I led the development of this large-scale animatronic sculpture system by Kara Walker. It opened in July 2024 as the inaugural commission for the Roberts Family Gallery at SF MoMA. The piece is free to the public and will run continuously through Summer 2026. The work features eight animatronic “Dolls” moving amid a bed of 35,000 pounds of obsidian.

The full title of the work is:

Fortuna and the Immortality Garden (Machine)
A Respite for the Weary Time-Traveler.
Featuring a Rite of Ancient Intelligence Carried out by The Gardeners
Toward the Continued Improvement of the Human Specious
Kara E-Walker

Each Doll has a custom skeleton and motor system whose capabilities accommodate a vocabulary of pose and motion that Kara developed for each Doll. As an ensemble, Kara then choreographed 19 long-form motion sequences, some lasting over 25 minutes, to comprise the action in the show. Day-to-day, the piece will autonomously cycle through the 19 motion sequences, never repeating over the course of the exhibition.

For this project, I needed a mechatronics expert who specializes in long-running custom fabrications - lucky for me, Bill Washabaugh of Hypersonic Studio was available to design, fabricate, and test the Doll mechatronics. Gary Graham designed the coture garments worn by each Doll. Petra Schmidt of Kara Walker Studio produced the project.

It was a pleasure to work with such a dedicated and talented team, and to get the oportunity to work with a thoughtful and kind artist at the top of her game.