The Northport Public Library commissioned me to create a unique Millennium
Bookball sculpture for its newly expanded Laurel Avenue building.
work is a spherical assemblage of wooden "books," five feet in
hanging in the two-story catalog area of the library. The books are
of various hard woods, with the titles and authors carved and gold
The sculpture was assembled at a
assembly event something like a barn-raising, but for art.
The Millennium Bookball is constructed of sixty "books," carefully
in precise geometric relationships. Some patterns to look for
There are ten books in each of six different woods. The walnut
books are the darkest; they form an "equator" which encircles the
in a horizontal plane. Looking straight up from below the
those ten books can be seen to outline a type of 5-pointed star.
The maple books are the lightest, they can be seen to outline a
star of the same shape, but tilted. The other four
sapele, bubinga, and purpleheart---also each form a 5-pointed star
from the horizontal. Books of the same wood have their spines
There are 32 bronze "donuts" connecting the books. The books
meet at any donut form a type of "propeller" There are twenty
propellers and twelve 5-way propellers. Each book is part of two
propellers: a 3-way propeller above the title and a 5-way one below the
author. The same book is perceived as going clockwise in one
but counterclockwise in its other propeller.
The books outline thirty rhombic windows into the sculpture's
The mathematical name for this pattern of rhombi is the "rhombic
The donuts are the corners of the rhombi. Each donut is directly
opposite another of the same type (3-way or 5-way). If you align
yourself so you can look straight through the holes of any two opposite
donuts, you will be positioned to discover a number of other geometric
patterns in the sculpture.
Community Art Project
This is a community project in three different ways:
In addition, an unveiling, reception, and millennium party was held on
December 12, 1999. Here is a picture just as I started to unveil
it. Up until then, it was wrapped in black plastic, as if I
It reflects the community's reading tastes. Each of the sixty books is
inscribed with the title and author of one of the
best books of the century, as determined by the Northport community.
It is funded in large part by contributions from individual community
through a fundraiser arranged by the library. The initial funding
was through a New York State Council for the Arts individual artist's
administered through the Huntington Arts council.
The actual assembly of the work was a
community event. The sculpture was designed in such a way that a
number of people had to hold the components together in relative
and slide them towards each other simultaneously.
This sculpture took over a year from concept to completion, and during
that time, it evolved considerably. My initial design was for a
piece, in which the books were tightly interlocked via slots. If
you study my original paper model, shown below, you will see that all
books have the same pattern of five slots. I planned on forming
from a single board, in a six-wood color pattern.
I wrote a proposal to the New York State Council for the Arts
the sculpture and community assembly idea, and was awarded an
artist's grant. With the state grant came encouragement to seek
to build a larger project. I took the idea to the Northport
Library and the administration and board of directors enthusiastically
supported it and arranged for a community fundraiser to support
This larger budget allowed more design options. I ended up
a more open form, with cast bronze components and more intricate
I relied on computer modeling to examine a range of
Below are two images of the final design.
The above image is centered on a five-fold donut, and the next looks at
a three-fold donut.
To give a sense of its appearance with books, I made the following
which was the all I saw of it until the
day of assembly, when it finally became real.
If you have a VRML plug-in installed in your web browser (which
it to display virtual reality 3D objects) you can also look at a
3D virtual reality model of the sculpture.
A sculpture of this intricacy can not be built by a single
This project is made possible in part with public funds from the New
State Council on the Arts, administered by the Huntington Arts
In addition, many individuals contributed greatly, both in the fund
and in direct help to me. In roughly chronological order: Sara
of the Huntington Arts Council gave me excellent guidance in writing
proposal. MaryEllen Moll, community services librarian of the
Library, was my main liaison, who organized meetings, wrote press
did publicity, arranged parties, and many other behind-the-scenes
e.g., arranging for the hook in the ceiling. Stephanie Heineman
Library director) and Eileen Minogue (assistant director) championed
project for me, presenting it to the board of directors, and provided
support. Marty Rebholz provided good engineering advice on the
Lee Holcomb let me use his computer-controlled router for carving the
and freely shared his expertise on gold leafing and finishing.
Swan provided all kinds of good advice, and machined the metal parts,
and tapping the holes in the donuts and milling the slots in the metal
rods, all with great accuracy. Tom Pappel resawed one-inch boards
down to quarter-inch. Victoria helped with the layers of varnish
that lie below the gold leafing. Cooper directly worked with me
applying the gold leaf. Rob Comforto made a video of
Marty Rebholz, Jamie Swan, Walt Zurawski, and Tony carried and hoisted
its 150 pounds up to the ceiling. And, of course, a great many
collaborated at the assembly event to put the sculpture together.
Thank you one and all.