Nancy Rubins For Older Children

Silhouette of sculpture

Monochrome for Austin


Nancy Rubins

American, born 1952

Subject: Form and balance

Activity: Toothpick sculptures

Materials: Play dough and toothpicks

Vocabulary: Gravity and balance


You can make a sculpture out of almost anything. Artist Nancy Rubins uses everyday things like toasters, hairdryers, and even playground equipment. In Monochrome for Austin she used canoes and boats. 


Can you guess how many canoes and boats she used? 

If you could make a sculpture out of anything, what would you choose? 

Why do you think Nancy Rubins used boats and canoes? 


Pinch off pieces of play dough about the size of small marshmallows and roll them into balls. Stick a toothpick into a play-dough ball. Now stick another ball on the other end and add another toothpick. Try constructing a pyramid out of toothpicks by using the play-dough balls to connect the toothpicks. Now use your imagination to build your own sculpture. 


Nancy Rubins used 70 canoes and small boats to make this sculpture. 

Look again

See how each boat is attached in Nancy Rubins’ sculpture. What is holding the sculpture in place? Gravity is always pulling things down to earth. When you are building your toothpick sculptures, try to think of the best way to keep them from falling. 


Gravity - Force that holds everything to the ground and causes things to fall toward the ground

Balance - An equal distribution of weight so that structures will stand