Anatomy of a Calamity

John Rubino – The Sculpture Project

Basic Description:

This installation, consisting of five separate pieces, follows the course of a catastrophic event as it manifests itself in the life of a survivor.  Each of the five pieces depicts a stage of the process.


Most catastrophic events, whether they be severe illness, accident, natural disaster, personal assault, or other traumatic event all follow a similar path as the survivor passes through life from before the incident, through the catastrophe, recovery, and a final re-definition of self.


Stage 1


Prior to any catastrophic experience most people feel like nothing will ever happen to them.

They live a carefree life, often thinking that bad things only happen to other people.

Stage 2


Initially, when a traumatic event occurs, whether it is a severe illness, accident, assault, abuse or other trauma, it only effects the point of contact. 

Everything else disappears into the background.

Stage 3


Shortly after the incident the person reacts without any control.

The trauma effects every portion of their being.

Every bit of their physical, mental, social and spiritual self becomes part of the reaction.

Stage 4


Their recovery involves many forms of therapy.

The physical part of the incident may require medical attention while the psychological and spiritual needs require more personal and human interaction.

Stage 5


Finally they evolve into a new self.

They are often stronger, more realistic and self-confident.

The incident becomes part of the persons history and no longer controls their day-to-day existence.

The Design Process:

1. Develop the basic premise of the project as outlined above.

2. Interview counselors and other professionals working in trauma and recovery.

3. Interview survivors of a wide range of catastrophic events.

4. Develop numerous drawings of sculptures depicting the experience in five stages.

5. Work with each of five apprentices in developing their own version of the five stages based on my drawings.

6. Finalize the design considering input from the apprentice work and additional interviews. 

Production Process:

All work was produced at John Rubino’s studio in Morrisville ,Vermont.    

John worked with five apprentices from local high schools for six weeks to produce the finished pieces.

During the production phase, apprentices had the opportunity to work on pieces of their own design as well as the group project.

Apprentices learned the basics of metal sculpture fabrication including layout, cutting, bending, forming, welding and finishing.


Many hours of video and hundreds of stills were shot during the production.

A presentation is currently in production.





John Rubino