Chinese artist Li Hongbo takes the 2,000-year-old tradition of paper lanterns to an entirely new artistic level. What looks like a white marble bust stretches the imagination as it pulls apart to reveal that it is in fact made of thousands of pieces of paper. The videos of the honeycombed paper flexing in and out of place certainly confuses the brain’s expectations. Li’s more recent work involves weapons and challenges people to think about what their shape means in our societies. In the video below, thousands of handguns and rifles fold out into colorful lanterns and towers in a beautiful display.

There’s also a time lapse video of the setup of Li’s colorful exhibit, a process that takes many hours of unfolding his creations in just the right configuration. He also shares more about the sculpting process in this video. Li sometimes spends months gluing up to 26,000 pieces of paper together for his larger pieces. Then he cuts and sands it down into shape. He also shows off a hyper-realistic log also made of the honeycombed paper. It’s a wild illusion to watch wood suddenly pull apart and stretch many times its original length.

A white bust that looks like marble is pulled to reveal its made of connected paper

It’s really the busts that boggle the mind. While these paper creations won’t last through the ages the way marble statues can, they are beautiful and thought provoking. Just imagine looking at a marble bust and then having someone pull it apart and stretch it out across the exhibit room. The facial features get lost and the neck morphs into a 10-foot-long monstrosity like some sort of Inspector Gadget gimmick.

Other beautiful paper artwork we’ve seen includes three dimensional Disney cards with stunning details. There’s also an artist who turns stock market reports into gorgeous landscapes. That’s certainly one way to make bad news more palatable.

Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.