Category Archives: Small Scale Model

2014 NYFA Grant Application for Sculpture/ A Theory of Forms and Ideas and Opposition and Sister Squares are Reconciled

I just finished my application for the NYFA grant in sculpture. I decided to show 4 pieces from A Theory of Forms and Ideas and all 4 pieces from Opposition and Sister Squares are Reconciled because they seem to be the most similar. I ended up making a fourth sculpture in Opposition and Sister Squares are Reconciled to finish the series so that I would have enough for the application. I also ended up re-shooting Opposition and Sister Squares are Reconciled with a new camera (Canon G15) because the last camera got an annoying scratch on the lens and I needed to shoot them from a farther distance to avoid lens distortion; I found that the lens distortion ruined the effect that I was looking for. Somehow I couldn’t get the same differentiation of shadows with  Opposition and Sister Squares are Reconciled as I did with A Theory of Forms and Ideas and I’m not sure if that’s because of the camera or because I’m essentially shooting negative space/surfaces instead of positive space/surfaces.

Here’s the statement that I came up with for both series. I had to keep it under 200 words so I cut a bunch of things out. Below that are the 8 slides that I submitted.

My artwork utilizes small-scale models that are simultaneously abstract and reminiscent of 1960s minimalist sculptures. The sculptures inherently create an awareness of scale that shifts the viewer’s relationship away from traditional, monumentalized work and toward a position of enhanced intimacy.

The sculpture series A Theory of Forms and Ideas takes its name from Plato’s concept of idealized form which postulates the existence of a “reality” inhabited by the ideal or archetypal forms of all things and concepts. This series uses fragments of old black and white corporate logos as a basis for creating objects in three dimensions. Each sculpture was first rendered in pencil using traditional three dimensional drawings techniques before being cut out, glued, sanded, primed and painted with flat black spray paint, creating a refined and dullish surface.

Opposition and Sister Squares are Reconciled references Marcel Duchamp and Vitaly Haberstadt’s book of the same name, which explores and explains various effective strategies for the endgame of chess. In my sculpture series, negative space and isometric perspective are used to deceive the eye into seeing positive forms, further enhancing the perception of form as a malleable and therefore untrustworthy way of truly seeing objects.

Higbee01 Higbee02 Higbee03 Higbee04 Higbee05 Higbee06 Higbee07 Higbee08

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Opposition and Sister Squares are Reconciled Sculptures

Here are the 3 finished Opposition and Sister Squares are Reconciled sculptures. I used the same flat black paint to finish them as I did for the A Theory of Forms and Ideas sculpture series. I left the back sides unpainted because I only needed the fronts to be finished to create the illusion of a finished sculpture in the final photos. I did the same thing when I created The Problem of a Compounded Abstraction (The Field) by only finishing the front two sides and the tops of the back 2 pieces to create the illusion that the whole sculpture was finished when in fact the sides that can’t be seen in the photo are unfinished. By doing this though I have created a dilemma since I now feel obligated to show the photos of the unfinished backs as part of the final product. In a way I have to decide if this is a dialogue that I want to be having or if it only complicates the narrative of my sculptures. I’ll probably edit out the photos of the backs but I like the idea that it further enhances the inherent illusion of photographing three dimensional objects.

Opposition and Sister Squares are Reconciled is a book written by Marcel Duchamp and the German chess master Vital Halberstadt which aims to reconcile the alleged differences between positions of opposition and the concept of sister squares in chess.

“Duchamp and his coauthor set about to prove that theories of opposition and theories of ‘sister squares’ are actually one and the same, and that they represent only variant methods by which to solve essentially the same endgame situation.”

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Opposition and Sister Squares are Reconciled Sculptures in Progress

Here is a third sculpture for the series Opposition and Sister Squares are Reconciled.

Dead Reckoning 3

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Opposition and Sister Squares are Reconciled Sculptures in Progress

Here are some new sculptures that I’ve been working on called Opposition and Sister Squares are Reconciled. The series is based on the isometric drawing series that I made for A Theory of Forms and Ideas; I isolated sections of the original drawings and imagined them as if their perspective was reversed so instead of representing positive space they would be representing negative space. I was originally thinking about making them out of black construction paper but decided to use 1/8″ bass wood instead. They will eventually be spray painted black like the A Theory of Forms and Ideas Sculptures. It’s a bit too cold out right now to be spray painting so I may not get around to doing it for a while. The impetus for working on this series was  so that I could apply for the NYFA grant again this year in February but I need a variety of sculptures that are the same yet different. You’re supposed to send in 8 slides so I figured I could show 2 slides from each series; I still need to come up with a fourth series that is similar yet different.

The grid that these are sitting on is a new pixel painting that I’m going to start working on.

Dead Reckoning 1 Dead Reckoning 21

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Plato’s Theory of Forms

Here’s some writing that I found on Plato’s Theory of Forms written by Ian Bruce; I researched most of this while I was working on my series of small scale sculptures but hadn’t gotten around to posting it until now.


Plato expounded his Theory of Forms over a writing career of some forty years. The theory was being refined over this period and is never fully explained in any one dialogue. Thus, any explanation of the theory, involves piecing together fragments as they appear throughout Plato’s writings, and recasting the earlier statements in the light of the metaphysical framework developed in the later works.

 General Statement of the Theory of Forms

The theory basically postulates the existence of a level of reality or “world” inhabited by the ideal or archetypal forms of all things and concepts. Thus a form exists, for objects like tables and rocks and for concepts, such as beauty and justice. In the dialogue Meno, Plato describes a form as the “common nature” possessed by a group of things or concepts. Speaking of virtue he says:

 And so of the virtues, however many and different they may be, they have all a common nature which makes them virtues; and on this he who would answer the question, “What is virtue?” would do well to have his eye fixed.

The forms are eternal and changeless, but enter into a partnership with changeable matter, to produce the objects and examples of concepts, we perceive in the temporal world. These are always in a state of becoming, and may participate in a succession of forms. The ever changing temporal world can thus, only be the source of opinion. Plato likens the opinions derived from our senses, to the perception of shadows of real objects, cast upon the wall of a cave. True knowledge however, is the perception of the archetypal forms themselves, which are real, eternal, and unchanging.

Whilst the forms are invisible to the eye, our souls have participated in the eternal world of forms prior to being incarnate in a physical body, and retain a memory of them. Although this memory is not readily accessible to the conscious mind, its presence is sufficient, to enable our limited perceptions. Plato maintains however, that the philosopher can achieve a state of perceiving the forms directly, with his mind’s eye, by: developing skill, in discerning the abstract qualities, common to groups of things and ideas, in the temporal world; by realizing these are merely hypotheses; and by employing the method of dialectic, to categorize and group the qualities in their correct relationships and order; using these hypotheses as stepping stones, to further hypotheses. Thus reason is able to construct a hierarchy of forms, to scale to the height of first principle and attain a state of true knowledge.

All learning Plato maintains, is but recollection, of what our soul already knows. In the dialogue Meno, Plato agrees that enquiry is impossible, because, unless we already knew something, we would not recognize, the subject about which we were inquiring. But adds, that enquiry is worthwhile, in that it can uncover our innate memory.

 An Assessment of the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Theory

 In assessing the Theory of Forms it is important to remember that Plato was a profound language theorist. In the dialogue Cratylus he states that the Gods call things by their correct names, but the names given by men are not always correct. As there is meant to be a form corresponding to every name, or concept used by man, the notion of correct, or incorrect names, becomes extremely relevant. He notes that an important aspect of the dialectician’s art is the giving of names. Although, as he notes in The Republic, the names or categories derived by dialectic are merely hypotheses, which the reason can use as “steps and points of departure” into a world which is above hypotheses. Thus the use of words in the dialogues can be easily misinterpreted.

The great logical strength of the Theory of Forms is that it is a construction capable of adapting to all criticism: whilst there are archetypal forms that correspond to all terms used by man, many of the terms used by man are incorrect; only the Gods use correct names consistently. Whilst Socrates may be presented as agreeing with his interlocutors, this is usually a step in demonstrating their state of ignorance, and indeed that of Socrates. For in the true Socratic tradition the recognition of one’s own ignorance, is seen as an advancement of knowledge. What is more, if a discussion results in confusion and seeming contradiction, then that too can be seen as the theory at work, for Plato develops in Philebus and Phaedo the notion that because the world of the senses, the “seen” world, is compounded and finite, the one archetypal form (the “unseen”) gives rise to apparent opposites on that level.

It is important to realise that the Theory of Forms is an hypothesis that is proven by the process of inference to the best explanation. It is a grand image that identifies levels of reality, and metaphysical functionalities that Plato reasoned must exist, to make any sense of the world. The actual mechanical processes involved are only defined in a very abstract manner, but even here, the theory has a counter, in that man cannot presume to conceive of the physiology of the Gods.

Because the Theory of Forms is an inference to the best explanation, its true strength or soundness must be gauged by its continued use over time. The abstract nature of its definition makes it compatible with many systems of thought: some derived from Plato, others developed independently; some arising after Plato’s time, others predating him. If we ask the question of why in the two thousand years of suppression of ideas and burning of books that has been the Christian era, Plato’s dialogues have survived intact, we must answer that Plato’s theories are fundamentally supportive of basic Christian doctrine.

Whilst the details of the mechanics are scanty, Plato’s notion that the power to abstract and perceive the commonalties in apparent opposites is our “step and point of departure” to true knowledge, is a theme we can discern in all the great systems of human thought.

Finally, the notion of “the reason” is crucial in understanding Plato. Plato makes it clear that the reason is a higher, vaster faculty than intellect. The Theory of Forms is itself an hypothesis. The intellect and logic may follow after the image and devise explanations, but the hypothesis is firstly a creation of the imagination, “the logician can provide no rules for the formulation of an hypothesis”.

Thus the great strengths of the Theory of Forms are the notions of levels of reality and human faculties, it identifies as existing, or needing to exist if life is to be intelligible. Its weaknesses spring from, and illustrate the inadequacies of human words and concepts to approach a description of the infinite or timeless. The theory still stands as a beacon after two and a half thousand years, attesting to the vast sweep of mind Plato was able to attain, using the simple means he found in himself and the strength he found by the acknowledgement of his own weakness.

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A Theory of Form and Ideas Small Scale Sculptures

I want to write a little bit about the A Theory of Form and Ideas Small Scale Sculptures that I have been working on for the past few months. I had a lot of time to think while making these since the act of making them became purely logistical and simple problem solving once I got through the first few sculptures. A few ideas came up rather quickly.

 The first was that I continue to use models as a form of art making. I have always used models, at least for the past 13 years. I recently pulled out the first Associated Artists for Propaganda Research corporate building that I made for the first AAPR show in 1999 and had to laugh at how similar it was to these new sculptures; I’m either very uncreative and haven’t made much progress over all of this time or I’m trying to achieve something with these little black sculptures. What’s nice about small scale models is that it allows the viewer to project themselves onto the object. The viewers reaction is not physical like seeing and experiencing a Richard Serra but rather a mental experience; it’s not an object asserting itself in space through a type of visual intimidation but rather an object that invites, hopefully, inquiry and contemplation.

I also thought about how I wanted to make objects that are anti-Pop, not large, not perfect like an advertisement or a shiny new object but rather something that was small and devoid of any obvious cultural signifiers. I’m not interested in fashion and design as formal concerns and I genuinely think that, more often than not, the illusion of trendy aesthetics and popular tastes becomes a replacement for critical thinking and relevant dialogue. Art culture, which includes universities, galleries, museums and the art market at large, seems to teach that artists should make a type of palatable art that falls within the boundaries of what is aesthetically understandable as “contemporary” art. The artist is taught that in order to be successful, they need to create an easily commodified aesthetic style that is consistent with a sellable personal narrative. More often than not we associate success with selling and the marketplace but the ever growing emphasis on a market-based consumption of cultural capital dilutes the role of the artist from that of a provocateur to that of a salesman/saleswoman.

While making these I also thought about the idea of perfection and its relationship to imperfection. These sculptures appear to be perfect from a certain distance but up close they are far from perfection. I kept thinking that I wanted them to exist as real objects in real time, a type of preciousness and fragility that would probably be doomed to destruction over time; I wanted their realness to be experienced through their destruction, not as a forced or predetermined effect, but as a result of circumstance and serendipity. I also wanted them to have the same presence as old De Stijl works where the physicality of the objects can be seen through their cracking paint and the yellowing of their surfaces. We tend to think of this work as being perfect when we see them as reproductions in books but when you actually see them in person and up close they’re not perfect at all. I can only assume that my sculptures will begin to crack over time and get dirty and maybe discolor. Their history will be a history of destruction like most objects. This is the mortality of objects that museums and archivists are constantly fighting against. I can’t say that I don’t share or want the same attitude towards the preservation of my own work but that their decay is almost inevitable and that their existence as hand-made objects guarantees imperfection. As I tried to achieve a certain level of perfection I kept think of something I learned a long time ago about how Persian rugs would always be made with one imperfection in them as a philosophical position on the merits of imperfection. There can be beauty in imperfection. I really only wanted to attempt perfection to see if I could do it.

At some point I even looked into 3-D printing as a way of producing them but thought that the process would be both time consuming and costly. I like the idea of making them with new technology but part of me also likes the hand-crafted quality that you get from making it yourself. I think that I would like to make them on a 3-D printer if I hade the means to do it but I’m not sure that I’ll ever have the opportunity and I’m probably not going to spend the time learning how to render them in 3-D on a computer.

Lastly I was thinking about making a new “organization” that would include these sculptures and A Non-Representative Model for Incomplete Ideas (Intricate Structures) Small Scale Models that I finished in the summer. These small scale sculptures don’t fit in with any of the other categories that I’ve already developed and it would be nice to have them contextualized together since I’ve made quite a few of them now and I don’t know what to do with them. I had loosely come up with the title “Minimalism Elite” many years ago for a sound box that I thought of making that was made out of raw plywood and very minimal looking. The title was meant to be a little funny so I’m hesitant to use it now since I’m not trying to make funny sculptures. There is also a logistical problem since I’ll need to make a whole new website and make room for the category on my own website. 1:4:9 never really fit in anywhere either and I ended up sticking it in the AAPR but it doesn’t really fit there.

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A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Sculptures

I finished with the series A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Sculptures last week but it took me until today to get around to photographing them. I discovered a problem with #23 so I’m thinking about making it again. I made it too tall. I did this because I doubled the dimensions from the second set of drawings that I was using but these drawings had already been doubled to make them the right size. I also didn’t make #17 or #19 because they were going to be too difficult to make. Here’s 12 of them.


A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Model #1 A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Model #10 A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Model #9 A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Model #8 A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Model #4 A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Model #3 A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Model #24 A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Model #21 A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Model #18 A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Model #14 A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Model #12


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A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Sculptures #4, #9, #21 and #23 in Progress

Here’s a photo of #4, #9, #21 and #23 in progress. #9 is almost done. This one took a while since it needed to be made in stages. In this photo the inside has been painted black already which is necessary because it can’t be painted later. The next step is to tape over the inside again and then prime everything else. After it’s primed and sanded again I can remove the tape and finish spraying the outside surface black. #23 is also almost done. It only needs some final sanding on the edges and then it can be primed and painted. #4’s top is being clamped together while the glue dries. I’ll sand it tomorrow and then wood fill it a couple of times before I paint the underside and glue on the bottom piece. #21 is still in pieces but I’ll probably start gluing it together tomorrow.In progress

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A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Sculptures #10 and #12 in Progress

Here’s a photo of #10 and #12 in progress on my workbench. I meant to put this up last week but I got lazy. #12 took a while to make because it was complicated to cut because of the many sharp angles. I’ve been working on these as much as I can to try and beat the cold weather. It’s been great working outside in the warm weather. I do most of my cutting and sanding outside to avoid getting dust throughout my studio. When it gets cold out I’m either going to have to do less cutting or put up some plastic to contain the dust.
Yesterday I bought some throw rugs for the floor which makes it feel a little nicer. I don’t generally like working on cement floors because they’re hard to keep clean, they’re cold and just not nice to walk or work on. I’m hoping to get some wood and Sheetrock for the walls soon so I can put some work on the walls. Unfortunately Lowe’s only sells 3/4″ thick smooth plywood which is expensive so I’m going to get 2 of these and put a piece of sheetrock on the wall next to my desk.


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A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Sculptures #10, #12, #14 and #24

A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Model #10 A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Model #12 A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Model #14 A Theory of Forms and Ideas Small Scale Model #24

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