I got an acetylene torch for my high school graduation present, and went off to art school intending to become the next David Smith or Richard Serra.
Then I met Peter Max.
I had always enjoyed the 3 dimensional quality and the structural solidity of the metal sculpture I was doing at the time. But naturally as a young art student had a very naive sense of how art was created, marketed, and sold. One of my jobs while at school was working for a Philadelphia art gallery, and it quickly taught me the commercial and political side of the art world. And Peter Max, who exhibited at the gallery at the time, was a cynical master of both. Without going into the details, he almost single handedly turned me off to the notion of becoming a sculptor.
As an aside I went to a Yankees game recently and saw that Peter Max is the “official” artist of the new stadium, with a big gallery space on the main concession level . . . almost enough to make me a Red Sox fan.
Now I say almost single handedly turned me off to being a sculptor, because by this point I had already begun to fall for the irresistible charms of typography, logotypes, photography, illustration and the wonderful way the best package designers combine them into their own 3 dimensional, yes even sculptural objects. Package design seemed like a great way to combine my new interests in graphic design with my continued interest in creating 3-dimensional objects.
A piece in the NY Times, on the paleoartist Viktor Deak, caught may attention. Like me, he has found a way of combining two interests into a career. In his case paleontology and sculpture, in my case graphic design and sculpture. Working from the inside out, he creates sculptural images of humans and other animals for places like the American Museum of Natural History, from the bones and fossils given to him by paleontologists.
It might be a stretch, but package designers and paleoartists are working in much the same way, just with way different materials.
He starts with the bones and a set of theoretical information given to him by scientists and gradually builds the 3-dimensional image of an early hominid. We start with the same kind of limited information, build on the history of the product given to us by the marketers, and then gradually design a package that is our best representation of the brand.
Two fascinating combinations of science and art.
The image above combines the work of Viktor Deak, from an exhibit showing how reconstructions are made, at the American Museum of Natural History, with Peter Max. Apologies to Viktor Deak.