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My Sculpture

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Spiral Eye of the Celestial Falcon

I began building these structures in Paris in the 1960s. Living dirt poor I was always looking for ways to supplement my meager cash flow. For two years I sold the New York Times on the street to American tourists and earned a profit of 4 cents a paper. On weekends I sat on the Pont des Arts bridge and sold pencil drawings of classic Paris scenes to tourists. I also made small screens out of balsa wood and Japanese paper that I sold to friends for a few francs. The work was labor intensive and the return not great. "If I could only find a module that I could easily construct and join together in an interesting fashion and then sell," I thought.

One day, sitting in my room, I gazed upon a small cube I had constructed several years earlier from sticks of wood. On each side of the cube I had added a stick on the diagonal. Sitting there that day I saw the diagonals of the cube instead of the right angles and what I saw was a pyramid inside the cube, a form I later learned was a tetrahedron. Here was my module. Why hadn't I seen this before? I constructed a number of these tetrahedrons and joined them together and found that they made interesting curves moving through space. There is no math involved in the making of these structures. Numbers do not figure in the process. Everything is eyeballed.

I've continued making these structures on and off ever since the 1960s. Of the hundreds of people who have passed through my house over the years only a small number have noticed them. A smaller number yet have been interested enough to say anything. On those rare occasions I would lower a structure from its hanging perch to be seen where it deserves, at eye level and in movement.

But Annie Hallatt gets the prize. I've known Annie for years but she had never visited my house. One day in Febraury 2004 she came over and kaboom! My own fascination for these structures met it's equal. "Gotta build one of these big and get it to Burning Man!" she said. She approached Larry Harvey founder of Burning Man with one of my original structures. He too was taken by my creation and commissioned the construction of a larger version. Annie assembled a team of brilliant minds who took my intuitions and rendered them into math. I must admit my eyes glazed over when I saw the sheet of paper with the numbers underlying my structure. I had to suppress a yawn. She and her team built a custom jig to cut the individual pieces of wood, another jig to fit them together into tetrahedrons, and then designed the metal hardware to join the tetrahedrons together. I was most impressed.

The assemblage party took place on August 22, 2004, and with a great spread of food brought a la pot luck, it was one hell of a day. About a hundred people showed up. This giant structure had never been put together before. Would it hold? Despite an accident of a small break, the whole held beautifully. The best compliment came from a nine year old. "This is a good party!" she exclaimed. Between the structure which looked like a giant Tinker-Toy, the eccentricities of my house, and my 17th century Hansel and Gretel cottage in my garden, it was a kiddy wonderland truly suited for young and old.

I did not take offense when a friend I had not seen in decades summed it all up with the declaration, "Lenny, you're crazy!"