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The Great Challenge for Mars Grate

Mars Grate

Before I begin this Blog about the creation of my Mars Grate, I HAVE A CONFESSION TO MAKE. I now need help to complete some of my artworks.  And that is because I am the SURVIVOR OF A HEMORRHAGIC STROKE. It happened on that fateful evening of October 31, 2017. What a MEAN TRICK for HALLOWEEN.

For the past two and one half years I have endured  this challenge not known to the public.   But I am lucky to be alive and functioning. The stroke did, however affect my left side. I walk with the aid of a rollator or the use of a cane.  At least I can get around.


I am an imaginative dreamer. I believe in the future colonization of the planet Mars. Of course, Mars would eventually have a Public Works Department.  There would be grates and manhole covers on Mars.  Speaking of getting help with my art or advice. I am fortunate that my husband Al was a draftsman early in his career. Then as an educator, he taught Mechanical Drawing and Architectural Drawing.


I envisioned a Mars Grate prototype constructed of polystyrene. Al advised constructing a diamond shaped Mars grate instead of a Hexagon. Simpler and easier to build.

Grate Sketch
Grate Underside

With my dimensions and directions, Al drew the grate on the foam sheet.The underside of the grate was covered with Polyester Reinforcement Repair Fabric which adds durability to the foam sheet. The sides for a diamond shape  chimney were easy to construct. Two sides had cut outs of an ancient design.  The other two sides had cut outs for the Mars Symbol.



Bobbi Cuttting.
Chimney Sides












To simulate Mars red soil, I used red dirt from Utah. Metallic Blue added the perfect contrast.


Utah Dirt

However the red dirt presented a challenge. It sifted about the studio, getting under foot and on our clothes. Spray on glue finally held the soil in place.  To achieve the weather-worn effect, I mixed up a concoction of water, black paint, potting soil, road cinders and sweepings. When it is convenient, I throw the mixture on the sculpture with a drop cloth in place.  Touch ups can be brushed on. The dark mixture settles into the cracks and crevices like real weathering.



Antique Process
Side View









Karen took the photo of Idalia helping with the antique process.  I must admit that working with  friends makes the art process much more fun than working alone. We laughed as we threw on the concoction.  We were awed by the dramatic results.


To achieving the inner red glow in the sculpture, Al came up with the perfect solution.   He discovered the under counter puck lights on line. They could be adapted for the sculpture.  The puck lights were attached to the chimney on the inside walls.  A remote was used to switch on the red lights.

Now doesn’t this “FUTURE MARS GRATE” look like it could hang in the offices of a Space-Explorer.?

Your comments are welcome.

37 replies on “The Great Challenge for Mars Grate”

Hi Bobb—We met many years ago as my sister and brother-in-law are Ellen and Harvey Factor! Small world…and it keeps getting smaller as I am on The Islip Arts Advisory Board and just learned that your work is in our permanent collection.

Your current story is beyond inspirational and that shares the inspirational story that I have been consumed with for the past 6 years. My collaborative partner Ward Hooper will be 92 in October and our book Parallel Perspectives: The Brush/Lens Collaboration will be real and available in October. It is currently on Amazon for preview and pre-order.

Ellen and Harvey have kept me updated on what you have been doing and best to your husband too

Bobbi Mastrangelo, You are such a Great Artist!! You never cease to amaze me with your creativity and your sense of balance and color and texture!!!!
I am one if your biggest fans always!!
Sending much love from New York,
Roberta Fabiano

So happy to read about the evolution of your newest grate.
God bless you and Al for your corroboration, plus assistance from loving friends.
Thank you for sharing your journey and your dreams.
Your loving fan and Sister,

Interesting way to think outside the box and imagine something not yet imagined Bobbi. Also, sorry to hear about your 2017 stroke but glad you’re still able to create! I was in a car crash and couldn’t walk for a while, but had a surgery and am better… so I can at least relate, a little, to what you went thru and it is NOT easy! But we press on!

You certainly have an out-in-space imagination!! You started with a great idea and painstakingly followed through until you were happy with a final product. And what an inspirational product it turned out to be—just beautiful to look at and study all the features. You and Al did a terrific job. I am sure SpaceX would love to have it hanging on their wall. Are you making the connection with them? You and Elan Musk are two innovative people. God bless you!

Hi Bobbie, I am so glad you are continuing to create, nothing can stop you. Love the Mars workPlease keep up your work I love it and you Love Phyllis K.

Bobbi – Your new website is fabulous and the story of the Challenge for Mars Grate is wonderful. You are simply amazing. You have achieved so much under difficult circumstances, and were able to make lemonade from lemons. You are the best. All the best with your new website. I’m sure people will love seeing your work and hearing your story.
Hugs and be safe,
Susan G. Hammond

So sorry to hear about your stroke. Getting older is not for the weak. I have among other thing myasthenia gravis – another treasure of the more mature population. I’ve so glad you have support and still have your mind. Wish I could visit but I’m stuck here now. No driving, no travel – I pass out at odd moments. Hope you can enjoy your art for many years to come. Dos bless and keep you well and strong

Hi Bobbi. Your creativity, imagination, endurance and positivity are reflected in your art and in your life. So glad you are doing well. This piece is breathtaking. Carpe diem. Connie Antonetti

I’m so happy to see hemorrhagic stroke isn’t going to put even the slightest dent in your beautiful, positive spirit! Your brain is as creative as it’s ever been and your art shows it, with or without help. One time, some years ago when I faced a challenge in my life you told me to remember I was a champion and I would prevail. The truth is you’re the champion!

Bobbi: So good to hear from you! Happy to know you’re persevering under the circumstances. Your work is great, I mean grate, Oh, you know what I mean. I think of you often, with your fabulous work in my dining room. We’re hanging in there. I think I told you that Bill had carotid & a triple bypass surgery in October. He’s doing well, and still carving birds. Unfortunately all the shows he signed up for were cancelled.
Keep up the good work. I always tell North Carolinians about my children’s principal, Al Mastrangelo, and his artist wife, Bobbi. Didn’t know Al did the drawing.

Take care, & let me tell you both, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, early, May 16th & June 4th?

Sincerely, Dorothy Moloney

Your story is so inspirational and I was feeling sorry for myself because of Covid-19. I should make better use of my time like you have pushed on doing. Thanks for keeping everyone informed. Love your new Mars grate. Who would have thought of such as this!! Best to you and Al. Chere Senft

This project is very creative just like you and your previous art work that I have seen.
Keep going Bobbi.

This project is very creative just like you and your previous art work that I have seen.
Keep going Bobbi.
The grates below are gorgeous!!!

The grates below are just gorgeous!
Very unique and creative. And skillfully executed. What wonderful work!
con “grate”ulations!
Keep it up!

Bobbi, your out of this world grate work is nothing I’ve ever seen before, incredibly creative. Who knows what else you will create. Keep it up, it’s grate to see.
Thank you, Jana


I love the Mars Grate SO much that I am making a set of coasters for you.
We will get them in the mail very soon.

Keep creating !

My very best regards,
Dano, PHP

HI Bobbi,

Sorry to hear of your stroke. Looks like you are on the mend. The website and story of the Challenge for Mars Grate. Love it.

Haven’t been to Florida since I last met you. But I still have my muffins on the wall. 🙂

Enjoy the day and stay safe,

What a great idea to prepare for Mars Public Works! You never know. I look forward to other designs for other planets, cities, or spaces in inner or outer space. It’s truly a mandala, and mandalas heal. I didn’t know about your stroke, but I know how difficult it is to rehab, as many in my mother’s family went through that. Congratulations on your amazing survival and continued creativity.

Thanks Bobbi! Now at the age of 90 I have spent a ‘grate’ rainy afternoon in lockdown in the UK viewing your truly ‘Grate Website’. Good for you to keeping going on, going on in spite of your health problems. I stopped my postcard publishing after 500 different cards but, sadly not a ‘grate’ one among them! Thank you for your interest and support in the past and I send you my very best wishes for the future. Good to hear from you.
Pat Holton (PH Topics)

Hi Bobbi,

I believe that I forgot to mention that I found the cope half of the original pattern for that was used to make the majority of MANHATTAN DPW covers.

It is an iron pattern. The woodworking shop at the foundry actually made a bunch of iron patterns from the original wooden patterns. They chose those patterns that had a very large order; typically all New York City manhole covers. The darned things are too heavy to move! But I did manage to take some photos of them.

Will will send it to you in e-mail.

Best Regards,
Dano, PHP

Hello Bobbi, I am so happy to see you active, continuing to create so nice and interesting pieces of art, now with Al´s participation and the help of your friends!
We always felt, along this past 50 years, the warm of your friendship and love!
Receive our most heart felt greetings, wishing you yet many many years of joyful creating activities with Al.
May our Lord Jesus bless you both with plenty of His Peace, Joy and Hope!
With our Love Tacito & Ana

Greetings, Bobbi ! So good to receive your email and new website after a couple of years off. Great to learn that a medical issue won’t be keeping you away from your passion to create art. The Mars manhole cover is so cool. You were headed into our solar system last time we communicated. All kinds of interesting details on that cover to may any planetary scientist smile. I retired from Caltech about 1.5 years ago, but enjoy visiting the JPL and NASA websites. I’m just a couple of miles from JPL. I look forward to the next idea you hatch and bring to us. Love and Cheers, Jim

Thank you for sharing your beautiful creation and the explanation of how you arrived at the final product.
I watched you fight back from the “stroke”. You are remarkable!
Hugs (from a safe distance)
Joanne Linder (Beatrice’s daughter)

Hi, Bobbi & Al…it’s Regina…I picked you and Al up in Denny’s about four years looking for a ride to Solivita when my car was getting repaired at Tire Kingdom! I did see you at Merrill Gardens when you were recuperating from your stroke so I know how far you have come in your recovery. I was planning on attending your art show at the end of March which was cancelled. I admire you greatly for your perseverance throughout your illness and to Al for his devotion to you. You are both very special people. Hope to see you soon. Regina ?

Dear Bobbi, Your work is wonderful, fresh and so creative, but I think you are also a masterpiece of grit and wonder. Cheering for you Buffalo State grad and looking forward to hearing more of your creativity saga. Good tidings to your biggest supporter, Al. I love the inner glow from the backlights.

Warm wishes and stay safe, Martha

Bobbi, Thrilled to see you have made such wonderful progress. Keep up the progress! It is a challenge every day, I’m sure. Love your MarsGrate…… You inspire each and every one of us!
Love and God’s healing prayers to you! Lorraine and Lee Valdes

So glad you are able to continue with your amazing art specialty these past couple of challenging years. You and your husband are to be commended for your persistence in making the best of life, and we wish you the best in the Space Endeavor of Mars Grate. Congratulations!
Terry and Dee Roderick

Bobbi, I am so, pleasantly amazed! Your artistry and imagination surely knew no bounds on this interesting project. Am so proud of you especially with the challenges you have overcome. Al’s idea for the red glow added an important touch, of course.

Congratulations! Keep the ideas coming!


Dear Bobbi,
I’m so sorry to hear about your stroke and more importantly to hear that it hasn’t stopped your creative and inspirational talents. Thank you for telling the wonderful story of the Challenge for Mars Grate. What an amazing joint effort this was between you, your husband and Karen. Where there’s a will, there’s a way and your drive and will are boundless.
May you continue to follow your creative artistic talents.
May God continue to bless you and your husband, Al.

All my love and fond memories of our days together at Smithtown Elementary.

Bobbi – I thoroughly enjoyed your Great Challenge for Mars Grate, both your story and the Mars grate itself. I marvel at this and many other grates you have accomplished over the years, which send out important messages. Accolades to you Bobbi, Al and friends. I am looking forward to seeing your next GREAT.

Bobbi, you are a true inspiration. Moving forward after a stroke isn’t easy and now finding it more difficult after just losing my husband of 60 years. Not being able to have my family with me for closing makes it most difficult but God will there with us to continue our faith and enjoy that beautiful sunshine. God Bless you & wishes of good health to continue your beautiful talent. Love Arlene

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