Bobby Zokaites

Written by Dolores Tropiano Category: Arts Issue: May 2014
Group Free

Bobby Zokaites with his giant Chinese finger traps.

ARTIST OF THE MONTH: Three giant Chinese finger traps made from miles of woven seat belts dangle from the ceiling and walls in Downtown’s new Grant Street Studios. They point to the propensity for play that runs through artist Bobby Zokaites’ projects. After all, this is the guy that co-created the 20-foot-long “The Machine the Sneetches Built,” based on a Dr. Seuss book, in Kansas City, Mo.

Zokaites’ finger traps are up to 23 feet long and are part of a series of large-scale, interactive installations on view through May at the renovated warehouse. “It’s a pseudo jungle gym,” the artist says. “Aesthetically, it’s about play and may trigger childhood memories, but the work is more about creating my own space so I can deal with this alien urban environment I live in.”

Zokaites, 28, was born in Virginia and received a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Alfred College in New York. The artist – currently working on his master’s degree in sculpture at Arizona State University – says his creative bent goes back to Christmas when he was seven years old. While his brothers were given video games, he woke up to find four sheets of plywood, 15 two-by-fours and a bucket of screws planted under the tree. “It was disappointing just getting building material, but it was three months of bonding with my dad,” he recalls. “We built a fort for the entire neighborhood.”

His show also features a series of rooms made from seat belts – sort of a throwback to his childhood fort. “It provides an alien landscape,” Zokaites says, “where adults can revisit childhood and run wild.”

Meet Zokaites at his artist reception from 6-9 p.m. May 2 at 605 E. Grant St., or view his work at