Steve Tobin is an artist who has gained increasing prominence in recent years for his iconic sculptures inspired by shapes found in nature and science. His passion for organic forms is shared by two of my other favorite sculptors, the U.K. artists Andy Goldsworthy and Peter Randall-Page -- but Tobin comes from the U.S. side of the Atlantic. He grew up in the suburbs of Philadephia, and now works out of a busy sculpting studio in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
As Amei Wallach explains in a fascinating article posted on the Smithsonian's website, "Tobin calls what he does — turning aspects of nature into sculpture — 'visual science.' Art and science are often 'regarded as mutually exclusive,' he says, 'because science is considered to be about deductive reasoning. But science defines the universe starting from basic assumptions. Art is trying to do the same thing using a different language.'
"With a degree in theoretical mathematics from Tulane University, Tobin is particularly interested in string theory, which proposes that everything in the universe is composed of vibrating loops of energy. In that spirit, he created a spiny organic work he calls Uni, Japanese for sea urchin, out of junked fireworks-launching tubes. The piece appears to be in throbbing motion, like string theory's loops of energy. More recently he's been working on 'Exploded Clay' sculptures (made by detonating fireworks in blocks of wet clay), which, at least in theory, pay homage to the Big Bang that most scientists believe created the universe."
Working in materials that range from glass and clay to bones and bronze, Tobin creates art, he says, that "comes from my own heartbeat. If my life gets too frenetic, I can't feel my pulse and don't know what I'm doing."
The extraordinary piece at the top of this post is "Trinity Root," a twenty foot high bronze sculpture for Trinity Church in lower Manhattan. It was created from the roots of the historic Sycamore tree that saved St. Paul's Chapel during the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001. The sculpture to the left, "Walking Roots," was exhibited at the Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles. Regarding these sculptures, Tobin says: "When you walk away from the roots and go on with your life, hopefully the next time you look at a tree, your mind will travel underground and see things not readily apparent. We all have roots. We all have histories. We all have mysteries below the surface."