... ... Don MacLane | ART Elements Gallery

Don MacLane

The inspiration for the physical form of my kinetic sculpture is rooted in my appreciation for geometry, tools, old scientific instruments, machines, and the art of Northwest Coast Native cultures. Each piece is an oscillating system, activated by the observer, that moves in rhythmic patterns as energy is passed back and forth between potential and kinetic states of the elements of the sculpture. Their dynamic behavior conforms to the rules of Newtonian physics. At specific adjustments the motion patterns are a visual analog to the physics of musical scales. Calculation, measurement and experimentation are all part of the process to harness those rules of physics to produce a sculpture that is capable of a wide range of motion or “moods”.

As an observer interacts with the sculpture they are presented with an opportunity for experimentation. Starting the motion with different initial conditions, angle and velocity of the components, results in different motion patterns. Many sculptures have one or more physical adjustments that enable the observer to alter the frequency of the moving elements and thus change the rhythmic pattern. At marked adjustments the different moving parts have integer frequency ratios that are prominent in musical scales.

Each new piece is based on the knowledge gained from making all the preceding pieces. Concept for a new one starts with and idea for oscillating system with a new take on sculptural form, clearances or relationships between elements or interaction with its constraints such as the base plane or the observer. Typically the idea is developed in my head until I am ready to start building it. That process is iterative and involves a mix of scale sketches to resolve the geometry and esthetic choices, template making, and calculations to size elements, fabrication and experimentation to determine weights necessary to produce an interesting range of motion behaviors. Along the way, trials may dictate a significant change in plans. Fortunately, the fabrication process allows me to respond to any new information or opportunity. Building the sculpture utilizes my training and experience as an engineer together with skills gained over years as a metal fabricator and amateur machinist.