The Politics, Aristotle.
The Politician A Toy is a sculpture by artist Billie Lawless created under the fiscal umbrella of The Cleveland Public Theatre which is located at 6345 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio. The sculpture was made possible with the support of over a hundred and fifty corporations of both local and national origin. The sculpture is located close to downtown at the corner of Chester Avenue and E. 66th Street on a site provided by Roy Kuhn and the Kinco-Balin Corporation. The sculpture stands over forty feet tall and is enclosed with a wrought iron fence forty feet by fifty feet.
The sculpture is composed of twenty tons of steel (plate, channels and I-beams), two tons of polypropolene rope (the tail,) fiber glass (the bowties), a ton of cedar (the handle), assorted bearings (for the wheels and mouth mechanism,) television sets (the eyes,) industrial epoxy paints and the many and various electrical components required to power the piece. The sculpture is set on four concrete foundations and surrounded by a wrought iron fence five feet tall. The top of the fence is lined with double entrendre's of political cliches. It should be noted the the Mayor of Cleveland, Michael R. White, opposed the erection of the sculpture for purely aesthetic reasons ("I 've seen it and I don't like it...." The Plain Dealer, Feb. 19, 1994.) This opposition created difficulty in obtaining the required building permits from the City's Building Department. Ultimately the threat of a Federal lawsuit persuaded City officials to process Lawless' building permits. The sculpture stands on private land and was privately funded.
Overall engineering for the project was performed by Isaac Lewin and Associates of Cleveland, Ohio. Electrical design was handled by Gedion, Fredericks and Company and mechanical design was completed by Joe Prahl, Chairman of the Mechanical Design and Aerospace Dept. at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio. Initial lighting design was by the Centerior Energy Corporation.
The sculpture is kinetic with an operating mouth and wheels which rotate eighteen hours a day. These components are mechanized and powered with a 1/2 H.P. DC motor that is operated with a speed controller (so that because of the inertia involved with the weight of the wheels, slows down properly with the transmission when it shuts down each day) and set on a timer. The axels are large number two pencils. The mechanical aspects of the sculpture were designed by graduate students at the School of Engineering and Aerospace Design at Case Western Reserve University under the direction of Joe Prahl the Chairman of the department. The design for the mouth was done by Rich Kucinski a student of Joe Phral's. The original design took into consideration the weight of the mouth pieces which originally were to be steel plate. The design, somewhat sissored based was to have the weight of the top mouth piece off set the weight of the bottom piece thus requiring a minimal amount of energy to operate. Ultimally this design did not work as the connecting plates of the mouth pieces developed a slight flex which caused the wheels of the mouth mechanism to bind up. The solution was to use a material called Alucobond for the mouth pieces. A light weight aluminum over-plastic material this was applied to a skelton of steel, cutting the weight of each mouth section from over 800 lbs. to 80 lbs. The result was to remove the flex and create a smooth roll for the wheels and bearings involved in the up and downward movement.
The sculpture is modular; bolted together in sections which can be shipped easily on tractor trailers. The handle is composed of cedar which was delivered in beam form (16" x 16" x 16'.) These beams were milled into planks 2 1/4" x 6" x 16' and then tongue and grooved on a bevel so that they could be glued together (using marine grade glues) into a rough circular diameter. Once the hollow handle was complete it was shipped to the Saco Woodworking and Turning Corporation in Saco, Maine to be turned smooth. The lathe at the Saco Corp. is the only one on the Eastern side of the country large enough to turn such a large column. It dates from the late eighteen hundreds. The top of the handle is made out of three chunks of cedar glued together and turned in the same fashion.
The bowties were built by using a light weight steel armature (basically electrical conduit) overlayed with fiberglass. Thet were built in two sections and like the rest of the sculpture are bolted together and then bolted to the side of the sculpture. They weigh individually about 800 lbs. and are finished with an industrial automotive finish. The white polka dots were applied by hand using a sandblasters mask and white spray paint.
The tail is composed of approximately two tons of polypropolene rope. This rope is manufactured every few years by the Hoover-Allison Company, locate in Xenia, Ohio for the barge boats which ply the Mississippi River. It is three inches in diameter, a bright yellow and made up of tiny strands which are woven together in a succession of larger and larger weaving machines. The last of these weavers also dates from the late eighteenth century and looks somewhat like a carnival ride as the large spools circle each other in a brading motion. The rope is supported on a heavy steel armature and stands on its own foundation attached to the back of the sculpture with heavy bolts.
Funds for the sculpture were both donated and raised by the selling of a silkscreen print of the sculpture. This print is on BFK Rives 100% rag paper and measures 27" x 35" and consists of eleven colors. The image of The Politician: A Toy is superimposed over an article which appeared in The New York Times Magaizine several years ago regarding the survivability of David Gergen. In this particular print the text discusses the Nixon presidency. There were 300 prints pulled with five artists proofs. 43 are still available at $600/each.
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