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Monday, July 12, 2010

Gone fission: Jim takes a break from Kryptos

I recently crossed paths with Jim Sanborn, creator of the Kryptos sculpture (containing K–4, which is, arguably, the world's most famous unsolved cipher). He was in Denver for the unveiling of several of his new works at the Robischon Gallery and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

In the photo, left, he's getting his (real) particle accelerator ready for its public debut.

Where did you get the uranium? "On the Internet."

Is this legal? "It's a curious point."

How much did you know about particle physics when you started this project? "Nothing."

My hope had been that a group of K–4 fans would be able to meet with him during a free moment to discuss the object of our affection — and maybe pick up a hint or two. But only two of us showed up, by my count.

I invited Sanborn to have dinner with us, but he politely declined. I hope that he didn't think we were a couple of Kryptos nuts coming to crash his party. He was obviously very tired and didn't exactly perk up at the mention of his, um, earlier work. He said that we were welcome to tag along, though, for whatever meetings were already in his plans for that afternoon.

I caught up with him a little later to see what those plans were. He had been joined by two women (his mother and a sister, I believe) and said that he was going to spend a little time with them. He looked exhausted, and so I bowed out of the invitation to tag along. He seemed to appreciate that and said that he would see us when he got back to the museum.

He finally showed up several hours past his planned 5 p.m. appearance — still looking completely beat, but admitting that he had squeezed in a little nap.

D'oh! That's okay, Jim, I've been here with my box of donuts this whole time, just keeping an eye on your arts-and-crafts project.

We made some small talk, but didn't bring up Kryptos at all. In my back pocket, I had a list of about two dozen questions submitted by Kryptosmaniacs from around the globe. But this was neither the time nor the place to distract him with word games. Nor was it an appropriate time to distract him with anything, for that matter.

Hey, man, why is that red light blinking?

Today was probably the biggest day of this man's career as a professional artist. Our questions can wait for another day. Some will be understandably disappointed, but I hope that all will agree that Sanborn deserves his day, his space, and our utmost respect for a job well done.
Photo courtesy of "Donna Piranha" Byczkiewicz


gary said...

You make a good point about Jim's career.

If Kryptos is never publicly solved, Jim will always be most famous for Kryptos.

Now suppose Kryptos is solved. Unless something physically changes in a public way, Kryptos could possibly become second or third to some of his works on atomic energy.

Regardless, the man is brilliant. I think you did the right thing in not pestering him with questions that he probably wouldn't answer anyway.