Photographic reconstruction on aluminum By Rusty Scruby Location: Level 4, ZACH
About this piece
My thought process has always involved seeing numbers and patterns in the world around me. When I studied engineering, I was intrigued by math’s ability to distill infinitely subtle and dynamic forces into simple equations. Bernoulli’s equation and looking at fluids became a way to connect real world experiences with the abstract. Later, when I read about “infinitesimals” and their role in the development of calculus, I realized that my artwork was essentially breaking down an image into small sections like a curve gets broken down in calculus.
As for the imagery of this particular work, because of the scale of this commission, I had a strong sense that a wave was the best image that would work for this space. I didn’t want to use an image that referenced a particular coast, like a Galveston wave or a Houston wave, or any specific locale. I wanted to use a “generic” image that everyone could recognize and feel some sense of resonance with the work. With the artwork, I want to show that numbers and even solutions exist in the everyday things around us. I had the idea to take a wave and impose calculations on it—a way for students to see math in everyday things.
Try and Try Again: Fabrication
I really didn’t know how to begin the process of making my design durable or really what material the final image would be made out of. After several failed prototypes, I reached out to the people at MetaLab in Houston. I sent them a paper model of my idea, and through many meetings a solid construction concept took place.
They had their own challenges: step one was figuring out how to reliably bend metal to create the 3d form. Step two was adding the image to the material. Every new step to the process complicated the step before. There were issues of using primer on the base metal or not. Deciding when to bake on the clear coat. And there was also an issue of what points would be welded and what would be folded. It was a really complicated process that the team at MetaLab have done an amazing job in managing this project.
I want the artwork to be enjoyed over time. Looking at the artwork from a distance, I believe that people will get the sense that the piece is the image of a wave, in spite of the disruptions to the image (repetition and physical distortions). However the exact relationship between the individual parts won’t be as apparent and I hope will be a discovery process for students. In the end, I want the artwork to be a guide to see math in everyday things.
I think engineering takes a systematic approach to building great things whereas art can take a more erratic, inspired path to creation. I think together they have synergy. — Rusty Scruby