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NC-3: A Magnetically Assembled Machined Metal Sculpture

I have another fun little sculpture to share with all of you. This one is inspired by my most recent major work, which itself was inspired by a number of much older sculptures. The whole thing is kind of circular in a satisfying way to me. 

This work happened because I wanted to give weight to a simple phenomenon that I have encountered many times during my career. It is easy to overlook, but common enough that I have heard numerous artists mention it also. I suspect what I am referring to is actually quite universal.

What I am talking about is this; often when I am executing a design, I will reach a point in the work that, while unfinished from the standpoint of my original plan, the work seems interesting or complete as it is. I will sometimes look at a half assembled sculpture or a solitary part and think “this could be a sculpture all by itself”. This happens with some frequency, and it happened yet again while I was assembling my last sculpture. I decided that this would be the time I latch onto the moment, and make a small sculpture with that it in mind.

Of course I am being dramatic, but I think it is important to exaggerate the little things. However one is able to identify and commit to ideas is worth elevating just a bit. When I was a younger artist, I was often dismissive of the little quirks of mind that yielded the best ideas. There are no doubt others in my shoes and I relish taking small luxuries with my work. My smaller works are expressly intended to be a fun way to approach some of the trends I see in the fine art world, the machinist world, and my own muddled head.

This work incorporates two dozen magnets to hold the assembly together and their use is another thing that I have given an unusual amount of thought to. Magnets are inherently novel, and while novelty is a tool many artists use, it is one that should be handled with care because it wears off ver fast.

There have been many novel art fads that have come and gone, and the work that outlasts them is work that has more going for it than what is in vogue (fidget spinners anyone). I think it is perfectly appropriate to make work that addresses a trend, but I always try to do so within a framework that takes a much longer view of whatever it is. 

So if I am going to use magnets, I just want to be sure I have sufficient justification for doing so other than the fact that, no matter how much you understand them, magnets still always seem to be somehow magical. 

Many of you will be familiar with some form of (currently popular) magnetic desk toy, rightly or wrongly this work will no doubt fall into this category for some. Now I don’t really mind how people view my work, but as most of you know, I personally do not see these pieces as toys or gadgets, I see them as experiments in sculpture (fine art or otherwise). 

Hopefully this is seen by most as some combination of commentary and appropriation. 

With that all said, my choice to use magnets in this case was actually a simple one. This work is a scaled down version of a larger concept that utilizes a mechanical turnbuckle system. Magnets provide a perfect analogy for the forces that system creates, only by a different means. 

If you are unfamiliar a turnbuckle, it is a piece of hardware typically used to adjust tension in a cable or chain. It has three primary components: a body, a right-hand threaded end fitting, and a left-hand threaded end fitting. When you turn the body, the two threaded ends are pulled together or pushed apart equally. 

With the larger works, alternating spheres had either right-hand or left-hand threads to allow the turnbuckle bolt in the center gears to tighten those elements together. It was the engineering framework for the entire piece.

For this much smaller work, a turnbuckles system was both too complex, and overkill from a fastening standpoint. So instead, this work uses magnets to attract the spheres and uses alternating magnetic poles of attraction to similar effect.

On the configuration above, the brass spheres have north facing magnets, and the Stainless spheres have south facing magnets. Only opposite spheres will attract each other and because they are at right angles to each other, they self aline quite nicely.

This material combination demonstrates that functionality perfectly. Because of this, I am calling this particular color combo  "Polar Logical" 

There is an elegance to this smaller work that the larger ones lack, this piece derives a lot of complexity from only two unique machined parts (excluding the magnets that is). This is precisely what I aim to do in all of my work, set up a logical system that builds and amplifies itself to create complexity from a relatively small number of constraints and visual elements. Rarely does it work quite this well. 

Given the interest this piece has already attracted, I am going to be offering it as a pre-order edition. I will send out a second post this coming Wednesday Jan 13th with the sign up form and all of the details of the sale. I have a lot of details to work out still, but let's say 11 AM EST. 

I will likely offer the four varieties above; stainless/brass, brass/stainless, polar logical, and full stainless steel.  

As always, questions and comments are welcome.