|The creative back story.
My sister Marilyn's birthday was coming up and I wanted to make her something. I've been welding and working with metal cubes this summer, so that was top of mind. I also had two wire-wrapped wooden croquet balls sitting around. One was red and the other was yellow. I had wrapped them for use in a previous project but then wound up not using them. For some reason it occurred to me that if I added a green croquet ball, the three balls would make a "traffic light." It turned out that I had a matching green croquet ball in my collection. I considered welding a rectangular metal cage to hold the three balls in a vertical arrangement--like a traffic light. I talked this over with Janice and she wondered what a traffic light would have to do with my sister and her birthday. The only connection I could think of was that I had wrecked two of Marilyn's VW Bugs when I was in my late teens. Not a good connection so I cooled on the "traffic light" idea.
There was a family connection to croquet--it was a frequent game at our house. So there was that. I went back to an early idea of suspending the balls in one of my 8-inch square metal cubes. I knew it would look like a "molecule." Couldn't think of a good connection between Marilyn and "a molecule" except that she's a dietician and that boils down to chemistry and biology. But that seemed pretty strained. I finally decided to quit worrying about creating something that had a meaningful connection for me and my sister and just be happy with making something interesting looking.
I took one of the unused metal cubes I had welded recently and started playing around with the croquet balls--trying out different arrangements and trying to visualize different ways I could attach them to the frame and suspend them in the cube with wire. It occurred to me that if I welded a cross or diagonal bar inside the frame, I could wire the balls to that. I decided on two diagonal cross bars--that would give me plenty of internal support for securing the balls to. I also realized that the two diagonal bars would make an "X"--the shortened symbol for Fluxus art. After welding the diagonal bars, I wrapped the green croquet ball with steel wire and left it outside to get rained on so that its wires would start rusting like the other two croquet ball's wires already had. Wiring the three balls to each other and around the center where the diagonal rods crossed was pretty easy.
This particular steel cube was really out of square and there was no side on which it sat perfectly flat. This rocking bugged me, so I began to think of what I could do to fix it. I considered a variety of options and finally settled on the idea of attaching the cube on to a wooden base. Janice and I had used thick wooden blocks as bases for our cement block sculptures and I wanted to do something like that. I looked through my wood scraps and settled on the idea of making the base out of a 2 x 4-inch board. Two side by side 2x4's are less than 8-inches, so I knew the base was going to have to be three boards wide. I measured the wood and cut it with a handsaw, then glued the inside facing edges and held it together with some hand clamps. While the glue was drying I drilled holes and added four 4-inch deck screws to make sure the three boards stayed together. I wanted to fix this wooden base on the cube and did so by drilling two holes at each corner. I wrapped wire around each bottom corner of the cube and then pushed the wire through the two corner holes and twisted each pair together tightly. Jance and I were both pretty pleased at how it looked on its wooden base and I was very happy that this sculpture no longer rocked but sat flat.
During the time I was working on this project (more than a week) I was trying to think of a name or title for the piece. Coincidentally, I was also working on a project ("Underground Art") that involves the paintings of famous artists. I happened to be looking through a lot of Grant Wood's painting on the internet, when I realized that part of his style was painting trees and rolling hills like round balls...almost like clusters of croquet balls. You can see this in the background image on this web page--pieces from two of his paintings. Grant Wood's most famous painting is "American Gothic" and I decided that that fit too--the rusty metal rods and worn croquet balls have a certain gothic feel and look. The fact that Grant Wood was a native Iowan who taught at the University of Iowa was also a great link. Marilyn and I are from Iowa and both of us went to the University of Iowa too. The croquet balls look like a molecule, so I played around with that until I came up with the title: "If Grant Wood had been a chemist." I decided to carve this title into the bottom of wooden stand and color it in with paint pens (I had done this carve-and-paint title on another recent project and had liked how that turned out). After carving in the title, I used a black paint-pen to add two more lines: "For my sister Marilyn" and "Aug 1, 2008 Allen Bukoff." The final thing I added to the bottom of the wooden base was a copy of my latest Fluxus Midwest logo. I created a graphic with the logo and printed it out on iron-on T-shirt transfer paper. I cut this logo out and ironed it on the wooden base. Janice and I admired the completed sculpture for several days, then packed it up and mailed it to my sister in time for her birthday.