“Just as the artist can compose colors or forms, so too can he compose motions.” (Calder Sculpture pg 26)
What’s hanging? Mobiles are a type of kinetic art and involve suspending moving parts based on balance. Wind and gravity cause mobile motion, and motors are used as well. In 1920, Russian artist Naum Gabo created sculpture with one moving part. In the 1930s, Alexander Calder formalized the idea with compositions often involving wire and sheet metal with multiple moving pieces. In Paris, Marcel Duchamp suggested the word “mobile” specifically for Calder’s art of this type. The composition of a mobile constantly changes depending on the viewer’s perspective. Mobiles can be small enough to hang over a crib or large enough to fill a room. They can be considered drawings in space. A true mobile design does not simply use an existing object set to motion, it uses the motion as an integral part of the composition. Mobiles give a designer and artist opportunity for dynamics and multiple meanings within a single piece.
Activity 1 – Design a Themed Mobile
Design and build a mobile with a theme. First, search for items that will perch on or hang from your mobile. Will your mobile be nature-themed? Toy-themed? Solar-themed? Using dowels or sticks, string and the objects you found, design a mobile that succeeds in displaying a composition of the objects while keeping the sticks primarily horizontal.
Move your ideas!
Activity 2 – Design a Baby Mobile
Newborn babies can’t see very far, but they do try to focus on faces, black and white objects, and the color red. They respond well to contrast. Design a mobile for babies that has a mother’s face, a father’s face, black and white shapes and something red. Build your design in 3D on the computer using Google Sketchup, then build a real version using string, a hanger, cardboard and construction paper.
Be sure to check with a mother before you share your mobile with a baby!
Activity 3 – Make a Galactic Sculpture
Make a mobile of the solar system. Research the eight planets in our solar system and cut them out in their relative shape in circles or form spheres. Make the sun the center of your mobile. Connect each of the planets their distance from the sun. Hang the solar system in your room! Adjust it so it balances and the planets move around the sun. This mobile will show the size and relationships of the planets in our solar system.
Activity 4 – Make a cloud Mobile
- Mobiles depend on:
- All kinetic sculptures are also mobiles.
- Mobiles are just for kids.
- Mobiles only hang from the ceiling.
- Who is credited with “inventing” the mobile?