Lei for Bertoia

Lei for Bertoia

Lei for Bertoia

Lei for Bertoia

Lei for Bertoia

Tom Palmer

Lei for Bertoia, is a tribute to the “Sonambient” sound sculptures by the mid-century Italian American artist and designer Harry Bertoia, in the form of a giant ritual garland or Lei.

As with the Bertoia sculptures it uses repeated resonate forms (in this case gilding metal) formed and assembled using traditional silversmithing techniques, reflecting Bertoia’s original career in jewellery. The domes are cut and then hand formed using extra large doming blocks and punches, a process that becomes meditative when repeated on such a large scale.

The Lei is presented as museum object from an unnamed society, causing us to question its ritual use and symbolism beyond its sculptural form.


Palmer approaches the concept of transfiguration through the conceit of an imagined indigenous society with their own belief system and art forms, imagining how they might interpret contemporary communication technology. The viewer is left to query the provenance of these pieces, were they traded, excavated or looted? Is this society from the old world or new? Either way, this society’s use of advanced materials demonstrates a level of sophistication that shows that these pieces are relatively contemporary, or suggests the uncomfortable idea that they could be the relics of a fallen society after some form of cataclysm.

Each work in the series suggests some form of ritual use or meaning and reference: Bronze Age Bactrian idols, the architecture of Gaudi, the photographs of Karl Blossfeldt, the sound sculptures of Harry Bertoia, and contemporary communication technology.


gilding metal / brass / steel cable

Dimensions: H140 / W80 / D15 as mounted in illustration