What about Alexander Calder's story appealed to you?
So many things about Sandy Calder’s story appealed to me, beginning with his struggle with his identity. He didn’t want to be an artist like his parents and grandfather, so he chose to become a scientist. When being an engineer didn’t work out for him and he accepted he was meant to be an artist, Sandy was able to approach art differently. He used his unique insights and skills to invent the mobile and stabile, bringing movement to art in new ways.
What was Calder like as a person?
While he was committed to his art and worked at it every day, Sandy was good humored, witty and full of joie de vivre. As can be seen in his work, Sandy loved bold colors such as red, yellow and blue (as well as black). Later in life, he often wore a red shirt and was a bit overweight, which led some to liken him to another jolly fellow, Santa Claus.
How did you decide to write about him?
I was browsing art books at a bookstore for fun and came across a small mention of Sandy and his work. I went home and wrote a little poem about him and his mobile. As I learned more about his life and work over the next few weeks, the poem grew. Soon I found out that Sandy saw a mobile as a form of poetry, which I took as a good sign that I should write about him.
Q&A Regarding 'Moving Art:
The Story of Alexander Calder'
(Cricket, May/June 2015)
Early on, I’d used italics and spaces between words to suggest movement. Happily, in the published piece, the word “movement” remains italicized at the moment that Sandy seized upon it for his mobiles, which makes me smile every time I see it. For me, it’s both a summation of Sandy’s contribution and a reminder of my own journey in relation to his story.
With Sandy Calder’s stabile “Young Woman and Her Suitors” outside the Detroit Institute of the Arts (DIA) in October 2013. Completed in 1970, the abstract sculpture stands 35 feet and weighs 17 tons. Though it doesn't move like a mobile, a stabile suggests movement and encourages people to move around it.
“When being an engineer didn’t work out for him and he accepted he was meant to be an artist, Sandy was able to approach art differently. He used his unique insights and skills to invent the mobile and stabile, bringing movement to art in new ways.”
The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, reopened in December 2015 after renovation, includes a new exhibit of cars painted by artists. Sandy Calder started the trend of transforming BMWs into art with this vibrant 1975 design.
Have you seen Calder's work in person?
Thankfully, yes. In 2013 I enjoyed a visiting exhibit of his work at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). I had already completed my piece, but I went back and added a note about how his pieces cast shadows, something that I’d found out from seeing the work for myself. I've also come across a couple stabiles, including the one above outside an art gallery.
How can someone learn more about Calder?
The Calder Foundation, a nonprofit organization run by Sandy’s grandson Alexander Rower and made up of other Calder family members and art experts, is an excellent source of information about Sandy’s life and work. Their website and media interviews were helpful to me with my research. (The website now even includes four short films of Sandy engaging with his artwork.) The foundation was also gracious enough to review my manuscript for accuracy and to authorize the use of Sandy’s art with my piece in Cricket.
I also recommend the following books about Sandy:
For adults, editors Stephanie Barron and Lisa Gabrielle Mark compiled several insightful critical texts about Sandy and his work, along with a thorough if abbreviated biography in Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic (Prestel USA, 2013).
Jean Lipman and Ruth Wolfe’s Calder’s Universe (Running Press, 1989) contains a wonderfully large collection of photos of his artwork.
Also by Jean Lipman, as well as Margaret Apsinwall, Alexander Calder and His Magical Mobiles (Hudson Hills Press, 1981) is a well-researched book for younger readers.
A fun book that gives readers of all ages a sense of Sandy the man and artist at work is Calder at Home: The Joyous Environment of Alexander Calder by Pedro E. Guerrero (Tabori & Chang, 1998).
Fortunately, Sandy Calder's work can be found in art galleries and public spaces around the world. If you get a chance to check it out, I highly recommend you do.
May 1, 2015