Corinne Whitaker has been publishing The Digital Giraffe, an award winning monthly art journal, online now for 21 years and exploring the medium of desktop digital image making for 34. Considered to be a pioneer in the exploration of technology and art, it should come as no surprise that she has decided to master 3D printing. Beginning in 2014, she has been creating a series of whimsical and yet solid sculptures.
Her work lies somewhere between Alice and Wonderland and Umberto Boccioni with possibly a dash of Blue Sky Studio’s Robots. Each figure clearly represents some type of biological being, generally bipedal, that deviates from the strict laws of physics and/or robotics in order to perform miraculous contortions that somehow still seem natural to them. Whitaker seems to question the boundaries drawn in our imagination for the possibilities present to other forms of life.
Her earlier work, such as the trio Wynken, Blynken, and Oz are decidedly more robotic in form although Whitaker’s version of robotics has none of the clunky rectilinearity that can sometimes be associated with it. Instead, these are flexible and dynamic creatures with spiral breasts and ears (?), rounded torsos, and decidedly bubbly joints. A fourth figure, the 17″ high Tin Man smiles expectantly, clearly having already been rewarded with the discovery of his heart, and ready, as Whitaker notes for installation at a larger scale in some corporate entryway.
More recently, her works Goose and Gander have gained 3D printed existence based on the protagonists which were originally featured in Whitaker’s book, I Heard the Wild Gander, engaged in a conversation about the latest theories in particle physics from the point of view of an artist. Given the bizarre realities of physics, it’s no surprise that these two creatures resemble those that were created as part of the Oz triad. As physicist Richard Feynman once said, “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, then you don’t understand quantum mechanics.” Part of what is required is a willingness to believe impossible things a la Wonderland’s Red Queen and that suspension of disbelief is a fundamental aspect of Whitaker’s explorations.
Her latest addition to her 3D printed sculpture is a sizable creature called “Alien, Incoming” which leans out from its base at a startling angle and is hailed by Whitaker as “unlike anything you have ever seen before.” This isn’t the first time that Whitaker has set out to challenge the norms. She first got her hands on a computer in 1981 and has been unable to tear herself away ever since. Tech fields are traditionally dominated by men, and young men at that, but that doesn’t phase Whitaker, now in her eighth decade who has not only explored but mastered the fields of digital painting and sculpture and has had no difficulties transitioning to 3D printing.
In a 2000 interview with Sue Fishkoff, Whitaker enthused about the possibilities, and challenges, presented by continually advancing technology:
“It was the Wild West back then. No mouse, no menu. You’d get to a place and wouldn’t know how you got there, or how to get back. What I liked was, there were no rules. You had to explore for yourself. You have to love to learn. There are constant changes, and the learning curve is very steep. You need patience, and a sense of humor.”
Perhaps that’s why so many of her sculptures seem cheerful and full of life. Rather than resigning herself to letting the changes get away from her, Whitaker continues to assist in pushing the boundaries through works such as Dervish which was printed and then hand painted in 22 karat gold leaf or Finian whose tentacled face and knobby body gleams with an iridescent finish applied to a polymer base.
What she has demonstrated is that if you think you know everything there is to know about 3D printing, then you don’t know 3D printing because new knowledge is being created all the time.