Thursday, April 28, 2011

Where wonder came from.

(This is the original drawing I made of Wonder in my sketchbook)

(This is the sculpture in progress in my studio - the white dots are made of computer paper I cut out and taped on so I could move them around and decide how the word should look)

Kinetic art is a very new field for me, and I have actually found the medium to be at once exhilarating and frustrating. Like anything that moves, such as your car, its fabrication requires a lot of precision. I received an immense amount of help with its assembly from a man named Robert Stevens, a colleague of mine at Bowdoin College. Bob is a supremely humble and helpful machinist, and he assisted me with the project's planning and problem solving when I first approached him with my idea. After I had mapped out the coordinates for each motor's location on the 48"x48" panel, Bob used a CNC router to drill mounting holes in those exact positions. He also fabricated many small plastic parts, such as the black arms that are attached to each of the 54 motors. Without Bob's help, I would never have been able to make this sculpture function. Many artists make work alone in their studios. Other artists, like me, sometimes require teams of people with different skill sets to help make their dreams a reality.

(This is how I figured out where the motors needed to be mounted - the different colored construction paper represents the different lengths of the motor shafts)

(This is Robert Stevens showing me how the coordinates I gave him were programmed into the CNC router)

(This is what the back of the board looks like now - a tangle of wires)

In addition to precise fabrication, kinetic art also needs constant maintenance and repair. Since installing this sculpture at the Portland Museum of Art, I have had to replace eight different motors that have broken for one reason or another. It is running so many hours per day, responding with movement to each and every person that walks by. Because of that, I check on the work at least once a week to make sure it is functioning properly. But I often wonder (no pun intended) about its lifespan. I definitely think of it as being alive. But the question is for how long?

(This is me repairing one of those broken motors during the installation)

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