The statue of Venus de Milo, on display in the Louvre, embodies the ancient Greek ideals of beauty. That connotation has remained so strong that for a time its image was included in the seal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The very idea that there is a most perfect form of beauty is one that has been the center of great debate both in and out side of the realm of philosophy.
While most people profess a love for beauty, exactly what constitutes the beautiful is quite difficult to distinguish. As they say, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” For the Greeks there developed a fairly standardized canon of beauty and for many centuries the Venus de Milo has been recognized as the embodiment of those ideals, in the form of the goddess Aphrodite. However, questions continue to arise as to the value of those ideals themselves.
Brazilian artist Marcelo Pasqua has been exploring and commenting on cultural ideas of beauty in the human form through the creation of a series of deformed Venus de Milo statues. Using Zbrush to introduce deformations and Maya dynamics to create the simulations, he created a parade of variations of the traditional Western beauty. After printing the pieces in ABS plastic, he used a combination of red primer and bronze, copper, and green paints to give them the patina of an ancient work.
“The figure of the Venus was transformed by the inputs into a variety of different body types in order to make us think about the Hellenistic concept of beauty and reflect on our current aesthetic standards,” Pasqua explained. “I believe that 3D printing opens up a whole new world of artistic exploration, and one ripe for experimentation because it is so new.”
Utilizing the unpredictable variations created when a ‘glitch’ is introduced into the 3D process is becoming an increasingly accepted mechanism for exploring difference. In September, we covered the work of Mathieu Schmidt as he used subtle shifts in geometry introduced by ‘glitching’ the inputs for his 3D printed landscapes. Schmidt was exploring the overwhelming sense of unease created in these malformed landscapes while Pasqua is asking the viewer to undergo the same self-examination in relation to the Venus.
“I grew up studying sculpture and drawing,” Pasqua said, “always finding myself drawn toward the digital processes and yet something made me believe that I needed to study classical art. So, I went to Florence, Italy to study the masters and that profoundly influenced the way I think and the connections I drew into 3D printing despite it being such a different method of creation.”
All told, he spent a total of two years in Italy at the Florence Academy of Art, absorbing the rich history of visual expression. Following his time there, he studied visual effects in London. His work spans media from painting to sculpture to digital production, always with an exploration of the ways in which forms can be pulled and distorted to create a visceral impact. He is now the head of his own studio in Brazil, gou/Factory, which focuses on conceptual art.
The printed Venus de Milo series, created with a Brazilian Sethi3D printer, asks the viewer to confront deformation and to question the value of works of art that are not beautiful. Questions of which bodies are beautiful and what types of figure ‘have the right’ to be depicted in art versus swept to the side are exactly the same ethics of aesthetics issues being explored through things such as the Toy Like Me movement or Pro Infirmis’ creation of disabled mannequins.
Other 3D designers have questioned the Venus de Milo as well, such as Virginia Postrel, who may have discovered the original pose of the full statue–complete with arms–thanks to 3D printing technology.
The media of 3D printing seems particularly appropriate for the questioning of traditional ideals of beauty as minor modification in the 3D ‘DNA’ can introduce perfectly individual creations while still being part of a potentially large population of objects. While the deformations introduced into the creation of Pasqua’s models are not meant to represent particular or realistic human differences, it is their very separation from that which makes them an ideal place for the consideration of the beauty of deviance.
Let us know what you think of these explorations of form, function, design, and beauty in the 3D Printed Venus de Milo Glitches forum thread at 3DPB.com.