It starts with an aluminum can, its printed layer sanded away to reveal the bare metal finish. After polishing, sculpting begins as I press dents into the surface of the can using my thumbs. The method is relatable to sheet metal working techniques like Foldforming, which works metal in the way that origami uses paper. Unlike Foldforming and origami, my approach is based on the 3D cylinder instead of the 2D sheet.The properties of the cylinder allow a wide variety of distinct designs to emerge, all based on the simple dent. During the sculpting process I take up to 100 photographs in a controlled environment. These photos are sequenced into a stop motion animation that depicts the technique in action. An important characteristic of my art is the variety of forms it can take, which is an ongoing discovery. Out of the diversity of designs there are groups of similar yet distinguished patterns that can form a series. Upon finishing and documenting a sculpture I name it according to its series and in a way that reflects its unique nature. Lastly I sign and position each one in a display fixture where it floats centered and protruding from a simple box frame.
The technique requires ambidextrous movement, lots of practice and is unforgiving of mistakes. There is a physical limitation of fatigue due to applying force with the thumbnail. A sculpture must must meet a certain standard of design, symmetry and accuracy in order to be framed and presented. Although I select for unblemished cans, all cans have minor defects as a result of the manufacturing and distribution process. I embrace these slight imperfections, as they are in accord with the artistic process itself, and to the themes of the art. Although my designs are reproducible, in the event that I do recreate one of them, I modify it to distinguish it from it predecessor.
Not every sculpture in the collection is for sale. Pieces that are selected for sale are rated either AAA, AA or A, depending on their difficulty, precision and design. The rating also determines the price of each sculpture, with an A rating at $300-$400, a AA rating at $500-$800 and a AAA rating at $900-$1,200. These prices are introductory and subject to change.
The notion that crushing can be creative arose out of boredom in 2005 during a car trip. As I sat there with an empty aluminum can I pressed it with my thumb, then I pressed it again with both thumbs. after repeating this a few times, I noticed the dents changed the surface in a way that was open to creativity. Curious, I later applied artistic and geometric principles to the process and over time the concept began to proliferate. I continued developing the technique casually for years, while drawing and painting were my primary focus. In 2010 however, I entered the Red Bull “Art of Can” competition in Miami, where I won 1st prize with a sculpted RedBull can. This achievement was validating and eventually led to the idea of using a bare metal can instead of a printed one. In late 2012 I sanded away the printed layer of a can, polished it and began to dent a blank can for the first time. The result was a sculpture that conveyed its artistic themes with a higher level significance. It was encouraging enough that I decided these sculptures would become my main creative study and possibly my trademark as an artist. I spent most of 2013 organizing the artwork’s formal presentation, naming the project Irony and Aluminum.
Noah Deledda, 1978. Artist & mechanical engineer, Tampa Bay Area.