This week’s Person of the Year special issue features stunning portraits photographed by Nadav Kander and exclusive behind-the-scenes images by photographer Callie Shell. In addition, we wanted to create a unique interactive experience for our iPad edition, which for the first time was released before the print version was even sent to the presses.
We turned to Georgia-based artist and sculptor Michael Murphy, whose work we have long admired. Michael spent several weeks and dozens of sleepless nights creating three amazing portraits of the President. Each piece offers a completely different perspective, depending on the vantage point of the viewer— an apt metaphor for the current political climate.
The first piece Michael created for us was a 3-D portrait made out of red, blue and gray wire. From the front it looks like a jumbled wire portrait of Obama, but from the side the wires jut out at varying lengths and he becomes virtually unrecognizable.
He also created a portrait out of cut suspended glass plates.
Michael, a tireless inventor and thinker, wanted to create one more piece for us, but we were running up against a close deadline. Undeterred, Michael spent four straight days meticulously crafting one final sculpture. The result (on deadline!), which we featured as our opening interactive illustration on the Person of the Year iPad app, consists of 66 hand-cut and -painted cardboard plates suspended from white braided fibers.
In Michael’s words:
“It was created considering the perception of the viewer. When viewed from different vantage points, the piece offers varied experiences. Straight on, the shapes are perfectly organized, creating a graphic portrait of Obama as a strong leader. As the viewer moves around the sculpture, seeing it and the point of view changes, the image of the President becomes distorted and the layers become their own separate pieces. In the distortion, viewers are encouraged to see the red and blue edges of the plates as indications of the electoral divides. From the side, the forward momentum of the piece, as it protrudes into space suggests growth, progress, movement and the partisan divide.”
To see the interactive 360-degree version of the piece, download TIME’s Person of the Year issue, available on iTunes now. To see more of Michael’s incredible work, visit www.mmike.com
—D.W. Pine and Skye Gurney