Artist Eileen Borgeson has had a long career creating mixed-media sculptures for some high-profile clients, including Disney, Sony, the John Lennon Estate, and Warner Bros. She’s also worked extensively with the aerospace industry, creating sculptures and awards, and her “Freedom of Flight” sculpture was originally conceived as an award statue to be presented to entrepreneur Elon Musk. Once the concept was created, however, Borgeson found herself to be a bit stuck. Although she had worked with a wide variety of media including bronze, crystal, acrylic and fiberoptics, she was unable to find a way to translate the complex negative spaces in her sketch into sculpture – until she discovered 3D printing.
Because she had no experience with 3D printing, Borgeson knew she would have to find a collaborator. Russ Ogi had been working with 3D printing in his own multimedia art for several years, and when Borgeson discovered him through a shared association with the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES), she contacted him to see if he could help translate her sketch into sculptural form.
Ogi was happy to take on the challenge. Borgeson’s sketch depicted a woman with winged arms spread, in the act of lifting off the ground in flight. A DNA double helix wrapped around her body, and a virtual reality headset covered her eyes as she looked upward – a progression from the origin of humanity to its future.
“Every 2D design presents its own challenges. Eileen had only a single drawing,” said Ogi. “For me, the challenge wasn’t how to design the interwoven forms into something that could be physically fabricated but rather envisioning a full 3D sculpture from a single 2D drawing.”
Using Autodesk Maya, Ogi designed a 3D model that was slightly modified from the original. The DNA helix was turned into a more solid swirl design that could support the sculpture, and with Borgeson’s approval, he added on to the virtual reality headgear, placing a winged Roman helmet, reminiscent of that worn by the god Mercury, over it in a further marriage of the past and future of flight.
Once the 3D model was completed, the rest of the process went remarkably fast. The model was 3D printed, and Ogi painted it with oil paints, at which point Borgeson took over and added layers of 23k gold and palladium leaf. It made its debut at the 2013 Hawaii Aerospace Summit – but Borgeson and Ogi still didn’t consider it to be a finished product.
The concept for “Freedom of Flight” originally came about thanks to Borgeson’s longtime partner, pioneering holographic artist Jeff Allen, who hoped to create a version of the piece in holographic form. Sadly, he passed away before that could happen, but Borgeson and Ogi decided to carry out his wishes and began working on an adaptation of the sculpture that could be translated into a hologram. Again, 3D printing came through, and for the first time, the original sculpture and the version optimized for holography are on display together, at the Innovation Hangar in San Francisco.
Located inside the Palace of Fine Arts, the Innovation Hangar is a free, nonprofit museum that exhibits cutting-edge inventions and serves as a workspace for students, artists and entrepreneurs. It opened in February of 2015, one hundred years after the Palace of Fine Arts served as the center of the 1915 World’s Fair. You could look at the Innovation Hangar as the future blooming inside the past – which makes it a perfect venue for Borgeson and Ogi’s tribute to the past and future of flight and technology. The exhibit, fittingly, is entitled “The Evolution of Freedom,” and has a bit of a double meaning – it honors the long evolution of the sculpture itself, as well as the evolution of humanity’s ability to fly. What do you think of this artwork? Discuss in the 3D Printed Freedom of Flight forum over at 3DPB.com.