Materials Cast glass, sandblasted glass, holograms, brass
Stephen Hawking was a British Cosmologist recognized for his theoretical resolution concerning the origin of the universe known as the big bang. He has also done extensive work on the circumstances surrounding black holes. When he died in 2018 at the age of 76, he had been afflicted with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) a debilitating neuro-muscular disease for more than 50 years. His life was a true miracle in that regard given that the normal life span for someone with ALS is only a few years from the time of diagnosis.
He received worldwide recognition for his scientific studies and a great deal of effort by the team that surrounded him went into maintaining his ability to work despite his physical problems. A number of years before he died, he lost his ability to speak and through advanced technology developed by the wizards of Silicon Valley, he acquired a computer-generated voice that was triggered by the muscular movements of his right cheek.
For this sculpture I have chosen to portray Professor Hawking in four different stages of his life from his youth when he had his eureka moment after discovering the work of Ralph Penrose on singularity through the development of his ALS. The large central head is made of sandblasted carved flat glass that has a thickness of 25mm and is 1-meter 35cm in height. The three surrounding heads, which are two times life-size have been fabricated in a more complete three-dimensional relief made from kiln formed glass.
Because so much of what we perceive of the universe is mysterious, I decided to continue my work with holograms in this piece. I feel that holograms in themselves have the qualities that best evoke a visual representation of the Hawking studies. The three holograms included in the piece began with blown and etched objects made of clear glass. With the creation of the holograms only the areas that have been etched, are visible giving an effect of three-dimensional lines floating in space. The big bang hologram consists of four blown glass cones emerging one from the other with the final cone quitting the picture plane and showing exponentially increasing number of galaxies pushing out into the constantly expanding universe. The singularity hologram also in blown etched glass as well as laminated and etched flat glass. It shows how matter may become compressed until it arrives at a point or certain light rays come from a region of infinite curvature and are focused together thus entering a black hole where the gravitational pull is so strong that they may never reappear. The third hologram of converging black holes depicts their approach. Once the holes actually merge, they may never separate. This hologram was produced from overlays of clear sheet glass with space between the layers. The swirls etched into the sheets produce a three-dimensional image that evokes the convergence of the two black holes.
Hawking’s work has not come without the groundwork provided by scientists that came before him. Surrounding the central section of the sculpture are six of these most important historical figures. Three are from an earlier epoch and three from more modern times. The first is Galileo Galilei, who built observational proofs (with his telescope for the heliocentric theories of Nicolaus Copernicus also included) that the sun was the center of our planetary system. The third, Isaac Newton, is considered to be one of the most important scientists in history and his work on the laws of motion and universal gravitation had great impact on future work in astrophysics. On the right side, the influences include: Albert Einstein, who applied the general theory of relativity to model the large-scale structure of the universe; Roger Penrose’ whose early work in singularity led to Hawking reversing the principle and theorizing on the big bang; and Edwin Hubble whose work on the ever expanding universe aided in giving further credence to this theory. These six heads are photos of drawings that I made that were then photographed, scanned and then the white areas were dropped out. The photos were printed on brass sheets, the brass taking the place of the white. They were then cut out and assembled surrounding the cast and carved glass heads giving reference to the planets.