Kenneth Snelson is a renowned artist residing in Oregon. He is most noted for his work in tensegrity. Some critics will call Snelson an engineer and others an architect, but Snelson thinks of himself as an artist first and foremost.

Snelson’s work began in 1948. Upon attending a summer session at the Black Mountain College in North Carolina, Snelson meet Joseph Albers and Buckminster Fuller. These two men began to encourage Snelson to concentrate less on his painting and more on sculpture. Albers and Fuller encouraged Snelson to concentrate his sculptures on geometric forms. Snelson concentrated a lot of attention on Fullers ideas of tensegrity and geodesic shapes. In a letter to a friend, Snelson refers to himself as a "Fullerite"; "we were young and looking for great issues and he claimed to encompass them all", says Snelson about Fuller.

Upon returning home, Snelson began to work on small sculptures made from common items found around the house. These structures concentrated mostly on balance vertically and horizontally. Snelson’s design ideas for this was that he could add "a note of mystery, causing the connections to be more or less invisible… an Indian rope trick" he calls his works.

Snelson’s breakthrough came when he decided to "make the structure more mysterious by tying off the movement all together, replacing clay weights with additional tension lines to stabilize the modules on to another". This created an X form that depended on other elements in the form to stay erect. By creating a static form, Snelson "gain{ed} something more exotic, solid elements fixed in space… held together only by tension". After corresponding with Fuller for some time about his new sculptures, Snelson was encouraged to return to the Black Mountain College under Fuller’s guidance once again. However, Fuller began to take advantage of Snelson, taking credit for Snelson’s work and feeding Fuller’s own egomania. Some time later, Snelson was able to publicly introduce himself as a founder of tensegrity, even though Fuller coined the term.

Later in life Snelson began to question whether the forms he created were indeed sculptures or structures. Some of Snelson’s contemporaries questioned whether his tensegrity projects could be used architecturally. Even though Snelson had a background in architecture and engineering classes, he hated them and only used their concepts when thinking about the logistics of his sculptures. Snelson states about one of his tensegrity projects "as I see it, this type of structure, at least in its purest form, is not likely to prove highly efficient or utilitarian… I have seen a number of fanciful plans which have yet to convince me there is any advantage to using tensegrity over other methods of design". Snelson continues to keep his pieces "pure", according to his beliefs of tensegrity. He believes that his "studies in force are a rich source for an art which celebrates the aesthetic of structure, of physical forces at work." Snelson truly sees the "richness of the floating compression principle to lie in the way {he has} used it from the beginning, for no other reason than to unveil the exquisite beauty of structure itself." Snelson’s legacy of tensegrity in both purest form and an inspiration for structure and balance has been a great influence in the art and design world. It will continue to be so for some time.

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