Automatons: Sculptures that move.
I design, fabricate, engineer and paint these one-of-a-kind wood sculptures. Even the gears and drives are wood. My tools are hand tools, such as calipers, jeweler's saws, carving knives, gouges, files and artist brushes. I have been making these pieces for my own pleasure for two decades. Some have been given as gifts; more have been auctioned for the benefit of charities. A little over a year ago my pieces attracted the attention of Tamarack Gallery in Omeena, Michigan and the gallery has been selling the sculptures steadily. More recently I was contacted by the CazaSikes gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio and we have worked out a representation agreement. I also have enjoyed producing a couple of commissions, one for a fishing camp in Ontario and the second for a Halloween enthusiast.
Over the next couple of weeks I will build this portfolio with photos and text . Stay tuned.
"Glastonbury Kite Flying Club"
I built this piece from offcut ends of mahogany from a local mill. The drive shaft turns a series of cams, each pushing a drive rod up and down. which, in turn, moves an arm of a figure. The as the arm moves the kites - connected on soft iron wire - dance up and downa and all around. 26" tall. In a private collectin in the mid-West
" Airplane Carnival Ride"
I built this automaton from Clementine orange boxes. I took them apart and cut the struts and other pieces from the end panels and side panels. The color is the original stenciled advertising logos. Turning a crank makes the airplanes "fly". The ride seemed to need a ticket booth so I added one. I based the structure on an old photograph of an airplane carnival ride. It seems much like early oil drilling rigs. 21" tall. Collection of the artist.
" New York Street Scene"
This automaton was inspired by a dream of walking down a New York street around 1910. It's an ordinary residential street with a small grocery store, a tart in the window, a man playing with a yoyo and street musicians on the corner. A couple twirls, dancing in an apartment located on the second floor. On the roof are a kite flyer and an a pigeon fancier. An alligator swims in the open sewer below street level. The drive mechanism requires a repairman below street level, who taps a drive cam with his hammer. 27" tall. Currently available at Tamarack Gallery.
Another view, with the street musicians.
The Fishing Series. Periodically I seem to go back to fishing as a theme for an automaton.
This piece is entitled "Fisherman's Dream". The fisherman jumps up and has a fish on lis line. The waves move up and down. The dog on the dock jumps up after the bone but the girl pulls it up just as he is about to get it. Below the waterline the lake teems with fish. All the fish are actual Great Lakes varieties, which any fisherman will recognize. The fish are mounted on springs that jiggle and move as the crank is turned. 22" high. In a collection in Chicago.
This member of the fishing series features a man casting. It's all in the wrist. The waves move and several fish jump. The bear moves up and down, carrying a fish, but looking for more. The fly fisherman and the bear are after the same fish. The fish below the waterline all jiggle and move. 25" tall. Contact Tamarack Gallery.
This member of the fishing series features a eagle, plunging after the same fish the fisherman is casting for. A second fisherman has caught a fish deep in the lake and pulls it up. Above, the clouds circle in the sky. This one is entitled "Everybody's fishin". 36" high. Available at CazaSikes.
This wintertime ice-skating scene has, above, clouds moving around and skaters turning, jumping and falling. One man twirls his son. A dog chases his master. On the far right several cold fishermen wait for hungry fish and, indeed, one has caught one and is pulling it out of his hole in the ice. The fish below are moving sluggishly. 32" high. In a private collection in Cincinnati. This one is entitled "Sliders and Fishers".
This scene is based on birdwatching. Three birders raise their binoculars and the birds circle above them. A eagle swoops down for a fish. Neither the fisherman nor the birders notice the bear in the woods nearby. Perhpas they should be a bit more observant. 32 " tall. Available from Tamarack Gallery.
This piece was a commission for a fishing camp in Ontario. The camp is quite remote and reachable only by float plane. So, the yellow plane circles, preparing to land. The stern of the boat has "Harry Lake", the location of the camp, painted on it. 33" tall.
My Cincinnati gallery posed a challenge to its artists - to execute a piece that was evocative of van Gough, but not a direct copy. The show consisted of twenty five pieces in many different media (paper, ceramic, fiber, wood), some 2-dimensional, others sculptural. For this challenge I lifted and combined themes and images from five van Gough paintings. “Field with poppies”, “The Drinkers”, “Olive Trees with Yellow Sky”, “Wheatfield with Crows”, and “Windmill at Montmarte”. Except for the basic outlines of the figures I have playfully altered every element. I have, for example, changed all the highlights and shadows to a single sun placement and painted in the shadows. I have converted the ordinary vanishing point perspective (three-dimensions-reduced-to–two) found in van Gough’s paintings to a strange smaller-in-the-distance flat plane perspective reflective of converting two dimensions to three. I have painted each element of the piece, freely altering van Gough’s colors, contrasts and shadows, even expressions on faces. The Drinkers drink, the windmill turns and the crows wheel about, much as they do in van Gough's cornfield painting. 33" tall. Available from CazaSikes.
This piece was a commission for a Halloween enthusiast in New York City, . The spyder on the roof moves up and down, the witches and bats fly around, the giant teeth behind the front door open and close, skeletons dance behind the main floor windows, a skeleton rises from the coffin, and the ghost in the basement flies around. The disembodied heads in the upper windows also move. Engineering the movement was quite complicated. The strange object in the front yard is a "tree" made of jawbones of small animals (painted red and orange). The exterior of the house is clapboard, which I cut and fabricated. I would consider making another piece on the Halloween theme. 42" tall. Contact either of my galleries to discuss a commission.
Jeweler's Here are two closeup photos of my bench while I was working on an automaton. One photo shows the setting-out tools that I use all the time - calipers, T-Squares and such. The other photo shows some of the jeweler's saws that I was using.
Various Non-moving Sculptures.
The airplane series comes out of my childhood fascination with older prop-driven airplanes. Other pieces were inspired by recycled materials, such as the small, flat cans that contian sardines or other fish. A couple of pieces were inspired by scupture in museums.
Sometimes pieces are suggested by materials. The cowboy and cowgirl pieces and the Thin Man (plus Nora and Asta) are based on empty tins from various kinds of fish. The cowboy/cowgirl pieces are in collections in the mid-West. About 14" tall. I kept the Thin Man, though I would consider making a similar piece if someone is interested. Contact either of my galleries.
The next two sculptures are based on figures from ancient Cycladic Greece. One is in the Getty Museum in LA and the other is in the Art Institute of Chicago. I took a couple of pictures of each but was never able to measure them, so my versions are difinitely interpretations. My sculptires of basswod rather than stone. One is 27" tall and the other is 15". I have kept these pieces because obtaining basswood to make this size piece is difficult.
Watercolors. A couple of years ago I began attending a watercolor class with wonderful comraderie and a great teacher (Taylor Jacobsen). I was more attracted to portraits than landcapes. I paint these pieces from my own photographs. Since I shoot more photographs when I am in India most of these watercolors have Indian subject matter. I'm still very much a student, learning techniques and tricks at every session.
The Gypsy Wagon. My wife Sara and I undertook big, whimsical project, designing and building a full size mule-drawn gypsy caravan. We built it from Michigan white pine that had been logged and slabbed on Sara's family land many years ago. We first bought an old farm cart, stripped it down to the wheels and axles and slowly constructed the caravan on that base. As unlikely as it seems we never did plans. Instead, we would decide how the cart should look, phase by phase, and built it to the image (though, of course, with careful measurements). The caravan took portions of two summers to complete and furnish. Why did we build it? Because we could and it was fun. Here are a few photos of the beginning and the end product. If you are interested in the interim steps send me an email and I will post up a powerpoint of the various stages.