Boston Metro: Dancing Machines

Skunk invents robo-art

Luke O’Niel
July 2008 


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.

Some of your metallic robot sculptures are exactly the type of thing I would have gone crazy for as a kid. Is that what you’re going for: Harnessing boys’ inherent destructive imagination?

I am hoping that people see the constructiveness in my work. Creating something out of garbage isn’t necessarily difficult, but to create something out of garbage that no longer resembles garbage embraces the very essence of constructiveness. … I suppose some of my
robots have a mean look in their eyes, but most of them are programmed to dance, not destroy.

You say you want to blur the line between art and toys. Where does that desire come from? Do you feel like adults aren’t encouraged to indulge their playful sides?
Many adults are too self-conscious to play freely. … Kids make forts out of dining room chairs and blankets, time machines out of refrigerator boxes, and superhero outfits out of bed sheets. My youngest friends remind me of what I’ve forgotten whenever I talk with them. People forget that kids aren’t people-in-training, they are as much of a person as any adult, and they have a lot to offer as genuine friends. But I’d say the biggest motivation for mixing art and toys is a selfish reason. I love making things that are fun!

A lot of them have evident personalities. Do you construct them with stories in mind? Do you have back stories and names for each of them?
All of the bots have a name and serial number, engraved somewhere near the back of the foot. As far as the stories and adventures go, my bots are born the day they are made, so the stories are yet to come with the new owners. I imagine them as robotic orphans looking for good homes.