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Glub! Glub! TODAY anchors become underwater tourist attractions

Like Scuba diving? Like watching TODAY? Then you’re in luck: The next time you head to Cancun for a Caribbean vacation, you can swim right up to Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker and Natalie Morales and pose for underwater photos with them.

The TODAY anchors, along with NBC News correspondent Kerry Sanders, underwent the arduous process of being covered in a cold algae wrap and then smothered in plaster to create molds of their likenesses. Their sculptures can now be seen at Museo Subacuatico de Arte (MUSA), a wondrous underwater museum in Cancun, Mexico.

Today
The TODAY anchors prepare to have artist Jason deCaires Taylor make molds of their faces for underwater sculptures.

The museum is the brainchild of British artist Jason deCaires Taylor, who has taken his work to unusual depths by sinking hundreds of sculptures underwater. Taylor, a self-described “eco-sculptor,” has done this for more than the sake of art.

Taylor is eager to create magical — and artificial — underwater reefs to divert some of the 750,000 tourists who come to dive in the Mesoamerican Reef, the world’s second-largest reef system. The Mexican government is supporting Taylor’s efforts because the crush of recreational divers is breaking and killing too many slow-growing corals at the nearby natural reefs.

“Scientists are realizing that through tourism and through the sort of increase in people wanting to go diving and snorkeling, that's putting a great amount of pressure on the natural reformations,” Taylor said. “Just by people visiting and touching things, it's actually causing degradation of the reefs.”

Taylor finds models to create molds and then meticulously crafts each sculpture using special sea-grade cement in a studio. This process can take a few weeks before the sculptures are transferred and set in the sea floor using an underwater drill and sand screws.

“I'm kind of in a Catch-22 situation where the sculptures need to be incredibly heavy so that they survive the elements underwater, so they survive hurricanes and storms and don't get moved in the currents,” said Taylor, who also has installed sculptures underwater in Grenada. “But I'm also very aware that I can't make them too heavy on land; otherwise, logistically, they become an absolute nightmare to handle.”

Today
Artist Jason deCaires Taylor makes a mold of NBC News correspondent Kerry Sanders' likeness.

Taylor’s sculptures range from the playful (a man lazing on his couch watching TV) to the symbolic (a politician burying his head about the looming environmental crisis) to the sublime (a woman with her arms stretching toward the surface). One installation called “The Silent Evolution” incorporates about 400 sculptures of different people in a community, including a fisherman, a nun and a 4-year old boy.

Lines in the sand: Artists' sculptures boggle the mind

Today
NBC News correspondent Kerry Sanders poses under water with his sculpture. "It's very weird to see yourself when you're diving," Sanders said.

Of course, Taylor’s recent plaster-casting session with the TODAY anchors took a turn toward the hilarious.

“I feel like I’m being buried alive!” Morales said, laughing.

“Wow, that’s crazy!” Guthrie said.

“OUCH!” Roker exclaimed.

“The challenge for me is you want to have an expression that is going to stand the test of time — not some goofy expression that every snorkeler is going to laugh at when they see it,” Lauer said.

Today
Under the sea: The sculptures of the TODAY crew get settled in their new home.

Once the molds dried after about 20 minutes, Taylor gingerly pulled them off — producing sounds of intense relief.

Today
Mold of Savannah Guthrie's face.

“I’m alive!” Morales cried. “Wow!”

The sculptures of Lauer, Guthrie, Roker, Morales and Sanders are now under the sea, where they will begin to change appearance as they attract polyps and nutrients and develop into a reef teeming with aquatic life. Taylor said his sculptures eventually become unrecognizable.

“I put a lot of hard work into the details and into creating something that looks really great on land, and then when I put them under water, I kind of have mixed emotions,” Taylor said. “They’re going to be changed, they’re going to be obscured ... I’m sort of saying goodbye to them. A feeling of letting go.” 


  • Slideshow Photos

    Famous portraits made from art

    Quirks of art: Creators who work in madcap media

    Marvel at artwork made from pennies, Oreo cookies, shoelaces, rubber bands, pumpkins, CT scans and — ummm — brightly colored vomit.

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    Quirks of art: Creators who work in madcap media -

    Some artists paint in oils, some sculpt in marble, and then there are the mavericks who work in everything from pennies to pumpkins, Oreo cookies to rubber bands. Let it bean Iconic public figures and classic works of art are painstakingly recreated in intricate patterns of Jelly Belly jelly beans. It took six weeks and more than 15,000 Jelly Belly jelly beans (including 51 different flavors) to create this colorful portrait of the music icons.

    Malcolm West / Malcolm West
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    Plastic classics -

    Jane Perkins of Exeter, England uses a mix of plastic materials to create works of art. “The idea for the first portrait just came into my head as I was pondering what I could do with all the lovely materials I had collected during my degree course for making brooches," Perkins told TODAY.com.

    Jane Perkins / Jane Perkins
  • Portraits Made From Maps

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    Map art -

    An artist has created a series of out of this world portraits by shading in the areas between roads on maps to depict faces. The technique, known as cartography, was discovered by artist Ed Fairburn, 24, while he was studying at Cardiff School of Art and Design.

    Caters News Agency / Caters News Agency
  • CARTOONS STRIPPED

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    Barbie bared -

    American designer Jason Freeny, 43, uncovers the hidden heart (as well as other internal organs) of plastic figures. His collection includes visible versions of a Barbie doll, Papa Smurf, Sulley of "Monsters, Inc." and "Family Guy" favorite Stewie Griffin.

    Caters News Agency / Caters News Agency
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    Pinned-up portraits -

    Michael Mapes of Croton Fall, N.Y., photographs Dutch masterpieces, then dissects the photos and arranges their components on insect pins to form a sort of forensic-style reconstuction.

    Caters News Agency / Caters News Agency
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    Doodling dad -

    David Laferriere, a graphic designer and illustrator from Attleboro, Mass., started decorating his two sons’ plastic sandwich bags with Sharpie-sketched masterpieces back in 2008, when they were in second and fourth grade, and has continued the tradition every since. “I started drawing on the bags as a way to jump-start my creative juices and have some fun with my kids, “ said Laferriere, whose sons are now in eighth and 10th grades.

    Courtesy of David Laferriere / Courtesy of David Laferriere
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    Breakfast in America -

    Mosaic artist Jason Mecier made Big Bird out of kids' breakfast cereal after the Muppet was mentioned by Mitt Romney in the first presidential debate. Mecier has also made Romney and President Barack Obama out of beef jerky and stars such as Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse out of pills.

    Jason Mecier / Jason Mecier
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    Now hear this! -

    An Amsterdam company used the twisty cords of earbuds to make portraits of customers and friends.

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    Holy cow! Art with hole-punch dots -

    British artist Nikki Douthwaite uses the little paper dots from hole punches to create art of celebrities, including this image of Marilyn Monroe. Formula 1 racecar drivers are a favorite topic for this racing fan. She uses tweezers to carefully place each dot, and some pictures require close to 200,000 of the tiny colored circles.

    Courtesy Nikki Douthwaite / Courtesy Nikki Douthwaite
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    Pennies in her thoughts -

    Jacqueline Lou Skaggs has created a set of 12 mini-masterworks on the U.S. penny. Clockwise from upper left, the four pictured are "The Still Life," "The Plastic Magician," "Field of Sleeping Peasants" and "Venus Dreams."

    Jacqueline Lou Skaggs / Jacqueline Lou Skaggs
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    Breakfast with the Beatles -

    Food sculptor Paul Baker recreated the Beatles' "Abbey Road" album cover in breakfast food for the U.K. restaurant chain Beefeater Grill.

    Andrew John Simpson / Frank PR / Andrew John Simpson / Frank PR
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    The pen is mightier than you think -

    Samuel Silva, an attorney in Portugal, makes these amazingly detailed drawings using regular ballpoint pens. This image, "Redhead Girl," is based on a photograph. Silva knows many people don't believe he can create such works with simple pens, but says it's true, and he wishes BIC would make more colors.

    VianaArts / VianaArts
  • EARTHWORK ARTIST STAN HERD

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    Not the work of aliens -

    “Earthwork artist” Stan Herd created this 1-acre, permanent portrait of famous female aviator Amelia Earhart in her hometown of Atchison, Kan. He unveiled this exceptional example of field art on July 24, 1997 to commemorate Earhart’s 100th birthday. Herd has dedicated his life to turning the U.S. countryside into massive works of art, using live corn, grass and even bare earth as his color palettes. He employs tractors, earth movers and even buckets and spades to craft his creations.

    Barcroft Media via Landov / Barcroft Media via Landov
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    'Floral Dentata' -

    Look carefully and you'll see it: Artist Judith G. Klausner made this floral arrangement out of fingernail clippings and baby teeth.

    "I am deeply intrigued by the use of hair as an acceptable material in Victorian fancywork, and its ability to cause revulsion in contemporary audiences," Klausner explained. "Unlike most other body parts, its existence apart from its original source does not imply any harm to the person. In fact, it is something we shed naturally. The other materials that fit in this unusual category are baby teeth and nails. This floral arrangement is made from baby teeth and nail clippings (my own and those of family and friends who have donated them)."

    Courtesy Judith G. Klausner / Courtesy Judith G. Klausner
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    Here, have a cookie -

    Artist Judith G. Klausner works with more than just baby teeth and nail clippings, mind you. She also carves detailed cameo portraits out of that white frosting stuff inside Oreo cookies. Yum!

    Courtesy of Judith G. Klausner / Courtesy of Judith G. Klausner
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    Curvy cabbage -

    Ju Duoqi, an artist in Beijing, China, has given a lot of thought -- and used a lot of toothpicks -- in her effort to create glamorous ladies completely out of cabbage. "The different types, shapes and colors of the vegetables, with a bit of rearranging, can make for a rich source of imagery," she told a reporter. "Fresh, withered, rotting, dried, pickled, boiled or fried -- they all come out different." The name of Ju's project? "The Fantasies of Chinese Cabbage."

    Galerie Paris-Beijing / Galerie Paris-Beijing
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    A knot in your stomach -

    For more than 25 years, Philadelphia artist Ed Bing Lee has been perfecting his knotting artistry. At this point, he can create almost anything using basic macrame knots -- including works of art that resemble food. Kinda makes you hungry, doesn't it?

    Ed Bing Lee / Ed Bing Lee
  • Amazing Tiny People

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    Frosting harvest -

    Christopher Boffoli, a writer, photographer, filmmaker and artist living in Seattle, re-created scenes from everyday life in bizarre foodscapes and photographed them.

    His caption for "Frosting harvest," pictured here: "Dabney was grateful for the shift change. Shoveling double stuff had been kicking his ass."

    Caters News Agency / Caters News Agency
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    Spew-tacular -

    If you drink enough milk dyed with food-coloring, you know what’s gonna happen, right? Millie Brown sure does, and she’s gotten her technique down to an art – literally. At a recent art show in London, Brown downed a whole bunch of milk dyed pretty colors, then stuck her fingers down her throat over a stretched canvas. Two classical singers serenaded her throughout the performance. Price of this “Nexus Vomitus” painting? A cool $2,400. To learn more about Millie Brown’s show, visit this SHOWstudio site. If you have a weak stomach, though, DO NOT watch this video.

    Millie Brown and SHOWstudio.com / Millie Brown and SHOWstudio.com
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    Ashes to ashes -

    You may want to scatter your loved one’s ashes at sea. You may want to preserve them in a beautiful urn. Or, you may want to give Florida artist Raven Collins a call. She listens carefully as family members talk about their deceased relatives, and then she studies photographs of those who have passed away. When she’s finally ready, she uses graphite pencils and a teaspoon of a subject’s human remains to create lifelike portraits for surviving family members. To see more of Collins’ work, click here.

    Courtesy of Raven J. Collins / Courtesy of Raven J. Collins
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    'We'll always have Paris' -

    Looking for art that's exceptionally eco-friendly? Then check out Sandhi Schimmel Gold's papier collé mosaics, which feature hand-cut and hand-applied pieces of paper from greeting cards, advertising circulars, calendars and packaging material. "The paper tiles create an entirely new image ... utilizing materials that would otherwise go to waste," Sandhi explains. This mosaic, "We'll Always Have Paris," was made from an old map of Paris. To see more, visit SchimmelArt.com.

    Sandhi Schimmel Gold / Sandhi Schimmel Gold
  • Image: Chinese Artist Ai Weiwei Unveils This Year's Unilever Installation At The Tate Modern

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    Seeds of change? -

    Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei's “Sunflower Seeds” installation – featured at the Tate Modern in London from October 2010 until May 2011 – consists of 100 million handmade porcelain replicas of sunflower seeds. Each unique seed was kiln-fired two times: once before being carefully hand-painted, and another time after the painting was completed. The artist wanted visitors to walk on the seeds and even lie down on them – and then contemplate the weighty issues of mass consumption, collective work and famine. In April 2011, the artist was arrested while trying to board a flight to Hong Kong. He was released in June.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
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    Elasticity -

    New York architect and artist Margarita Mileva is fascinated by office supplies and other tools that are becoming obsolete thanks to technology. Paperclips, rubber bands and ribbons all have such interesting textures and colors, so why not give them a new life? Pictured here: A dress made entirely of rubber bands that Mileva created with her daughter.

    Courtesy of Margarita Mileva / Courtesy of Margarita Mileva
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    The penile arts -

    Talk about a work of art that would do Hugh Hefner proud. You’re looking at one of the many creations of Tim Patch, an artist who paints with his penis (!!!) and goes by the stage name “Pricasso.” The English-born resident of Australia also has done portraits of former U.S. President George W. Bush, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and actor Steve McQueen. Over the years, Patch has learned to avoid acrylic paints and abrasive canvases -- but even so, his line of work often leaves him mighty sore.

    Courtesy of Tim Patch / Courtesy of Tim Patch
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    Second skin? -

    Excuse me, is that cured human skin you’re wearing? Why, no! It’s SkinBag! Yes indeedy. SkinBag is the brainchild of Olivier Goulet, a French transmedia artist who created the material to symbolize “the ambivalence between the natural and the artificial ... and foresee the fusion between the digital and the organic.” This stuff isn’t just available in jacket form. You also can buy SkinBag handbags and accessories. To see more, visit SkinBag.net.

    SkinBag / SkinBag
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    Twisted -

    Who says a humble ice cube can’t dare to dream? Of course, this little ice cube is pumping iron while studying a picture of the Titanic sinking. Hmmmm. It’s just one of the many hilarious creations of photographer Terry Border, author of “Bent Objects: The Secret Life of Everyday Things.” Border is adept at using common items – snack foods, wine corks, rocks – to tell stories and grab people’s attention.

    bentobjects.blogspot.com / bentobjects.blogspot.com
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    A deeper look at fast food -

    Guess who started the Radiology Art project? A physician! Yes, Dr. Satre Stuelke couldn’t resist using a CT scanner to explore the hidden dimensions of everyday things. Here’s what Stuelke had to say about his scan of a Big Mac: “Note the sesame seed bun, pickles, special sauce and cheese all readily visualized within the box. Interestingly, spots of glue can be seen holding the tabs of the packaging. ... Note the chef's thumbprint in the top bun.”

    RadiologyArt.com / RadiologyArt.com
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    Ghoulishly good -

    If pumpkin-carving were to become an Olympic event, Ray Villafane would be a contender for a gold medal. He’s trounced competing carvers on TV on “Food Network Challenge: Outrageous Pumpkins,” and he’s attained a healthy fan base online. One of his secrets to success: Choosing pumpkins with an oblong shape rather than a perfectly round shape.

    Ray Villafane / Ray Villafane
  • Junk, sweet and pill art by Jason Mecier, San francisco, America

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    Poker face -

    San Francisco artist Jason Mecier uses random junk, candy, pills, beer bottles, car parts and other assorted loot to create mosaics of highly recognizable celebrities. His Kim Kardashian portrait is made of Red Vines licorice, and his Courtney Love collage is made of pills. This mosaic of Lady Gaga took him two months and hundreds of hours to make. (See Kermit in the background?) To see more of Mecier's work, visit JasonMecier.com.

    Rex USA / Rex USA
  • Miguel Carill

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    Doggie-bag art -

    For three decades Miguel Carrillo, a busboy at Gladstones Malibu restaurant in Pacific Palisades, Calif., has crafted animal-shaped doggie bags out of aluminum foil. In mere minutes, he can turn leftover halibut into an island with a palm tree and mermaid, or a dolphin. "I love it," Carrillo said. "I see the people. They are happy. They like it, so I feel good. They laugh. They talk about me and say I'm the man."

    AP / AP
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    'Barbie Marilyn' -

    The medium being used here -- good old paint -- may not be particularly quirky, but the age of the painter is rather astonishing. Autumn de Forest, who turned 9 in October 2010, has become one of the art world’s youngest and biggest stars. Dozens of her paintings have sold at auction for a total of about $250,000. Autumn loves her Barbie dolls and she drew on them for inspiration for this work, which sold for $15,000 at auction.

    Courtesy of ImaginArt / Courtesy of ImaginArt
  • Shoelaces made into art sell for thousands

    Quirks of art: Creators who work in madcap media

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    Art on a shoestring -

    At first glance these colorful pictures might look just like regular paintings -- but closer inspection reveals the detailed artwork is in fact made from shoelaces. The stunning creations are the work of artist Federico Uribe, who painstakingly arranges and pins the different colored shoelaces to a canvas. Each one takes up to 30 10-hour days to craft and earns up to $73,000 apiece.

    Solent News & Photo Agency / Solent News & Photo Agency
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    'A meshy, metallic marsupial' -

    Artist Ivan Lovatt has recreated the iconic faces of music legends the Beatles, Michael Jackson and Jimi Hendrix using nothing but chicken wire. The incredibly lifelike pieces are made of just under 100 feet of the unusual material, and they take Lovatt more than a month to twist and pin into shape. Here, a koala bear created by Lovatt clings tenaciously to a tree.

    Solent News & Photo Agency / Solent News & Photo Agency
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    Franco-mania -

    New York artist Nic Rad is really, really, really intrigued by actor James Franco. So intrigued, in fact, he’s created an entire performance piece about Franco called “The Celebritist Manifesto” that he does in front of a fan shrine celebrating Franco.

    Here’s an excerpt from Rad’s performance: “James Franco is an Ivy League grad student pursuing two separate master’s degrees / James Franco is a soap opera star / James Franco is a performance artist / James Franco is a situationalist / James Franco is a self-satirizing icon / James Franco is both over-privileged by his good genetic fortune, and also a humble a student of the universe / James Franco IS America.”

    Courtesy of Nic Rad / Courtesy of Nic Rad
  • ©Albanpix.com
        		NOT FOR USE ON ANY ELECTRONIC WEB SITES

    Quirks of art: Creators who work in madcap media

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    'Mini Monet' -

    Meet another child prodigy who will blow your mind: Kieron Williamson, who turned 8 in the summer of 2010, has been drawing collectors from as far as New York City and South Africa to his little British town of Holt. A recent exhibition of his paintings fetched the equivalent of $235,804 in under 30 minutes. London's Daily Mail has dubbed him "Mini Monet." This pastel of Kieron's is titled "Morston Buoys."

    ©Albanpix.com / ©Albanpix.com
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    A matter of perspective -

    Photographer Michael Paul Smith, a former museum display designer, combines miniature models with real backgrounds to create lifelike scenes. Here, the telephone pole, the stop sign, the white house and the tree (far right) are real and are about a full block away from the miniature models. The models themselves are sitting on a table. Freaky, eh?

    Courtesy of Michael Paul Smith / Courtesy of Michael Paul Smith
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    Neigh-ver say never -

    Now don't go thinking this amazing artist thing is confined to the realm of humans. Here, Cholla the painting horse creates a masterpiece at his owner Renee Chambers' ranch in Reno, Nev. This photo was taken in October 2008; Cholla's paintings went on to be exhibited in Italy.

    AP / AP


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