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Beatty, Michael

Alewife/North Cambridge, Sculpture




Fitzgerald School

Title: Spectrum
Date: 2001
Materials: Wood, paint, and stainless steel
Dimensions: 11' x 12' x 12'
Location: Fitzgerald School

"This work illuminates the patterns found in nature as a metaphor for the diversity and variety in our world, while remembering that these parts are interconnected and work together to make the whole."
- Michael Beatty

 Seeing and experiencing

Like a mini-universe floating in space, Michael Beatty's mobile gently moves with the air currents in the Fitzgerald School's atrium. This whimsical artwork explores the relationship between nature and math.


Beatty has said that he hopes the piece evokes the feelings of wonder and awe that one gets when looking at the nighttime sky. What is your first reaction?


Now look at the different shapes that the artist has used. According to Beatty, each relates directly or abstractly to nature. Can you link these shapes to something in the natural world? Can you find a snowflake, a flower or a comet?


While we may perceive nature as being infinitely varied and complex, there are in fact only six forms from which all natural shapes are derived.


Mathematics is a science that deals with patterns and relationships. In Spectrum, pure mathematical forms called Platonic Solids balance the organic, or natural, shapes. Which mathematical forms can you find?


As you look at this piece, can you detect an overall pattern? How is the piece organized? How has the artist achieved balance?


One definition of "spectrum" is "a range." Beatty's variety of shapes hangs together in a delicate balance. If you look closely, you will notice that each shape consists of multiple pieces: three circles joined together, four sides of a cube. Beatty thinks of Spectrum as a metaphor for the school itself - it represents the"interconnectedness" of the people who come together to form the school's community.


What you will need: Sketchpad or paper, pens, pencils or charcoal.

Do a quick sketch of the mobile. Is there a reason that certain shapes are grouped together? How do you think the artist got the piece to balance?


What you will need: Sketchpad or paper, pens, pencils, or charcoal.

Michael Beatty bases his piece on both natural and man-made forms. Now try your own investigation. Collect three man-made objects and three natural items (plants, tree branches, vines, crystals, etc.). Arrange your objects on a table or the floor and draw your arrangement. In a second drawing depict your objects as if they were floating in space.


What you will need: Wire hanger or stick; wire, string, or pipe cleaners; light -weight objects or materials (construction paper, wire, fabric, paper-mache, cardboard, etc.).


Make a mobile! Attach a piece of string to the loop of the hanger or the center of the stick. Choose or make different objects. Include both natural and man-made forms. Using the string, wire or pipe cleaners, attach the objects to your hanger or stick. When you hold up the mobile, do your different objects balance? Are all the objects the same size and the same weight? Adjust your objects or design new ones and restructure your mobile until you achieve balance.

Beatty Spectrum