Thursday, July 22, 2010


About this time last year I shared a couple of posts about my friend, the sculptor, John Holstead. At the time, he was working on another of his "cosmic" pieces, titled "The Story So Far." Here is the finished sculpture. For the moment, it is hanging in an insurance office in Dingle. Click to enlarge.

As I mentioned last year, the piece is conceptually based on a double Mobius strip, and like other of John's works, this one has recesses that cannot be seen or touched, but which are nevertheless finished to the same degree of polish as what you see. How is that possible? The works are assembled from pieces of 18-mm plywood, and the ultimately hidden recesses are finished as he goes. I love John's sense that the cosmos has aspects that are forever beyond our knowing.

Ah, but are they beyond our knowing? Might we not try to extrapolate the smooth curves of the sculpture into the regions we cannot see, working on the assumption that John at his computer was using mathematical algorisms. Then we could test our extrapolations by, say, submerging the entire sculpture in water to ascertain its volume, weighing it with ever greater precision, and making ever more exact measurements on the parts we have access to. Of course, we could never be sure -- without gaining access to John's computer -- that we have it right, but we could approach the truth with ever greater degrees of confidence.

A piece like this requires months of work on the computer before it would ever be possible to cut out the laminae and glue them together. Then more long months of hand-shaping and polishing. First, the rasp, then sandpaper in ever finer grades until the thing is as smooth and glistening as -- as the universe itself.