Throwback Thursday: Big Gallery Art and Automata by Randy Regier

From dinosaur tracks to insects, from discovering Talking Walls of stories around the world to wondering What About Whales?, the Big Gallery (currently the home of the Playscape) has been the perfect space for many different exhibits over the years. In 2010, it played host to SmartArt, a huge exhibit dedicated to the fusion of art and science.

Portland’s own Randy Regier, an MFA graduate of our neighbors the Maine College of Art, designed two parts of the “Sound and Motion” component of SmartArt: Automata Dancers and Wake Up! 1, 2, 3. When we interviewed him about his work for Kitetails, he stated, “I imagine stories I wished had happened in the past and the objects that are part of those stories, and I make them come ‘true’ by building the objects. Often in my work the objects are toys.” In the area of Oregon where Regier grew up, there were no nearby toy stores, so he made his own as a child. The automata that Regier designed for SmartArt were colorful toys shaped like retro robots.

What exactly are automata? Automata is the plural of automaton, a Greek word meaning acting of one’s own will. (Think “automatic!”) Have you ever seen a cuckoo clock, or a clockwork doll that can write or serve tea? Cuckoo clocks are a great example of automata: the gears in the clock make the bird (or sometimes several objects) move in a certain way; the craftsmen David Roentgen and Peter Kintzing even created an automaton of Marie Antoinette in the late 1700s that plays the dulcimer! Automata usually have a recognizable physical shape, like a human or animal, and can act mechanically on their own without the aid of electricity; usually because of their shape, they mimic real human or animal movements. In fact, there are surviving automata from throughout several centuries, and accounts of mechanical figures dating back to ancient China and Greece!

Regier's Automata Dancers
Regier’s Automata Dancers

To make Regier’s automata move in our SmartArt exhibit, a visitor had only to play a nearby instrument made of found objects. The toys would respond to the vibrations caused by the instrument and dance!

SmartArt (3)
A young visitor makes Regier’s automata dance.

 

Regier’s delightful and thought-provoking toy art has been featured throughout Maine, including nearby Space Gallery; the United States; and even in Madrid, Spain. You can learn more about his work at his website (ask an adult to help you visit!), randyregier.com.

Keep your eyes on our calendar for new ways we’re fusing science and art this winter and spring… including mini robot making labs!

Creative Kids and Recycled Robots

What do trash robots, snake sculptures and shaving cream paper marbling all have in common? Besides being super fun, they are all educational (and messy) projects from last week’s camp, Creative Kids!

We delved into art making on Monday and didn’t stop! Friday marked the conclusion, in which our camp room turned into an art gallery. We invited all our friends and families to show off our impressive work.

What were we so busy doing, anyway? Between silly games such as acting like a certain color and trips to our neighbors, the Portland Museum of Art, campers learned about different styles of lines through the theme of ‘snakes.’ We tried sculpture, printmaking and drawing to explore straight, zigzag and curvy lines that real snakes would be shaped like or how they’d move. Our most involved piece of the week was the snake sculpture we worked on a little bit EVERY day. We first made the shape with tinfoil, and then covered it with plaster strips (the same kind used when you get a cast for a broken bone at the hospital!). Once they were dry we used masking tape to tape off lines so our stripes would be  nice and neat. We gessoed them as a final touch, so now they are super shiny like real snakes.

Another project we’re proud of is named Auto. He’s our giant trash robot! Take a look in the SmartArt exhibit and you’ll notice this friendly creature created all out of trash. It’s amazing what a little silver paint can do! Be on the look out this fall for my “Recycled Robots” program, where you’ll have a chance to make your own version and add it to our exhibit.

The campers are gone but the art lives on. If you enjoyed camp this summer, or haven’t had a chance to yet, there are still a few openings for Amazing Animal Journeys camp with Hannah. Check in at the front desk!

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Recommended reading and inspiration for our colorful snakes: Verdi, by Janell Cannon (creator of Stellaluna).
Our favorite way of learning about lines: The Adventures of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Written and illustrated by Crockett Johnson