Pick-asso’s pinnacle plot uncovered as Steve Backman

Posted on July 7, 2010





“A box of toothpicks spill on the floor and he took one look and knew exactly how many there were. – He counted ’em in seconds.” Charlie Babbitt explains about Rainman. Beyond the quantity of toothpicks on the floor, a far deeper examination was waiting. What was the arrangement of lines and patterns that were created when they hit the floor?

Foundry Square IV
Art is accessible to all who can envision it and available to all who are forthcoming to it. Foundry Square IV in San Francisco enables us to indulge once again in the work of this Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum contributor and finally see what Steven J.Backman of toothpickart.com would have seen on that floor.

Simple pleasures
Simplicity is embraced every time we grab a toothpick to check our brownies when baking, pick particles from in between our teeth, pierce a chunk of cheese or olive, press the tiny reset button on an electronic device, keep potatoes or sausages from rolling when cooking, mark the start of a roll of tape, build a bridge or Empire State Building replica or most importantly, design a portrait of The President of the United States using only 95 toothpicks ?
Well the later is only true if your nickname is Pick-asso, and the SF Mayor Gavin Newsom declared in 2005 that January 11 would be celebrated as Steven J. Backman day.

The Essence of Patience
Fine Woodworking Senior Editor, Tom McKenna described Steven Backman as, “perhaps the preeminent toothpick sculptor in the country.” His website titled “The Essence of Patience” chronicles his passion for recreating scaled down renditions of significant cultural structures such as his 13 foot, 30,000 toothpick Golden Gate Bridge.

Golden Gate Birdge took 30,000 toothpicks
It’s creation consumed him for nearly 2 years as he meticulously hand glued every toothpick on it’s 13 foot span. Also included are: 28 1/2 inch high Empire State Building (made with 7,470 toothpicks), 4 1/2 foot long battery powered yacht (made with 10,000 toothpicks), San Francisco cable cars (made with 4,000 toothpicks) and the Eiffel Tower made from just a single toothpick.

The Govenator loves it
In a letter from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger he remarked “you are a man who can open a box of wood splinters normally reserved as hors d’oeuvres spikes and oral accessories and create virtually anything”

Abstract meets the toothpick
Inspired by Chagall, Michelangelo and LeRoy Neiman, Backman hoped to awaken a deeper appreciation for the finished work rather then the toothpicks with the introduction of his minimalist abstract sculptures and portraits.”Eternity” was designed to reflect an endless maze of shapes and curves using 519 toothpicks as well as “Contemplation,” a 2,330-toothpick-strong interpretation of Rodin’s classic “The Thinker.”

The sound of creativity
HIs process is as simplistic as his materials, he prefers to work in silence, without music, telephone calls or visitors. Working from the same Diamond Toothpick Company supply for the past 20 years, he uses four types: flat, round, sure-grip and toothpick blanks.

His graceful fingers, unwavering patience and love affair with form and outline have led to his portraits, his pinnacle proficiency. Using only toothpicks and glue, he has created the likenesses of many renowned public figures, such as President George W. Bush, Tiger Woods, Oprah Winfrey, Salvador Dali and Frida Kahlo.

Special Thanks to Steven J. Backman for his generosity. These photos and many more can be found at: toothpickart.com

Eternity made from 519 toothpicks