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Vacuum Tube Sculptures
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Peter Luber
Lisa Luber
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Peter is a sculptor of truly miniature proportion -- few of his works are more than eight inches tall.  His primary format is mixed-media sculpture encased within vintage vacuum tubes.  Modeling was a weekend hobby while Peter spent two decades comfortably ensconced in corporate America.  He's left all that behind, with new goals of sharing his images of life in the form of tiny radio tube sculptures, and in his words, as expressed in his novels and short stories.


Already a highly skilled modeler, I became less and less interested in simply producing scale facsimiles, so I stopped copying and sought images from my own imagination and experience; images that meant more to me than a simple shrinking of recognizable objects.  After some experimentation in an assortment of media, I discovered that vacuum tubes* served as the perfect frame for my work.  So I found a few, and then figured out how to insert a sculpted three-dimensional image inside while still leaving the viewer with the understanding that the object he is holding was once a component of an electronic device.

Vacuum tubes form a base for images that depict moments which matter to me; moments that I feel deserve the preservation that "sealing" them within glass tubes implies.  Plus they're quite small and a refreshing entertainment for the curious eye.  I also have been careful to preserve the beauty of the original tubes by leaving much of their structure (or a representation of that structure) intact. Indeed, when viewed from behind, my work disappears and only a tube remains, often a work of art in itself.

It is my sincerest hope that these tubes make a tiny niche for themselves in the art world...  Okay, maybe a large number of tiny niches!


Vacuum tubes represent man's first fragile step into the world of electronic information processing.  They are also the first and last time an electronic component bore real aesthetic appeal to the untrained eye.

Before vacuum tubes gently cracked open the door to mass communications and computing, printed books, scribes, storytelling, art, a whole lot of faith in the words of others, and memory served as imperfect but highly valued vessels for information storage and access.  Vacuum tubes' contribution to human engineering was short-lived: introduced in the early twentieth century, by the end of WWII they were already being led to obsolescence by the homely but fantastically more efficient transistor.  Transistors were followed by integrated circuits, the miniaturization of just about everything, and, coincidentally or not, a general disregard for the truth in its pure form.  However short, that same era of vacuum tubes also bore two world wars, the rise and fall of modern art, Einstein, and the first stones thrown in the Cold War.

What is a vacuum tube?  Simply a bit of electronic function in the form of carefully crafted metals suspended in an airless void, all encased in glass.  That function, usually varying the levels of resistance or capacitance in an electric current, amounted to some simple switching to keep early electronic circuits humming and very large radios glowing.  Tubes were wired to uncounted radio chassis, early computers, and are currently finding a home in high-end audio equipment.  Also, because they usually operated with great heat, the tubes had a limited life span.

What else is a vacuum tube?  It may possibly be a final example of an era where craftsmanship and design were still included in the making of even the simplest of objects.  And when working they looked good!  I often wonder if some of the bits of metal within them really served a function, or if they just looked cool to some skinny-tied fellow in tortoise-shell glasses.

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