Alexander Calder

Virtual Calder, by Zachary Booth Simpson

Alexander Calder, 20th Century American Artist, was well known for his stunning "mobiles" with which he studied balance and motion in a totally original way.

Although I am a software engineer by trade, Calder's works have long inspired the reminants of artist that lurk inside of me. This Java Applet is an electronic reproduction of his art; I aim to capture the feel of his art, but not to reproduce it.

I think that Calder considered many of his works interactive long before that was a buzzword. For example, the subtle balance of the mobiles could be disturbed by blowing and touching; his Circus works were built exclusively for his own interactive entertainment. Unfortunately, when museums now show these pieces, they are understandably reluctant to allow the general public to manipulate these precious works and therefore the interactive aspect, so crucial to his vision, is lost. This has been a source of considerable frustration to me when I have visited his works. This frustration, as well as my own attempts at recreating similar works, inspired me to create this simulation environment. Enjoy!


The below applet is a dynamic physics simulation of a Calder sculpture. At first, there is only one beam which supports to equal weights on either side. To add a new beam, press "New Beam" button.

To adjust a weight, click on the weight and it will begin to blink to indicate that you have selected it. Once it is selected, click-and-drag the mouse anwhere inside the gray area -- this will scale the weight and the length of the arm.

Hint. For precise manipulation, you can drag the mouse until you have approximately the size and length you want and then release the mouse and scale again.

To adjust the hanger arm position and length, click on a smaller vertical arm to select it; it will begin to flash. Like adjusting the weight, you now click somewhere else and drag the mouse to scale it.

The buttons and checks on the right allow you to manipulate the simulation in various ways. The "random morph" will make the current piece slowly change over time.

The color wheel allows you to change the color of the selected disc. The scroll bar changes the brightness; clicking on the corner color square will select the current color.

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