Sara Thompson


I was determined to make an atomic structure that viewers could see and touch. Art and science — this is what I like . . . The atom is a collection of protons, neutrons, and electrons that make up the smallest form of matter of a particular element. In the center of the atom is the atomic nucleus. The number of protons identify what element the atom is. The electrons whip around the nucleus, encasing it in a sphere of constant movement.

Silver is my go-to metal. However, given that this project was going to be a sculpture and the atom was going to be roughly seven inches in diameter, silver was going to be way over my budget. I pondered: what metals did I have access to and which atomic structure was I able to create. Gold, oh no; copper, I’m not too crazy about copper and especially since I was using silver solder; brass, I had access to but isn’t an element. That left me with nickel. Nickel is darker than silver and I had easy access to it.

My sculpture behaves like a mobile: once it has a little bit of energy to rotate, it rotates in one direction, then back in another, and back again until it slows down eventually, looking like it’s still, until more energy comes to set it in motion again.

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