MCAD’s “Beyond the Buzz” Digital Fabrication Exhibit Featuring 3D Printed Art Opens Today

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While there is much emphasis on the technical side of 3D printing, as we tend to be enamored by all things technological these days, the stunning visual displays facilitated by 3D printing is also rather enamoring. And today, January 20, 2015, the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) will be opening up its exhibit highlighting the wonders of digitally fabricated art in their show “Beyond the Buzz: New Forms, Realities, and Environments in Digital Fabrication.” This show features many artists using 3D printing in their artwork to stunning visual ends.

The MCAD is an appropriate host for such an exhibit since it provides great support for digital fabrication and 3D printing. The college houses a Digital Fabrication Lab with Dimension and Zcorp printers, a Universal Laser cutter, Next Engine and Sense 3D Laser Scanners, and a Techno 3D Router, within a studio/shop that is 10,000-square-feet. Students in most of the college’s fields use the lab for courses ranging from printmaking, sculpture, installation, furniture, printmaking and 3D foundations.

The exhibit draws from a broad spectrum of digitally fabricated art, and 3D printing is definitely highlighted among the many pieces contributed by 25 artists who all fit the exhibit’s theme of showing “how digital fabrication methods have changed the means and forms of art production.” It includes both artists who “primarily employ digital modeling and construction methods” and others who use digital fabrication as one tool in their artistic toolbox.

Kerry Morgan, Director of Exhibition and Public Programs at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, explained to that:

“This is the most ambitious show of this sort that we have brought to Minnesota. Two other exhibitions, one at Gallery13 and one at the Regis Center for Art at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, did not include such a breadth of artists and were not up for as long.”

Morgan also explained that she selected participating artists by consulting her colleagues “Don Myhre, who runs the 3D shop at MCAD, and Brad Jirka, professor of fine arts.  [They] brought most of the names to me as they both use and teach 3D printing technologies at our college.”

Here is a review of a sampling of the 3D printed art on display at Minnesota’s most ambitious fabrication art exhibit yet.

Corinne Whitaker: Wynken, Blynken, and Oz (2014)

gr_wynkenred_print.jpg.crop_displayOur first piece is by artist Corinne Whitaker , who has been 3D printing sculpture for five or six years, and it is a digital image of three whimsical and futuristic 3D printed sculptures. On her expansive website, she describes that this piece is intended to suggest “what another species might look like.” The piece appears to still distinguish male and female human anatomical traits, while pushing us to look past the present to the cyborg future that awaits. Much of her sculpture is inspired by futuristic/cyborg-type themes, and this one is emblematic of her overall 3D printed artistic vision.

Dave Beck: Bob (Arbor Mansion Mowing Lawn) (2009)

Bob (Arbor Mansion Mowing Lawn)“, from the Nebraska City Portrait Series created while Dave Beck was an artist-in-residence at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts in gps_3d_print_sculpture_1Nebraska City, NE, is a piece made of laser cured resin and mounted on acrylic– measuring 17″ x 17″ x 4″ . His website describes the design process well: “Using a GPS device, I shadowed various community members, tracking their movement throughout the day. These tracks created unconventional portraits, which I translated into 3D digital models on the computer. I then printed each “portrait” out on a stereolithography machine, mounted them on plexiglass, and framed them in a shadow box style frame.” While at first glance it appears that “Bob” is just a blob of orange resin, when you understand more about what you are looking at, you realize Beck established a very unique way to capture and express individuals conducting specific motions.

Elona Van Gent: WheelsClawsTeeth (2006)

vangent_wheelsclawsteeth.jpg.crop_displayI live near Gulf Coast beaches and frequently see wild fish head/ barnacle combinations that spark my imagination about all of the possible sea life that we do not even know exists. Elona Van Gent’s “WheelsClawsTeeth,” her largest 3D printed artwork to date, does the same thing to me as these fish/shell hybrid beach objects do. It is highly suggestive of unknowable life, either presently hidden to us, or slated to emerge in the future. It was built using an old school LOM (laminated object manufacturing) machine, and it expresses well the artists mission to utilize “three dimensional computer technologies to explore the metaphorical and morphological potential of hypothetical life forms.” In addition to making hypothetical life forms, Van Gent is also Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Programs in the Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan.

Helena Lukasova: I am the Venus (2013)

This next sculptor uses 3D printing and is also focused on morphing physical forms.  In this case we have Helena Lukasova’s “I am the Venus” series.  Lukasova uses her own body as a template for a series modeled after the Venus figurines that are over 28,000 years old.  The series was printed in the Czech Republic by MCAE Systems, and it is accompanied by a performance element that can be viewed here. As Lukasova explains, unintended body movement provided infinite variations, which “demonstrates the essence of female form – my body acquires the archetypal quality. The shape, size and scale I associate with Paleolitic Venuses, which had spiritual meaning and were carried around.”  Lukasova also had one Venus scupture materialized in marble by the Digital Stone Project.lukasova_i_am_the_venus.jpg.crop_display

Christopher Manzione: Scholar’s Stones (2013)

These small 3D printed stones are made in the Chinese tradition of the “scholar’s stones or viewing” stones, as artist Christoper Manzione explains. The “stones” are designed using a variety of 3D modeling techniques, including CAD 3d modeling, 3D scanning and tabletstone sculpting.  Scholar stones were customarily placed in Chinese gardens, and they vary in size and shape.  Manzione’s stones are appearing in the Beyond the Buzz exhibit, and they, too, vary in size, shape, and color.  As the artist summarizes: ” These objects are made to reflect the means and digital environment from which they come.”

Hopefully this review of some of the 3D printing artists featured in MCAD’s “Beyond the Buzz” digital fabrication art exhibit has exposed you to more excellent artwork or even convinced you to check this exhibit out. MCAD’s Director of Exhibition and Public Programs, Kerry Morgan, summarized 3D printing’s potential in the art world to

“As I know many of the artists included in this show have articulated, the field of 3D printing makes conceivable and makable what would otherwise not be possible. The creative potential is enormous and the purpose of this exhibition is to convey to our students and the general public that attends that 3D printing technology is changing what and how we express just what it means to be human.”

The exhibit is free and open to the public, and the gallery hours are listed here.  Artists will be participating in a panel discussion before an opening reception in the College’s Auditorium 150 at 5:00 pm on Friday, January 23, 2015.  Discuss this story in the Beyond The Buzz forum thread on

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