Manhattanite Tom Shannon is a painter and a sculptor. He exhibits all over the world, at Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Venice Biennale, the Whitney Museum and Museum of Modern Art in New York City. In 1968, when one of his works was selected for the MOMA's landmark The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age, Shannon was just 19.
Shannon also is a marvelous inventor. He holds patents for a color television projector, a patented synchronous world clock (also described here), which is in the Smithsonian Institution's collections, and a tactile telephone. (Images of the clock and telephone system are here.)
When he began to experience the effects of Parkinson's disease, Shannon devised a mechanized paint dispenser mounted on a pendulum; once set in motion over a canvas, Shannon uses a remote to control the color and amount of paint, as well as the number of layers of paint, he wants to apply to his canvas. What he achieves as the pendulum orbits is a stunning visual image affected by nature's unseen forces of gravity, fluid dynamics, centrifugal force, radial interferences.
Shannon's extraordinarily creative mind has allowed him to continue to craft beautiful works of art. He works with materials such as magnets and tiny suspension cables, steel, aluminum, and wood and often incorporates technology; for example, his "Air Genie" is a spherical helium airship with a LED video screen for a surface. (To see an image of the airship, go here. A visualization of the work is here.)
In the 13-minute video below, the award-winning public radio commentator John Hockenberry interviews Shannon about the inspiration he draws from science to create his art. Shannon speaks eloquently of how science allows him to "interface with nature", which he calls "a godsend". Of this "terrific studio assistant" Shannon says, "[N]ature wants to express itself [and] in the sense that we are an expression of nature, [what we create is] also an expression of the universe."
Tom Shannon's biography is here. On his Website are images of his sculpture, paintings, drawings and other works on paper, and mixed media. An additional group of images posted on the TED blog is here.
A second TED Talk, this one filmed in 2003 and posted last year shows Shannon discussing his science-inspired creations. The artworks will leave you filled with wonder at Shannon's inventiveness.