has made buying them more expensive than buying a non-flexible marble statue on your own.