Tag Archives: Small Scale Model

A Non-Representative Model for Incomplete Ideas (Intricate Structures #1, #2, #3 and #4) Small Scale Models

Here are all 4 sculptures in the A Non-Representative Model for Incomplete Ideas (Intricate Structures) Small Scale Model series. Number 1 is at the top and number 4 is at the bottom. This is another series of work that I find exists a little on the outskirts of what is acceptable as art. These pieces probably can’t be used in any submissions for exhibitions since they have no real obvious relevance to any of my other work and they hold very little physical presence as objects. They don’t possess what is considered a “Wow” factor meaning that they don’t excite the viewer visually with stimulating qualities like being “oversized”,  super shiny or brightly colored or possess illusions that trick the eye. This also puts me at a disadvantage since I’m not interested in developing a cohesive body of work that is both recognizable and easy to commodify and I’m not interested in placating an audience with fancy well-thought out art objects who’s main interest is impressing them without any critical meaning or thought.

While working on the models I thought a lot about the role of design in art and how it has become a major aesthetic concern, not just as a seemingly subconscious necessity for a lot of artists, but for the art market/institution as an aesthetic ideal that should be perfected and followed unquestionably. Because of this I’ve developed a certain distaste for design (in art) and I distrust its intent, likening it to the same qualities that capitalism possesses within economics as a “predatory philosophy”. Here is something I wrote about it recently:

Most art problems exist as design problems. What differentiates design from art? Design in the end represents capital as a manifestation of ultimate gain through optimization, both through a “perfection” of the visual composition as it relates to the “idea” and of its purpose for a “practical” and widely distributed use. The difference is minute and is perhaps a philosophical problem wherein the divergence of differences is buried deep within the intent.  I also think that in effect, on a basic level, that designers are interested in solving problems ie solutions whereas artists are or should be interested in questions perhaps without answers or solutions. 

For this series I was interested in creating well crafted and intimate objects that needed to be viewed up close. I also wanted to use design as an un-escapable element, making it the main focus of the compositions. In this way I think that #2 and #4 are redundant and I can probably eliminate one of them from the series but maybe a little redundancy is good.

I found this un-used title in one of my notebooks the other day from 10 years ago that I thought sounded a lot like the title that I used here: A Concrete Appearance of Transparent Philosophical Ideas.

A Theory of Progress (Rodchenko)Copy-Intricate Structure-House-Finished-Brian-HigbeeIMG_3696A Non-Representative Model for Incomplete Ideas (Intricate Structure #4) Small Scale Model by Brian Higbee


Filed under Sculpture, Small Scale Model

Pure City/ Sigma 6 (Small Scale Model 1,2 and 3)

In 2008 I started working on another cityscape using old computer parts called Pure City/ Sigma 6. I wanted to develop a more comprehensive floor sculpture for Future Living Projects that matched Epicenter City which I made for the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research. I started by collecting some out-of-date computer and ripped them apart to salvage their insides. After pulling out the insides I washed them and spray painted them using a white primer made by Do It. This off-white turned out to be the same white that I would use for all of the artwork made for the Future Living Projects by having the same color mixed in acrylic latex. I made 2 versions quickly so that I could have documentation for a larger version. The first one is 1.5″x6″x6″ and is made using white museum grade matte board as “sides”. The second version is 11″x22″x22″ and was made with a pre-made insertable pedestal that I had made for an earlier piece called The Shadow (Small Scale Model).

After making these 2 models I started collecting as many computers as I could and was lucky enough to acquire a complete car-full from the Brooklyn Children’s Museum which happened to be getting rid of a large quantity of them. (Thanks Glen!) I ripped all of them apart and brought all of the unused cases to a recycling center to be recycled. I kept all of the small speakers and lights, thinking that I could maybe use them for a future project. As a side note, I’ve often thought about using lights and maybe making my floor pieces interactive but have always decided against it thinking that it creates too much of a “spectacle”. I like the idea of using lights though and think of the time that I visited the large model of the Johnstown Flood at the Johnstown Flood Museum in Johnstown, Pa when I lived out there. They use lights and sound on the large model landscape to help explain the timeline of the ensuing disaster to great effect.

After I took all of the computers apart I washed out all of the dust and spray painted them white. I wanted the final version to be huge, maybe 12″x12″ in the end but I also wanted it to be variable depending on the space that it was exhibited in. The piece sat unfinished for quite awhile since I couldn’t get anybody to show it. In 2010 one of my roommates moved out and I quickly scrambled to build a large version of Pure City/ Sigma 6 in the empty space. I have a lot of wood lying around my studio from past projects so it wasn’t hard to put some sides together and a base to build on. I built it as quickly as I could and took photos while I had the chance. I’ve never shown it in a gallery space and the parts now sit in boxes on top of my bathroom. I imagined it as part of a larger installation that would include The Architect’s Tomb, Journey Into the Realm of Reason, From Dusk To Dawn, At the Gates of Dawn, New Dawn Fades, the ICB series and the pieces from I Was A Landscape In Your Dream. Below are the 3 versions that I made.

Pure City:Sigma 6 Small Scale Model (Version 1) by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects Pure City:Sigma 6 Small Scale Model (Version 2) by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects Pure City:Sigma 6 Small Scale Model (Version 3) by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects Pure City:Sigma 6 Small Scale Model (Version 3) Detail by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects

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A Means to an End (Small Scale Model)

A friend of mine back in Pennsylvania has a virtual junk yard in the back of his house. It’s full of old trucks, rows of old unusable refrigerators and piles upon piles of scrap metal . One day while roaming through his “collectables” I found an old rusty sign. It’s the kind that has wheels on it and is used on the side of the road to advertise local business information. This one was in particularly bad shape and looks like it hadn’t been used for a long time (I attached a photo at the very bottom.) I inquired about it and he told me that he had all of the glass for it, all of the fluorescent bulbs that went in it and the letters for putting information on it. I started thinking that I would like to use it as a sculpture and took my time thinking about what I would want it to say. I decided on I PUT MY TRUST IN YOU which I felt had a couple of different meanings. For me it conjures up religious connotations and is often used in Christianity to refer to someone putting their trust in Jesus. I also like that the word “PUT” is both past tense and present tense depending on how the reader wants to interpret it. I felt that the sculpture was also about economic collapse since the sign had once been brand new and was emblematic of capitalism’s failed promise of prosperity. It was also about a personal relationship that didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to.

I built this small model so I could mock up how it would look for a proposal that I was working on. I made the model out of small plastic modeling parts that I had. I found 2 sets of wheels and a base for it and glued it together. I used balsa wood to make the structure for the sign and glued part of an old clear tape case to it for the face. I printed out I PUT MY TRUST IN YOU on plain white paper, cut it out and taped it to the front. I made it clear so that I could shine a light through the back, creating the illusion that the sign lights up. In the end, I wanted the sculpture to be shown in a field in the middle of nowhere and figured that I would have to devise a way to use solar panels to power the lights. I never made the sculpture but I still have the model.

The title of the piece is from a Joy Division song. Here are the lyrics.

A legacy so far removed,
One day will be improved.
Eternal rights we left behind,
We were the better kind.
Two the same, set free too,
I always looked to you,
I always looked to you,
I always looked to you.

We fought for good, stood side by side,
Our friendship never died.
On stranger waves, the lows and highs,
Our vision touched the sky,
Immortalists with points to prove,
I put my trust in you.
I put my trust in you.
I put my trust in you.

A house somewhere on foreign soil,
Where ageless lovers call,
Is this your goal, your final needs,
Where dogs and vultures eat,
Committed still I turn to go.
I put my trust in you.
I put my trust in you.
I put my trust in you.
I put my trust in you.
In you. in you. in you.
Put my trust in you, in you.


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1:4:9 and 1:4:9 (Small Scale Model) After

Here is a sculpture that I made up on Saunders Farm in Garrison, NY in 2008. I wanted to make a shoddy replica of the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey in the same proportions: 1:4:9. This one is twelve feet tall by sixty inches by eighteen inches and is made entirely of quarter inch unfinished plywood and 2″x4″‘s cut to size. I built it over a 5 day period up on the farm. I had to first dig a series of trenches in the ground in order to bury the make shift base that I built for it to keep it from falling over in the wind or when the cows and horses would rub up against it. This was difficult and took the better part of a day because the sculpture was being built on a hill so all 4 corners of my base had to be at different depths in order to make the final sculpture relatively vertical. I was told that I couldn’t leave any open holes in the ground overnight since the cows and horses would come by in the evening and they could break their legs in them. I was under a lot of stress to finish before evening since I ran into difficulties trying to get the base deep enough and I remember, as it started to get dark, looking behind me and through the fog seeing a herd of cows and horses coming my way. Before I knew it one cow had its head in my open car window, and one was looking in the back of my car’s hatch and a goat was standing on top of part of my studio mate’s art piece that I agreed to take up in my car and had carelessly left on the ground. I tried to make them move but they’re big animals when they get close. Luckily I finished burying the base and covering the holes around the time it got dark. In the next couple of days I finished screwing the plywood to the sides and painting it flat black.

I was happy with the way the sculpture turned out and was eager to see how the weather would affect the finish over the three months that it would be out on the farm. I really wanted it to disintegrate over time so that when you get up close it’s obvious that it’s made of cheap plywood and poorly finished. I made no effort to cover the seams or patch over screw holes. From a distance the piece appears to be solid and pristine but up close is a simple structure made of wood and screws.

In 2011 I decided to make a small scale model of this piece that is 6″x10″x10″ (including the base) and used the same techniques that I described in my last post about building the small scale model for 186646591.

Just to clarify, I consider models to be sculptures as well and use titles as a way of differentiating contexts. 1:4:9 (Small Scale Model) After is its title and in no way takes away from its appreciation as a sculpture.

 149 by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research 149 Small Scale Model (After) by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

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186646591 Version 2 (Small Scale Model) and Drawings

Here is a small scale model that I finished in 2011 of the sculpture 186646591. It is a sculpture of a barcode. I made an earlier version in 2009 that had a much larger base which is why this one is version 2. This one has a small white “pedestal” base that I made for it and is 6″x10.5″x10.5″. I’ve used this type of pedestal base many times over the years, both large and small. I use it to frame my landscapes and to neaten their final appearance. I actually came up with the idea for 186646591 when I was in graduate school around 1999. I was interested in building a large outdoor sculpture in wood on the campus lawn that would be symbolic of the institution’s main goals. It would be symbolic, pop and minimalist all at the same time.

I started by figuring out how many “bars” I would need and buying 2 different thicknesses of balsa wood according to how many of each I would need. I worked out the proper dimension for the final piece and cut the balsa wood pieces down to the size I needed. I used small finishing nails that I then cut down to size and stuck them into the bottom of each piece of wood, leaving about a quarter of an inch sticking out of the bottom. I painted each piece of wood flat black with acrylic latex paint. I cut my base according to size and painted it green. When it dried I covered it with watered down Elmer’s glue and sprinkled foam railroading “grass” on it with a glass grated cheese shaker. This is a mixture that I made myself using 2 different colors of green. After it dried I turned it sideways and shook off the grass that didn’t glue to the base. I then measured out the spaces for each pin on the base with a pencil and drilled out each hole. I finished by pushing each balsa wood “bar” with a pin in it into each corresponding hole in the base and adjusted them so they were straight. In order to refurbish the model From version one to version two I first had to take off the original balsa wood pieces that make up the “bars” so that I could transfer them to a smaller piece of wood. I repeated the process without having to make the balsa wood pieces again.
I made a series of drawings of the sculpture as it will appear when it’s finished. I used the techniques from my three dimensional drawing class that I described in the I Was A Landscape In Your Dream post to accurately draw it in perspective and add shadows.
I’ve submitted the proposal to build and exhibit this sculpture many times but it has always been rejected. It may never get built. I guess no ones wants to see a giant sculpture of a bar code.

186646591 Small Scale Model by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research186646591 Perspective Drawing with Shadow by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research186646591 Perspective Drawing by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research186646591 Scale Drawing by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

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I Was A Landscape In Your Dream (Small Scale Model) and Drawings

I’ve been wanting to make I Was A Landscape In Your Dream for a couple of years now. In 2010 I made a small chipboard version that is 1.75″x8.75″x8.75″. It is made of 25 layers. I started it by cutting 25 pieces of chipboard that were the same size and sketching out the top layer and then cutting it out with an angled mat cutter. I laid this over the second layer and drew a line as close as I could (within an eighth of an inch) to the layer above and cut that out. I did this until the shape was too small to cut. I made the piece thicker by adding uncut layers to the bottom.

I enjoyed making this because it reminded me of a project that I made in art school for my three dimensional drawing class. It was a very intense class and focused on developing rendering skills for drawing in perspective. We learned how to accurately draw objects in three dimensions, cast shadows properly, shade (using the proper pencil for even shading without using too much pressure), use a knife, and eventually, build objects. One of the assignments included making small square designs out of chipboard. The rule was that no layer could overlap another and the edges had to be clean (not cut with a dull knife). I think we had to make somewhere around 20 of them and use the best 16. It was a hellish class and the students in the class that semester would be in the studio late at night working on their assignments all week and weekends. It was worth it though since I learned how to draw imaginary 3 dimensional objects with shadows and learned how to use a cutting knife. For one assignment we had to design an object by drawing it first with shadows as it would look on a wall, separate the layers and cut them out of Masonite and then put it together, wood fill, sand and paint it without any layers showing. My friend Jim and I cheated though by using a type of paint that made it look like stone, which also conveniently covered up the mistakes. I got an A on the assignment but he banned the use of that paint the next year. I’m glad I still use these skills, including “cheating” sometimes. Now it’s called problem solving.
Anyway, I plan on making a larger version of I Was A Landscape In Your Dream out of wood that will be 11″x22″x22″. It will eventually sit under a glass table so it functions as both a sculpture and as a piece of furniture. I sort of dislike the idea of using art as a design element so I was interested in this cross-over in my own work, and think of it as being a little tongue in cheek. For 2 summers now I’ve planned on making it, needing the warm weather to do all of my cutting and sanding, but its cold again so I might not make it until next year. It’s a logistical problem since I need all of the wood to be exactly the same size so that the edges will create perfect sides in the end. I think I’ve figured out how to make a jig for this using some wood and a circular saw. I may paint it white in the end which will require wood filling and sanding.

I also made a series of drawings that I consider contour drawings of I Was A Landscape In Your Dream that preceded the original chipboard version. The idea for this was more conceptual, in a classic sense, meaning that I set up ground rules for how I would make them and then let their final outcome be dictated by the rules. So I decided on a size and then started by making as straight a line as I could across the top free hand. I then went back and made another line underneath the original line, trying to follow as closely as I could to the line above. I did this until one side reached the bottom of the page for one series. In another series I continued until the whole page was full. I did some in blue ball point pen and some with black ball point pen. Some I did horizontal and some I did vertical. Some I turned upside down. After 16 of them I stopped, feeling that I explored this idea as far as I could. I really like the look of blue ball point pen although it is not very archival and will fade in the sun very easily.
The title is taken from a song of the same title by the band Of Montreal.

I Was A Landscape In Your Dream Small Scale Model by Brian Higbee and Future Living ProjectsI Was A Landscape In Your Dream(Drawing #1) by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects I Was A Landscape In Your Dream(Drawing #6) by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects

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Future By Design, Jacque Fresco and Future Living Projects

When I work on my pixel paintings I like to watch/listen to documentaries while I paint. I start these paintings by numbering a large section of the squares on the canvas with numbers that correlate with the right shade of grey which allows me to work without needing to think, except to make corrections. I recently discovered a documentary called Future By Design about futurist Jacque Fresco and his Venus Project. He’s a designer of sorts and makes models and prototypes based on his ideas about building a better designed future. With the aid of robots and the use of technologically progressive materials, he proposes a future that frees humanity from the pitfalls of war and economic strife, paving the way for our advancement into a more civilized society. He has been creating models since the 1950’s, designing helicopters, cars, houses, apartments and even whole cities. He has even built some of these structures down in Florida under his project, The Venus Project. His city design reminds me of a project that I started back in 2002 called the Future Living Projects, which uses a lot of architectural models. My earliest work for this project included several small models for future dwellings including a village model, a desert house, a power plant for energy production and a receiving station for communication. I further contextualized these pieces as set design/models for a fake futuristic sci-fi movie called MEGACITY VI. These pieces were meant to be part of a larger installation that was never fully developed that would include drawing, illustrations, painting, printed material and digital media. Below is a selection of Jacque Fresco’s designs and below that some images from Future Living Projects.






The Village Model Small Scale Model by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects The Village Model Small Scale Model (Detail)by Brian Higbee and Future Living ProjectsThe Desert House Small Scale Model by Brian Higbee and Future Living ProjectsReceiving Station Small Scale Model by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects Power Station Small Scale Model by Brian Higbee and Future Living Projects

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Filed under Future Living Projects, Other Artists, Sculpture, Small Scale Model