Monday, October 29, 2012

360 view of Calder's "Five Blossoms"


I wish, somehow, I could stretch out my days like an accordion and create more time for all of the interests that I have...sculpture, origami, unicycling, juggling, classical guitar, zen, and reading - to name just a few...

One of my interests is digital art and 3D modeling.  I've wanted to learn how to do this for many years and awhile ago I discovered a great program called "SketchUp" that is easy to learn, powerful, and best of all: FREE.  I also discovered another great (free) program called Kerkythea that imports SketchUp models and allows you to create photo-realistic renders of them.  I thought I would share some of the images that I've made using these programs.

Hot Wheels "Silhouette"

Beatles radio concept

DQ - Orange Julius

Dan Grayber sculpture

Dean Castle

Honda CT 70

Nagra III tape recorder

Schwinn Unicycle

Shoji Lamp concept

Snow-Trac ST4

Stiltsville House - concept
Cody box kite

I've had a lot of fun making these and I hope you enjoy them!  

The Flamingo - restored

A few months ago, I posted some photos and comments about the restoration of Calder's "Flamingo" in Chicago.  This work is now finished and the Flamingo has once again arisen in Federal Plaza in all of its glory.

Judging from some pictures taken by Lee Bey, the restoration has made a noticeable improvement to the appearance of this sculpture. 

photo by Lee Bey
You can see more photos and read Mr. Bey's commentary here.

I discovered an interesting bit of trivia as I was exploring the comments Mr. Bey's article.   Back in 1974, Calder was having great success in Chicago - he had been commissioned to create two sculptures, one for the lobby of the Sears Tower and another for Federal Plaza (the Flamingo) and on October 25th, a major exhibit of his works was opening at the Museum of Contemporary Art.  To celebrate the occasion,  Mayor Richard J. Daley declared the day as "Alexander Calder Day" and held a parade with circus wagons, clowns, unicyclists, and several marching bands.  Alexander Calder himself was in the parade, introduced as "Alexander the Great" and rode on top of a Schlitz beer wagon pulled by 40 horses.  

Now that would have been something to see!   

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"Works of Calder"

"Works of Calder" is a short black and white film about a young boy who happens to wander into the studio of Alexander Calder and is astonished by the amazing creations he finds.  The film shows sweeping views of the interior of Calder's Roxbury studio and the artist himself at work.

Filmed by Herbert Matter and rarely seen since its debut in 1951, this interesting - and I might go so far as to say bizarre - film features a soundtrack by John Cage and narration by Burgess Meredith of all people!  You might remember him as Rocky's trainer, Mickey Goldmill, in the first three films.

Thanks to my friend Jeff for sending me a link to this great piece of history!

Works of Calder on

Thursday, August 2, 2012

More photos from Chicago

I thought it would be nice to share some more photos that I took during my recent visit to Chicago. 

totem by Yaacov Agam - 150 N. Michigan Ave

"Monochrome for Chicago" by Nancy Rubins - Navy Pier

"Cloud Gate" - Millennium Park
"Crown Fountain" - Millennium Park
"Flying Dragon" by Alexander Calder - The Art Institute of Chicago

"Flamingo" by Alexander Calder (maquette) - The Art Institute of Chicago

"Streetcar" hanging mobile by Alexander Calder - The Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Flamingo Gets a Facelift

I recently spent a few days in downtown Chicago and, as always, whenever I visit the Windy City, I try to drop by and say hello to a few "friends" such as the "Picasso" in Daley Plaza, Chagall's "Four Seasons" on Dearborn St, "Cloud Gate" in Millenium Park, and of course my favorite - the "Flamingo" by Alexander Calder in Federal Plaza.

This visit, however, would be a little different than previous ones. I had read that the Flamingo was undergoing a major 1/4-million-dollar renovation and I was really excited to see what it would look like while "under wraps".

My first impression took me by surprise. It looked like the Flamingo had been carefully boxed up and left at the curb to await the arrival of a huge FedEx truck for pickup and delivery. I half-expected to find a shipping label and a "FRAGILE" sticker slapped on the side somewhere.  I suppose it's understandable that I would feel this way since I've packed up hundreds of mobiles and stabiles and have spent countless hours figuring out ways to deal with the enclosure of unusual and fragile shapes for safe shipping.  I felt like I could relate (in a small way) to the efforts the restoration crew must have taken to enlcose the Flamingo like this.  My understanding is that this was not done to protect the sculpture during restoration, but rather to prevent the byproducts of the restoration process such as dust, paint, and debris from getting distributed in the air all around the plaza.

Calder Flamingo Restoration                 - photo by R.Bissell
My second impression was the same one that I always have every time I visit this amazement of how BIG it is. Looking at it this way, enclosed within a geometric shape, I realized that my house could easily fit inside a container this huge.

As I walked around looking at the "Shrouded Flamingo" from different angles, my third impression was how interesting and beautiful the scaffolding and plastic sheets looked in the early morning light. It was impossible to not make a conparison to a Christo installation.  I've never seen one in person, but having seen this, I think I've probably come away with a close approximation.  It is quite interesting to view a large iconic object completely obscured and gift-wwrapped  in the middle of a city plaza.

Calder Flamingo Restoration                                   - photo by R. Bissell
As far as I know, this is the first major renovation to the Flamingo since its installation more than 38 years ago.  The restoration includes a top coat of an extra durable primer followed by a full repainting in the trademark Calder Red that can be found on so many of his stabiles.  I'm sure that it will be magnificant to see when the restoration is complete but I'm really happy that I was able to see it like was probably a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Alexander Calder's 114th birthday

Courtesy "Sweet and Swanky Cakes" via Flickr

It's Alexander Calder's 114th birthday!  I was hoping for a reappearance of the wonderful Google doodle that we saw last year, but I don't see it.

Here is a link to it in case you missed it last year.  It's a great representation of a Calder mobile and you can even make it move around!

Friday, July 20, 2012


Wilco is one of my favorite bands...I even named one of my mobiles "Wilco" because the inspiration for it came to me while listening to their album "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot".   I keep hoping that someday I will get an email from Jeff Tweedy asking me to make one for their recording studio.

"Wilco" mobile by Unigami

Wilco is also known (at least by me) for having some of the best concert posters - very original and creative stuff.  I've thought about collecting them.  Here are a few of my favorites.

And here's one that just appeared recently.  I really love this one...a Wilco mobile!

I'd like to think that maybe I had something to do with that particular idea....

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Tim Prentice

A new book has been published by one of my all time favorite artists -Tim Prentice, entitled "Drawing On the Air".

If you are unfamiliar with Mr. Prentice, I encourage you to check out his website and to consider purchasing his book.  His work is sometimes described as a mixture of Calder and George Rickey.  I actually like his work better than Rickey...he has a way of creating sublimely minimalistic mobiles that are comprised of complex structural elements that in themselves are a thing of beauty in their repetition, design, and function.  I just love studying the way that he builds these beautiful objects and I'm always thrilled with I spot one in my travels.

Purchase at Amazon

Friday, July 6, 2012

Alexander Calder Flamingo "Travel Edition"

This is a very clever idea by designer Victor Fong - a travelling edition of Calder's monumental sculpture "Flamingo"   Be sure to check out his website for more images.

Victor Fong - Designs

Design by Victor Fong

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A New Calder Gallery

A new Calder gallery has opened at the Fondation Beyeler in Riehen, Switzerland. The gallery will feature a series of Calder exhibitions being planned, the first being a tribute to Mary Calder Rower, Calder's daughter, who passed away last year and bequeathed her 1,000+ piece collection of Calder works to the Calder Foundation.

This video features an interview with Theodora Vischer. the curator of the first exhibition, and Sandy Rower, grandson of Alexander Calder and founder/president of the Calder Foundation.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"Owsley" Hanging Mobile

"Owsley" - hanging mobile by Unigami

Saturday, June 2, 2012

I'll Plant My Own Tree

My wife was watching "Valley of the Dolls" (1967) last night on Netflix streaming and started yelling "LOOK!  A MOBILE!!!!".

This is probably the best scene in the entire movie - watching Susan Hayward standing in the middle of a huge rotating plexiglass hanging mobile singing "I'll Plant My Own Tree" strangely captivated me like a car spinning out of control for two and a half minutes.

Susan Hayward and the huge hanging mobile in The Valley of the Dolls

By the way, Judy Garland was originally slated to play this part but was fired when she came to work drunk.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Here's a couple T-shirts that I made using a stencil and bleach.  If you are interested in the process you can learn how to do it here:

YouTube: How to Bleach a T-shirt

Unigami Logo T-shirt

Psychedelic Mobile Factory Logo

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Jennifer Steinkamp

This is an excerpt of a talk given by Jennifer Steinkamp at Otis College.  I became aware of Jennifer's work after seeing the beautiful tree projection that she did for the Cleveland Clinic.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A new world record for Alexander Calder

Bidding reached record levels last Tuesday (May 9th, 2012) on several Alexander Calder pieces auctioned at Christie's.  

"Snow Flurry", selling at $ 10.4 million  dollars set a new record for an auction price on a Calder mobile.

"Snow Flurry" - Alexander Calder 

And an 8 ft tall stabile, "Lily of Force" (great name!), estimated to sell around $12 million at most, took in a record $18.6 million dollars - the highest sale ever recorded in an auction for a Calder work.
"Lily of Force" - Alexander Calder

Here is a video showing "Lilly of Force" in all of its beauty:

And here's a video showing "Snow Flurry" and another mobile that was auctioned in action:

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hanging Mobile at the Cleveland Clinic

I spotted this interesting hanging mobile at the Cleveland Clinic the other day while visiting a family member who recently had open-heart surgery.

 I searched for a sign giving the artist's name but couldn't find it, but fellow mobile maker Julie Frith thinks it is by  Arthur Bauman and I agree...thanks Julie!

 I really like the colors on this one and it fits nicely in this stairwell, but I wish the Clinic had contracted ME to do this mobile and not Mr. Bauman!  

The Clinic is an amazing place - wonderful people work there and the halls are filled with great art work.

Picture is from my cell phone - sorry about the quality.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Kurt Vonnegut

A portrait of Kurt Vonnegut by Alexander Calder

Friday, April 20, 2012

Alexander Calder and Segre's Iron Works

Of all the posts that I've put up on this blog, the most popular by far has been the one about "How I Found Alexander Calder's Roxbury Home".  I've received many nice comments about it (thank you, dear readers) but the best of all was a phone call that I received from a wonderful fellow named Bob Hicks.

Bob, who is retired now, told me that he has been a fan of Calder for a long time, and mentioned that my posting about the Roxbury House inspired him to try and find it for himself on a recent trip to Connecticut. It was really fun to hear how he was able to find the house using the maps and information that I posted and to listen to his impressions of what he saw.

We spoke on the phone for quite some time and had a really pleasant conversation about Calder. Bob has traveled all over the world and has seen many Calder sculptures that most of us can only dream of seeing, like the massive "Teodelapio" stabile in Spoleto, Italy (more about that in a future post).

But I was most excited to learn that Bob had visited Segre's Iron Works

You may be wondering, what is so exciting about a metal-working shop? The answer is that Segre's was responsible for the fabrication of many large Calder stabiles that were created in the Sixties and Seventies, turning Calder's ideas (usually expressed in the form of a "maquette" or small model of the proposed sculpture) into the massive pieces that stand in city squares, colleges, business, and sculpture parks around the county.  Bob had seen Segre's when they were actively making Calder sculptures.

Bob explained that he was traveling through Waterbury Connecticut in the late Sixties and was surprised when he suddenly whizzed by what was obviously a large Calder stabile sitting out "in the middle of nowhere".   He turned around and went back to find a somewhat mundane looking metal-working shop surrounded by several Calder stabiles in various stages of completion.  Amazed by what he was seeing, Bob got out of his car and went into the shop to find out what was going on - and to get permission to take some pictures.

"You have pictures of Segre's Iron Works with Calder's sitting outside?" I asked...

"Yes!" said Bob, "I took quite a few.  They are on slides, if you are interested in seeing them I'll dig them out and see if I can make some prints"

"Oh wow" I said, "I would LOVE to see those!  Could I post them on my blog?"

"Sure!" said Bob, "give me a couple weeks to get them together and I'll send them to you.  You can do whatever you like with them"

And so, here you are.  A collection of vintage photos from the late Sixties showing the birth of some of Calder's most famous stabiles: the "Flamingo" just before it was shipped off to Chicago, and "Stegosaurus", which is now at an art museum in Toledo, Ohio.

Many many thanks to Bob Hicks for sharing these great historical photos. 

Approaching Segre's Iron Works - Waterbury, CT     -  Photo courtesy of Robert Hicks

Segre's Iron Works - late 1960's  - photo courtesy of Robert Hicks   

Front yard at Segre's - Photo courtesy of Robert Hicks

Stegosaurus and small Flamingo at Segre's Iron Works - Photo courtesy of Robert Hicks

"Flamingo" (full size) - Photo courtesy of Robert Hicks

Photo courtesy of Robert Hicks

Alexander Calder's "Flamingo" at Segre's Iron Works - Photo courtesy of Robert Hicks

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hypnotic Wind Sculptue

I love this amazing and hypnotic wind sculpture by Anthony Howe