Version 1:
Foam
6 ½” H x 3” W x 9” L
Version 2:
Welded Aluminum
6 ½” H x 4” W x 10” L
Version 3:
Aluminum flashing; scaled 1” = 1’
8 ½” H x 5 ½” W x 13” L
  • Idea Generation
    While drawing, I imagine my sculpture in three dimensions and, often, in a spatial context, such as a landscape, a courtyard with surrounding architecture, or an interior.

    My most productive thinking and planning, though, comes through working with actual materials, at a reduced scale that is roughly one inch to one foot. The work is therefore usually elbow or forearm length in height (rather than hand width or arm’s length, which are two other scales that I seem to work naturally in).

    The materials I prefer for sketching in three dimensions are Styrofoam or urethane foam, cardboard, and balsa wood. Other materials I’ve used are aluminum flashing (with the addition of automobile body putty to create mass), wax previously poured into sheets and then placed in hot water to be easily manipulated, and either Klean Klay (an odorless non-hardening clay), or ordinary pottery clay.

    For Folding Forms, I worked first in urethane foam pieces cut by the band saw (for a clean surface) and then in aluminum flashing when I scaled it up to one inch to one foot.

    The inspiration was to make a series of rectangular (or prism) forms that accumulated to form an arch, balanced in such a way that there is tension in regard to its stability as a whole and in regard to the relationships between the forms where their surfaces met.

    Stepping back and considering what I had made, I thought of the Cyclopean walls at Tiryns and Mycenae in Greece that I saw as a college student interested in Greek and Roman archeology or the stone walls that still line the fields and pastures of colonial New England. The uncut or only slightly trimmed boulders look haphazard and fragile at first, but are actually precisely arranged and able to stand for centuries.

    I introduced a long arc form to hold the arch on one side to act as a foil to the complex relationships in the other parts of the piece. Its resemblance to a trunk is totally coincidental but turned out to be appropriate when the sculpture was placed on exhibition a short distance from the Field Museum of Natural Science where a very popular exhibit consists of two full-size, stuffed elephants in Field Hall.

    To make the sculpture “work” it had to retain the magic of appearing to fall into place.

    Structure
    In consultation with a structural engineer, I used a 4” diameter aluminum tube in three sections as the internal structure. The forms were tied to the tube by 3/4" x 3/4" x 1/8" angle lengths.

    Initially, I thought that the piece would be composed of three sections. Section A is the arc, section B the middle piece or key, and section C is the other end. The joinery method for section A to section B consists of two flat plates bolted together; the joinery for section B to section C is a sleeve.

    Construction
    Two fellow artists assisted me in fabricating Folding Forms. They are John Kurman and Danny Ellis. Both showed superb TIG welding techniques that helped in keeping second or third welding to close gaps or build up edges to a minimum.

    In scaling up the forms, we made templates from the scaled maquette and enlarged them. This proved to be useful for developing the arc and the form attached to it. However, as we progressed further, we found that it would be more useful to make a full-scale model using ¼” foam insulation.

    As we further progressed, the accuracy of the foam was inadequate, and we made our forms to fit when we had made both the arc and the structure that was section C. Thus, we gradually dismantled the foam version as we progressively finished sections of the final aluminum piece.

    These completed pieces had to be finished before being welded onto the structural tube. The finish is ground and sanded welded seams and orbital sanding to 220 grit on the entire surface. [see video of me using two orbital sanders at once]

    However, in mounting the piece during construction, we found that the sleeve configuration was unreliable: it could not reproduce a configuration from one trial to another. Therefore, we decided to make that joint permanent, and welded it together. [see image of it being welded together with Danny Ellis’ head inside the form]

    The Base
    For its installation in Grant Park, Chicago, Folding Forms could not be anchored to a concrete pad or base but had to be free-standing on the ground. Therefore, the sculpture has two bases. The first is made of aluminum that is welded to the structural tube. Those bases are bolted to the second base which is made of ½” steel plate.

    Installation
    We had the assistance of Miller's Eureka, Inc., a metal fabricating firm in Chicago, in transporting and mounting Folding Forms in Grant Park across Lake Shore Drive from Buckingham Fountain, where some 15 thousand commuters per day pass by it.

    We placed the two sections on the flat bed truck and, at the site, carried the pieces to the selected site.

    I selected a positioning of Folding Forms that had the arc pointing toward the façade of buildings along Michigan Avenue to the west and the high-rise office and residential buildings to the north. Lake Michigan, with Monroe Street harbor and Navy Pier are to the east. South is the Museum Campus.

Shape, form, and space
  • NewsRounds Article
  • February, 1987