Created and Sold by Matt Babcock

Matt Babcock
Public Sculptures by Matt Babcock seen at Cuba Hunter Park, Jacksonville - Song of the Skinks
Public Sculptures by Matt Babcock seen at Cuba Hunter Park, Jacksonville - Song of the Skinks
Image credit: Matt Babcock
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Song of the Skinks

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Item details

One of a Kind item
stainless steel and thermoplastic coating
completed 2020
10'H x 24'W x 4'D

Song of the Skinks is a sculpture installation that functions as a musical instrument. It’s adjacent to a playground in a public park in Jacksonville, Florida.

The project started with a community engagement process to find out what needs could be met with this public art project. I met with park users and various organizations that serve the diverse community. Inclusiveness, accessibility, and reaching out to kids were themes that came up over and over in our discussions, and set the groundwork for my design.

The site is in a neighborhood of immigrants and refugees from all over the world, many with limited English proficiency. The community center in the park often hosts sporting events for wheelchair users and visually impaired people. I settled on music as a universal language that can bring all of these constituencies together.

The sculptures are plosive aerophones – musical instruments that are played by striking the open ends of tubes. Pitch is determined by tube length. The artwork offers 16 different notes, tuned to concert pitch: a full octave with all 12 half-steps, plus a few outliers. Each tube is labeled with the note it makes. For video of music being played, check out https://mbabcock.carbonmade.com/projects/7218170#4

The sculptures represent blue-tailed skinks in fanciful and mixed-up poses. I was inspired by the quick little lizards which seem to occupy every outdoor surface (and some indoor surfaces) in Jacksonville.

Meeting musical, structural, and regulatory requirements meant the complex shapes of the bent tubes needed to be very accurate. The tubes were bent by Nissin Precision Machines in Japan, using their CNC free-form tube bender.

Context & Credits

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Matt Babcock

Meet the Creator

What motivates me is sparking people's curiosity to help them connect with something larger than themselves.

I focus on public art because it has the potential to enrich many people's lives.

I create aerial calligraphy that captures gestures. My work bridges representation and abstraction, with figural subjects that are recognizable by people of all ages and diverse backgrounds. Images often resolve as viewers move and see the work from different perspectives, creating "aha" moments of discovery. Although my work involves a level of abstraction, it is often inspired by nature and based in close observation of plants and animals. I sometimes draw on historical styles and works but always focus on revealing something new.

I was born in Michigan, went to school in Colorado, and live in Seattle. I have studied engineering, studio art, physics, math, welding, and art history. I have held jobs in architecture, antique repair, sign fabrication, and stained glass, among others.

My work as an artist is an extension of my experience as an architect, which includes public design review and permitting as well as extensive and successful collaboration with public agencies, builders, and other stakeholders. I have completed several large public commissions and my work is being shown in a number of parks and cities.

I developed my appreciation for materials and the ways things are made through practice in metal fabrication and application in industry. I have created art in many media, but keep coming back to the metal shop.

I have been making things all my life. When I was five my dad set me up with a workbench and tools. I spent countless hours making things that I thought of as functional, even though the function was often mysterious or imaginary. I haven't changed all that much.

Thank you for taking the time to learn about my work.

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