Tom Shannon (artist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Tom Shannon (born June 23, 1947), is an American artist and inventor.[1]

Personal life[edit]

His parents are John Kingsley Shannon (1921–2010), a marine pilot and inventor, and Audrey Elizabeth (1925- ). He has two brothers, John (1945- ) and James (1954–2001). Shannon attended the University of Wisconsin. He received his MFA in 1971 from the Art Institute of Chicago.

He lives and works in Manhattan. He has three sons.


Tom Shannon's work has been known to incorporate scientific themes. Squat, one of his early works, made at 19 years old, was included in the landmark exhibition The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1969. His sculptures have since been included in international exhibitions such as the Centre Pompidou, the Stedelijk Museum, Moderna Museet, the Venice Biennale, the Sao Paulo Biennial, the Biennale de Lyon, the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Art Tower Mito and the Whitney Museum. He was a featured artist at the 2003 TED Conference where he presented Air Genie, a spherical helium airship whose entire surface is a LED video screen.[2] He also presented a series of paintings made by a remote-controlled pendulum in another TED talk in 2009.[3][4]


Shannon's sculptures are strongly idea driven. Their subject matter is generally concerned with existential conditions, i.e., the forces, properties, characteristics, proportions, the web of sensations and knowledge of which we are a part. A good example is the Ray, 1986, a sculpture of the spheres of the Sun and Earth and the cone of energy, gravity, electromagnetic, luminous, that connects the two, in proportion.

Shannon is perhaps best known for magnetically levitated sculpture. Using permanent magnets the sculptures hover silently in the air and never lose altitude. His series of suspended arrays includes room-filling three-dimensional crystalline arrangements of magnetic spheres each of which orient to Earth's terrestrial field in the manner of a compass.[5]

His recent work includes large outdoor sculptures which behave as weightless objects. The sculpture's internal mechanisms consisted of axles, ball-bearings, universal joints, ball & sockets, fulcrums and massive counterweights, give them the ability to spin, tilt, rise/fall and glide horizontally and eventually return to equilibrium.[6]

Shannon designed the TED Prize, the Buckminster Fuller prize and the Trophee Jules Verne installed at the Musee de la Marine in Paris.


Over the years Shannon has devised several techniques for making paintings. Beside watercolor representations of planned work He has found ways to co-author with nature the paintings For example, in the Trajectory series he tossed rubber balls wet with paint on inclined canvases, capturing the natural parabolic curve of the ball's path in gravity. In the Paint Loom series, long tubes with holes drilled like a bamboo flute, are used to create wave patterns. The Evaporation paintings grow for a month. The Paint Pendulum paintings are made using a radio-controlled six color pendulum of the artist's invention.[7]


Shannon holds patents for the following:

  1. first tactile telephone - US Pat. 3780225 - Filed Jan 3, 1972
  2. a color television projector (w/ Walter De Maria, Maris Ambats) - US Pat. 3800085 - Filed Oct 20, 1972
  3. a synchronous world clockUS Pat. 4579460 - Filed May 17, 1984featuring a Fuller-Sadao map face, which is in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution
  4. a double-reversible garments (w/ Caty Shannon)
  5. a Video Airship (Air Genie)[03].US Pat. 7173649 - Filed May 29, 2002[8]
  6. patents pending for Graphene Floating Spheres and Magnetic Linking System

Air Genie Video Airship[edit]

The Video Airship is an ongoing project which weaves together several themes in Tom Shannon's work. In the late 60's Shannon proposed spherical televisions linked to orbiting camera satellites. Buckminster Fuller had earlier proposed a 200-ft sphere covered with lights to display Earth to the United Nations. Shannon designed a LED-covered spherical blimp with cameras that could land at campuses to deliver education and at night host rave dances.[9]

Aerovironment, Inc., the engineering firm founded by aeronautics legend Paul MacCready, found the design feasible; it can be aerodynamically controlled and can present clear computer video in daylight.


  1. ^ Benton, Janetta Rebold (2011). Arts and Culture. Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0-205-81667-5. 
  2. ^ Shannon, Tom. "Tom Shannon's anti-gravity sculpture". TED 2003. Retrieved March 23, 2011. 
  3. ^ Shannon, Tom. "Tom Shannon: The painter and the pendulum". TED 2009. TED. Retrieved March 19, 2011. 
  4. ^ Silberman, Steve. "Hacking a Pendulum to Make Remote-Controlled Art". Wired Magazine (Wired Magazine). Retrieved March 20, 2011. 
  5. ^ Benton, Janetta Rebold (2011). Arts and Culture. New York: Prentice Hall. p. 606. ISBN 978-0-205-81667-5. 
  6. ^ Landi, Ann (June 2010). "Studio Gizmos, Genies, and Globes". Art News. Retrieved March 1, 2011. 
  7. ^ Benton, Janetta Rebold (2011). Arts and Culture. New York: Prentice Hall. p. 606. ISBN 978-0-205-81667-5. 
  8. ^ Beschizza, Rob (February 8, 2007). "Video Airship Patent Awarded". Wired Magazine. Retrieved March 19, 2011. 
  9. ^ Google. "Video airship patent". Video airship patent. Retrieved March 22, 2011. 

External links[edit]

  1. Tom Shannon's website
  2. Caty Shannon