Sculpture MM615535332245 Dimensions: 9"x9"x10"
When writing or talking about one of my sculptures, it is quite unusual that I will point to a specific image or circumstance that was a dominant influences for that particular piece. Outside of the technical constraints that guide my thinking, I do not often find myself faced with a singular image or object that moves me to make a piece of my own. If I do, I am usually not inclined to share for fear of creating undue context.
Direct appropriation or imitative modes are not something I actively pursue, but this months work has a unique context that I would like to share. It is a bit of a winding story, but bare with me.
To preface, I have always been a very self-conscious maker; the well worn idea that art is primarily an outward expression, has always felt incomplete to me. This is because I personally see many parts of my work as an act of reflection, as a way to get to know my own mind and instincts a little better. Creating art for me has always been very inward looking, and to the same degree that a work might be an outward facing attempt to communicate, it is also a record of a mental state that can be studied.
When I find myself drawn to something, an object or work of art; I often find myself immediately questioning why that is the case. I find myself in a state of metacognition when ever I am inspired by something; watching myself, as much as I am watching the object of my interest. In short, I find myself frequently preoccupied with thoughts about what makes me tick, in the hopes that it will help me tick better in the future.
This goes a long way to explain why a geometrically quantifiable discipline such as machine work might seem so appealing to an artist like me. I have sometimes wondered if it might be used as a mechanism to try and tease out some basic metrics on my own taste. Even if it has yielded only mixed results, it remains a concept I revisit from time to time and is part of a larger search for tricks that might peel back the onion on my own mind.
In this particular instance, it seems to have been a random photo that yielded a useful piece of insight.
So here it is (above), the picture I have been leading up to. If I am not mistaken, it is an image of what remains of a Soviet experimental aircraft. I stumbled across this image some time ago and was captivated by it. I copied it to my desktop and just sort of looked at it off and on when I had time to sketch and think.
Now, I am not particularly taken with aircraft design as a rule. From a formalistic perspective, I often find myself appreciating the intersecting compound curves in many aircraft designs, but I was not so sure that was the case here. I felt like this image was related to my work, but not in a formal way. It was more of a charisma thing, this old airplane was charming to me.
In time, this thought snow-balled into questions about how certain design motifs can arise in different design fields. How there is a "look" associated with any given category of objects, which includes air planes as a group.
In some ways, what I am talking about is design convergence. When refrigerators first came on the market, they had wildly different looks and designs, but over time, those designs began to converge and now all refrigerators basically look the same, they have a "look", which is why we can say something looks like a fridge and everyone knows what we are talking about. This is true for cars, airplanes, vacuum cleaners, and many other things. Each case of convergence tends to have a unique character that defines that objects persona.
Some of this is driven by necessity; as with aviation, aerodynamic properties drive much of the design work. Standardization also has a hand in it, and bringing down production cost can be a driver of convergence as well.
But I also think some of it is cultural, driven not by physical constraints, but by the personalities of the people pursuing the technology. Motorcycle design comes to mind. Aside from two wheels and an engine, the sky is the limit for bikes, yet just a few dominant design motifs make up the vast majority of bikes on the road. The term "Classic Harley" is touted as an ideal and it is largely a result of the bike culture that grew up around that object.
I may be oversimplifying this, but looking at the photo above got me thinking about this phenomenon of motifs. How creating a unique character for each of my works is something akin to what occurs in all manner of product design. With my work, each new piece has its own distinct "look", but the ideal is very similar.
It is no accident that all cars sort of look like angry faces flying down the road, and it is no accident that my sculpture work plays on that from time to time. And so with that in mind I sort of set about designing this piece. I wanted to give a nod to the character I felt the airplane image was projecting, while remaining true to what is essential in my own craft.
The usual influences are also there, but the image above played a big part in the final design of this work, and I thought it was an ideal window onto a part of my creative process that I usually find very difficult to articulate.
Technical Notes: I employed some of the same "T slot" work I have been experimenting with lately. It was essential to solving this design and I am now using it much more elaborately.
I also brought back the use of the white powder coating you see as a finish for some of the parts. Many people have lamented over the years that I only used white powder with a single sculpture before abandoning it and moving on to other things. But it felt very appropriate here and so it has been unceremoniously returned to my pallet.
I am very pleased with the drawing as well, the composition just made good sense given the subject and I can't wait to get my hands on the physical print of this one.
Unfortunately the image is so big (40"x36") that viewing them on the web does not do it justice. I design them to be interesting at multiple distances but at this scale you only really get the one. I hope all of you will get to chance to see them in person one day.
Build pics: Ok, I this image was a very early facing operation that illustrates very little, but I thought the reflection of the cutter as it was turning was just a nice image so I am indulging.
Cutting in the T slots on the body was a nail biter. There was very little distance between the ribbed elements on the body and where the T slots cut through the body, so if I was misaligned that would have been it for the piece. Fortunately, this part turned out near perfect.
Another view of the T slots to show how they converged at the tail end. Again, making sure everything cleared was a critical design challenge this time.
The powder coated parts fresh out of the oven. Looking at these, I don't know why I ever moved away from using this as a finish, but I am sure you will se more of it soon.
As always, comments welcome.