In 2012, while in a museum gallery viewing the retrospective of sculptor, Robert (Bob) Wiggs, we both kept turning to each other and saying, “I don’t know if I quite get it, but it's fascinating.” We had never seen such a overly obsessive, methodical, scientific-like development of art. And then slowly our eyes drifted from the pieces on the walls and standing displays, and we saw Bob. An aged artist, whose once tall and demanding stature was now shrugged by his curved spine. His overly wrinkled hands worn by years of bending metal and carving wood. His eyes heavy, but not retired. Betty, his wife of 62 years, stood by his side guiding her nearly blind husband around to talk to academic colleagues, artistic collaborators, longtime patrons, and new admirers like us. We didn’t know it in that moment, but a couple of months later we would be head first into capturing Bob’s radical thought process and a lifetime of work that bent the lines between art and science.
Bob’s work builds on itself starting from his early childhood looking at nature patterns to an initial 40 year exploration of polyhedra based forms that ultimately became a source for his artistic sculptures. In 1987, without even using a mathematical formula he even made a scientific discovery of which he is credited in Leonardo, a MIT published journal dedicated to art and math. His constant visual exploration yields many of his works, but then he pushes his forms and explorations even further into new territories that he himself often does not understand at their conception. With time slipping away and aging taking its toll, Bob uses every waking moment constantly trying to discover something new and ultimately break down the world around us to uncover the essential pattern of everything.
Bending Lines is a story of obsession, of vision, and of the enduring conversation between art and science. The dedicated often overtaking process of an artist is apparent in each scene, in Bob hunched over his living room table building quick pipe cleaner sculptures, in Bob and Betty rifling through hundreds of drawings, in the countless art and artifacts meticulously placed on every surface of the house, in his 5000 plus slide photo collection, in his daily walk with nature around his driveway. Though the process is unique, the need to create is universal to most artists. However, Bob is looking not just to create, but understand. He is not just imitating our world through his art but similar to a scientist, he is looking to break down what he knows, question what could be, and grow his work one discovery at a time.