Blowtorches, laser cutters weld physics to arts world
By Sean Flynn of The Spartanburg Herald-Journal
To become a featured artist on the campus of Converse College, Dee Dee Bonds had to learn how to operate a blowtorch.
Bonds’ "Pipedreams" sculpture – a semicircle of blue pipes resembling an organ, surrounding a flowing metal sculpture that looks like a person and is designed to spin in the wind and strike the pipes to make a distinct sound – did not come to fruition until Bonds mastered some of the laws of science and heavy machinery.
"There was a lot of muscle work," said Bonds, who is an interior design major at Converse. "I learned how to weld. I learned the physics part, which is important, because what I had here may not work."
As one of the students in a kinetic sculpture class held jointly by Converse and Wofford – taught by Converse art professor Mac Boggs and Wofford physics professor Dan Lejeune – Bonds’ sculpture is one of four being displayed behind Converse’s Phifer Hall, to go with two being shown at Wofford near its Church Street entrance.
The six students, mostly art majors or those who had taken art classes in the past, were given the task of designing and creating a piece of kinetic art, which refers broadly to any sculpture that features movement.
One of the Wofford sculptures is a piece that sits over the fountain near the main entrance, while the other is a camera obscura that can be used by art classes. Lejeune said Wofford faculty members are lobbying for the art to become a permanent part of the campus.
The four Converse pieces include Bonds’ "Pipedreams"; Courtney Layland’s "Magneto," a sculpture inspired by chaos theory that features a pendulum being knocked off course by a series of powerful magnets; "Drag-star," by Brandi Criscitiello, a car lover who built the shell of a car and placed it on a pivot, allowing passers-by to move it with their own two hands; and "Palmetto Trio," by Kathy Zimmerli Wofford, displaying three metal pennants, inspired by the shape of South Carolina and its regions, that blow easily in the wind.
Zimmerli Wofford, a studio art major at Converse, estimated she spent about 120 hours building her three sculptures, including time spent using a laser cutter to draw ocean waves and fish into one of the sculptures, representing the coastal region of the state.
All three shapes are roughly based on the shape of South Carolina.
"What I wanted to do was take something that is normally static and incorporate movement into it," Zimmerli Wofford said.
Each student was given a $1,000 budget and access to the equipment of Freedom Fabricators, a Spartanburg metal-working company that donated time and resources to the class. The students presented their ideas to the instructors, and then began building the pieces. The monetary constraints and the science of the pieces required constant tweaks, Boggs said.
Bonds, who is majoring in interior design, had an original design in which the pipes were of different widths. When the price tag came in too high, however, she changed it so that the pipes were the same size but different heights.
Neither of the instructors had ever done work in the other’s field, but both said they had been affected by the course. Lejeune has begun sculpting on the side, while Boggs is reading books about quantum physics and the chaos theory. "I’m an experimental physicist, and the kind