figure-studies in re-purposed steel
"I endeavor to build robots that will endure the ages - to make them as strong as possible to survive the physical world, as well as endearing as possible, so that they are taken care of long after I'm gone."
TIG welding is the art of melting metal together with a tiny lightning bolt, with a handheld torch hovering one millimeter above above where the pieces meet. The power is controlled by a foot pedal, and filler wire is hand-deposited to the base materials to compensate for the gap.
I’ve been working on a book for a few months now: a catalog of each and every robot I’ve ever built, from Astrobot #1, Ziggy, to the latest. As I approach the 300 mark, it’s become increasingly challenging to keep up with the documenting and publishing the most current work, let alone digging into the past. It[…]
Wednesday, May 11th: 7:00 p.m. Robbins Library 700 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington MA I don my Fleet Admiral uniform and speaks of origins, influences, and notable adventures of the twenty seasons of pilots flying structurally-modified and electronically-enhanced bicycle-machines known as ships, on rides known as missions, in the greater Boston area and beyond.
Believe it or not, SCUL pilots often hone their chopper-handling skills from time to time. We had the pleasure of being followed by camera-toting drone owned and operated by one of our newest recruits, f-stop For more information visit The Friendly Skies on scul.org.
I am pleased to share with everyone that after ten visits in the last eight months, all the major dental visits are now complete! Each visit was was such a tremendous relief: I felt as if a curse was gradually lifting off of me. In fact, I think there was a part of me that was perpetually fighting the infection going on in my mouth. So with each session came a great sense of relief and joy: something to look forward to.
It was a real pleasure to speak of the amazing group of pilots known as SCUL. I went over the influences, history, and philosophy evolving over the nineteen seasons of hundreds of epic adventures.
Back in August I gave a talk at 13 Forest Gallery about my childhood, starting and growing a bicycle chopper gang, and the evolution of the Astrobot as a species designed to live through the ages. It was a real pleasure to have such an engaging and provocative dialogue with the folks who came to the talk. Gallery hosts Marc Gurton and Jim Kiely are always going out of their way to help everyone feel welcome and at ease.
Past Talk: The Evolution of a Bicycle Chopper Gang: Leadership, Management, and Teamwork for Fun on a Saturday Night
When I started a bicycle chopper gang nineteen years ago, I had no idea it would become anything more than a light hobby. As SCUL approaches its twentieth orbit, it’s time to look back and reflect on how we have evolved into an important part of this incredible culture we have in the City of Somerville.
I have the honor of teaching at the NuVu school in Cambridge for ten days starting next week: young students are going to make rolling musical instruments out of bicycles. I’m excited to see what thy come up with. But before we begin, I must learn how to weld all over again.
Tomorrow I go in for the first session of my dental surgery funded by the community. After hearing a few people say they had similar procedures and how brave I was for doing this, I must admit I began to feel nervous, but the feeling was brief. I’ve endured two separate five-hour tattoo sessions without anesthesia, so this should be a piece of cake.
The fundraiser for my teeth has been life-changing and it hasn’t really even started in some ways.
I have a lot more experience with photography than I do with video, and while the two can be certainly associated, video has been a bit more of a learning curve.
For years off and on I had been asking weld shops for retired tanks, but without much luck; so when Derek from the Artisan’s Asylum donated four spent SCUBA tanks I was ready to build something I’ve been looking forward to for years: A Paul Bunyan Class Rocketship.
The fundraiser to help me out with my teeth has gained even more momentum: Steve Annear from the Boston Globe came along on a SCUL mission to get a sense of what the community I belong to.
There’s a GoFundMe campaign to save my teeth. Here is the story of how my smile got to be as it is today.
Jacob Larocca and Robert Masek from A Maker Tale got me to sit still for an hour to talk about bikes, art, making, managing, and foolish endeavors.
Living in New England means adapting your schedule to the weather. We’ve had a couple of back-to-back heavy-duty snow storms, and as a result my TIG welding class was postponed.
Back in May the friendly neighborhood chopper gang infamously known as SCUL received a transmission from Soniya Tejwani, the Museum Educator at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA, inviting us to participate in event called B.Y.O.B. or Bring Your Own Bike night, on May 15th from 6-9 p.m. While typically we ride on Saturnights, we were excited to travel to a system we had never chopped, and to be involved with something as grand as this event was an offer we couldn’t pass up.
As some of you may have heard, I’m transforming the upper-half of my studio space at the Artisan’s Asylum in to a microgallery: to be called the Ready Room. Please join me in celebrating my new level of commitment towards sculpture and art in a celebration, and see my newest never-before seen works. Warning: this is a fifty foot space, so things will be crowded to say the least. I will do my best to accommodate!
It’s 2:00 AM in the morning on a Sunday in Boston, and I’m watching a gang of bike hackers climb a 25-foot bandsaw once used to cut lumber for sailing vessels. We’re in a desolate section of the Charlestown Navy Yard, where the massive Tobin Bridge looms overhead like an approaching supercell.
It’s just shy of 22:00 (or 10:00p.m. in civilian time) and Fort Tyler is humming. Pilots are running ships through pre-flight checks, the navigator and tail gunner are intently hunched over a large tactical map, and the flatscreen readout on the wall slowly ticks towards 22:15.
My Holliston High School teacher and great mentor of mine, Marjorie Picchi, once told me “once you think a piece is done, it is halfway done.” For me this fact has been a great measuring stick for my works.
Working in raw steel is pretty monochromatic. I love going big with color whenever I get the chance.
I discovered this unusual birthmark on roof of the mouth of my cat, Bootsy Tiberius Khan, only two days after I put him in the basket of my trusty bicycle pickup-truck (aka the Skunkamobile) to take him home from the shelter: yet this is the first time I’ve managed to be lucky to be holding the camera set up correctly in order to catch him at just the right moment.
I’ve been designing and producing SCUL calendars annually since 1998, the first of which was inspired from a calendar I saw when I worked as a finisher at Merlin Metalworks in Cambridge, MA.
The story of MOBOT begins as a seed planted by a Gary Larsen cartoon: can you guess which one?
I haven’t owned a car since before Skunkadelia, sometime around late 1999. While almost all of my transportation is me-powered, my art is really heavy, so I’ve had to rent a car for larger shows.
This was the first show Skunk co-curated, or acted as curator in any way shape or form.
For several years I have had the honor of making the trophies for the winners of the Independent Film Festival. While I doubt anyone is shooting with film cameras anymore, I find that style of movie camera so iconic that I went with it anyway.
Tejas did a fantastic piece on SCUL for WERS 88.9 FM on Sunday, May 19th, 2013. Here’s the clip for the archives.
I made a raygun!
Engadget stopped by our secret HQ to give an inside peek into the life of the SCUL chopper pilot.
Somerville Open Studios is an event not to be missed. 401 artists in twelve hours? That gives you 1 minute, 47 seconds to see each artist. Good luck! No one hu-man can possibly see it all without the aid of time travel devices. If you don’t have one handy, check out the Somerville Museum: they’ve got the artist’s choice exhibit, which acts as a targeting computer for your brand of talent. Romer is there, posting watch.
Art inspired by fictional characters, curated by Susan Berstler
an exhibition of Museum-quality heavy-duty TIG welded toys and sculpture made from recycled steel by Skunk
Your sober art reporter thought he escaped to Storyland upon entering the modestly scaled environs of Somerville’s Brickbottom Gallery to view “Toys and Games.” In through the front door, past the seating arrangement in the lobby, a sharp right and… there they all were.
Making a proper mask is tricky. Here’s how I made mine.
Thumbnails from the Pop and Lock show at Ride Studio Cafe.
SCUL puts out a calendar every year. Many of the photos used in the calendar is shot during missions, however it’s helpful to shoot in a more ‘controlled’ environment.
Toady I hurt the ole’ pickup truck of a cruiser, the Nitty-Gritty Pretty City Kitty-Witty.
I’ve resisted posting a picture of my pet friend Nemo for as long as I could. He’s a Congo African Grey parrot. Yes, he talks. He says good morning when I wake up, goodbye when I leave, and hello when I return.
A few years back my friend Sideshow helped me make a set of titanium chopsticks that separate like a pool cue. I used to carry them in my boots.
A few years ago I was lucky to get my hands on some leftover tubing samples from work. I made myself a bulletproof flask. I’m sure this thing is tough enough to survive being run over by an eighteen wheeler.
I’ve been plying around with a serger. I got some XL sized thermals, and tailored them. Inspired by Hapto.
Today Pywaket and I went out to My Aunt and Uncle’s house in Mendon to pick up an antique barber’s chair. I plan on making some modifications, unless I get an offer beforehand. Look out, collectors!
Images from the Nave Gallery ‘s ‘Our Town’ exchibit
When the Somerville Scout was looking to do a story on people who do interesting things with their living spaces, they visited my place.
Hallowheels is a SCUL tradition.
My friend Asher shared her pizza crust recipe with me years back, but I’m just now beginning to experiment with baking. It’s great getting sticky and covered in flour, and it’s not nearly as finicky as I suspected. I’m very pleased with the difference it’s made from using store-bought crusts.
I love making indestructible trophies, especially for cyclists.
I’m often reminded of how positive and Friendly the Boston Area really is, despite it’s cold reputation.
This is a new prototype for low power lightening field for a ship. 300 LEDs lasted the entire mission.
It’s not that often the Portal of Skunkatude moves, but when it does it goes to parties and gets it’s picture taken with fabulous people.
Marlon and his new family, Leanne and Brendan.
Not that long ago, about 3 in the morning, I jumped up from a near sleep with a Eureka moment. About a month earlier Self Destruct, a friend and fellow pilot, suggested I make my robots poseable for stop animation.
As promised, here’s a look at the trophies commissioned for IFF Boston.
Gzo finds his forever-home with Visigoth.
Somewhere in a dark garage, a metal man is being made.
The fine folks of IFF Boston commissioned me to make actor Kevin Kline his career achievement award.
Stop by the Artist’s Choice Exhibit at the Somerville Museum for a chnce to preview the work of many SOS artists in a single location. With participating artists invited to submita one piece of their choosing, the show is ana enjoyable and convenient way to help plan your SOS itenerary.
One of the el drivers shorted. Must have been that battle with the sarlac on tatooine.
Last season the ole’s Disko-Deth-Stah mast suffered from severe radiation exposure, and froze to one solid hunk of iron. Alphamission is upon us, so it’s scramble time until Sunday!
This photo was taken in December of 2008, when the robot traveled by T to Cathy’s office. Marisol thought the robot would be cold and she knit him a hat!
Here’s the link to the news story. I said “sexy oily bits” on NPR.
I… You… We… ROBOT!
242 E. Berkeley Street
Skunk creates a Missing Link, a fantastic creature made from old bicycle chain.
This morning was the installation of the SRS Redbone, at Redbones. Things went well, thanks to Rob Gregory and the ‘do-it-all-guy’, PJ.
Available custom made to order. Welded stainless steel bicycle spokes. I made this triptych for a SCUL couple marrying Saturday. I can make yours at this scale and complexity for $60, less if you want something simpler. I have lots of ideas that are more complex.
The Iron Cog Award is the highest honor you can receive in SCUL. It is typically given to only one pilot once per season. Each Iron Cog trophy is different. I try to make each trophy suit the pilot. Sometimes they spin dangerously, and sometimes they are on fire.
It’s the last week of SCUL season, and there’s a lot to keep my busy. A great deal of it is classified, but I can talk about the two Maggot-dinners I’ve had.
MRC was very productive. DubbleU replaced the sonic disruptor dishes on Cloudbuster, and Treekiller upgraded the laser mounts for the Disco-Deth Stah. We also replaced some of the mast. Retard got Lazarus put back together again: no small feat considering it split in two mission before last!
There’s more to making art than the obvious moment of creation. You need to mine and collect what you make things from. Supply run to Broadway Bicycle School! Hungry robots need metal, and B-Way’s the place to get it.
This is one of those projects that sits for six months before starting, and then it only takes a day to execute. Leaves me wondering why I waited so long.
This journal has been sporadically kept since 1985. I’ve been using a homegrown brand of runes to code it. There was a book making project at the Holliston High School art class, and we got extra credit if we illustrated it.
Yesterday I gave a talk on SCUL at Nubtalks, putting cool people in a room together since 2008. The talk was entitled: The Dirty Secrets of Miracles – What it takes to keep a bicycle-nerd-gang in the air.
The Space 242 gallery in the South End was crowded with freeloaders last Friday, but there was no problem spotting the artist known as Skunk.
Since the dawn of time, kids have longed for one thing: badass robots to come to life and be their friends. Until science figures that one out, we’ll settle for imagining adventures with the metallic sculptures by Somerville artist Skunk, many of which are made from discarded bicycle parts. Our inner child spoke with the artist about how totally awesome his work is.
Many Bostonians know Skunk by sight. He is a man hard to forget. You may see him on his way to work perched on a tall bicycle constructed from two frames ingeniously welded together. And at night if you hear disembodied soul music floating through your window, Skunk’s bicycle mounted stereo is likely passing through your neighborhood on its way home.
The Mister Potato-Head of the future! A life-sized robot sculpture with re-arrangeable magnetic facial features.
Captain’s Log, Star Date 11.03.01 mark 11 hours. Having found myself in uncharted territory, I latched on to a passing band of marauders who allowed me to accompany them on their own mission into the Cambridge System.