Sputnik

Copied Ulysses Davis, Sputnik, ca. 1957, carved and stained wood, Smithsonian American Art Museum, The Margaret Z. Robson Collection, Gift of John E. and Douglas O. Robson, 2016.38.22

Artwork Details

Title
Sputnik
Date
ca. 1957
Dimensions
8 × 2 12 × 2 38 in. (20.3 × 6.4 × 6.0 cm)
Credit Line
The Margaret Z. Robson Collection, Gift of John E. and Douglas O. Robson
Mediums Description
carved and stained wood
Classifications
Keywords
  • Figure — head
Object Number
2016.38.22

Artwork Description

Davis often fashioned his own tools, and learning on his own, he became a highly skilled carver. He tackled time-honored challenges of whittling, from the common walking cane to more flashy endeavors like the “ball in cage,” an esteemed technique among whittlers that demonstrates painstakingly acquired skills. The carver removes wood from a solid block bit by bit, until it results in a sort of visual magic trick: a sphere trapped inside a rectangular cage. Davis carved Sputnik just after the Soviet Union launched the first Earth-orbiting satellite—Sputnik 1—beating the United States to this space age feat and deepening Cold War tensions between these nation-rivals.
(We Are Made of Stories: Self-Taught Artists in the Robson Family Collection, 2022)