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Perspectives:

The Interface: Computers, 3-D Modeling and Women Sculptors

by Mary Visser


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Elona Van Gent Associate Professor at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids Michigan creates data bases (an electric library) of forms, textures, words, and concepts to help with visualizing related elements in her work. For a number of years she has been collecting images and quotations that relate to her studio work and logging them into a simple database. Van Gent has given each image two categorical descriptions --the first category is an attempt to logically describe the subject of the image or text and the second category is a randomly chosen description based on a list of animal types described by Jorge Luis Borges. This data based software allows for additional information such as sources and keywords to be added. Van Gent's database is searchable through choosing either the logical or random category and it allows for viewing entered forms in a number of different layouts. Her database serves as a combination library and sketchbook--both a repository for things she wants to keep accessible and a way to explore ideas and forms related to her studio work. Images or parts of images from the electronic library can be gathered onto a single page and then placed in the background of a 3-d modeling program. The 3-d modeling program is a 3-dimensional sketchbook in which objects can be constructed 3-dimensionally in a manner similar to the way they would be built physically. Unlike a pencil sketchbook, objects modeled on the computer can be rotated to be seen from any point of view, rendered in different surface styles, edited, and even animated. As objects are being modeled on the computer, images from her electronic sketchbook can sit open for easy reference.

"There is no comparison between what can be done with a piece of paper in terms of sketching 3-dimensional ideas, just no comparison between that ... and the ability to draw in three dimensions on the computer." ... Elona Van Gent

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Corinne Whitaker sculptor and publisher of the online art magazine Digital Giraffe creates sculptural forms electronically. She has exhibited on an international level in such galleries as the New York Digital Salon/Visual Arts Museum, New York City, Centre for Photography as an Art-Form, Bombay, India; Atelier Nord Electronic Gallery (Norway/Internet); Cyberkind Electronic Journal,World Wide Web Internet; Brandstater Gallery, Riverside, California; Iightfantastic Gallery, Michigan State University; Institute for Design and Experimental Art, Sacramento; Museum of Art, California, Kansas City Art Institute, Missouri, Festival Internazionale di Computer Art, Riccione, Italy, John Michael Kohler Art Center Gallery,Wisconsin, and many others. Whitaker began working with computers in 1981. She visualizes forms of fantastic color that are later fabricated into aluminum, bronze, or stainless steel sculptures. Where others work clay or carve marble, Whitaker use zeros and ones, shown as phosphorescent electrons on a monitor, to create forms that are later fabricated into solid sculpture. "The computer is my obsession, my passion, and my intense joy. After almost twenty years of ephemera in cyberspace, it is deeply satisfying to produce tangible sculpture. The learning curve is steep. The technical requirements are daunting. But the transformation of infinite digital possibilities into solid forms is immensely rewarding." Corinne Whitaker

"Creating 3 dimensional forms electronically has been a holy grail for artists since Macintosh recreated the desktop in 1984. Parallel processing, multi-tasking, faster clock speeds and ever more powerful computers have finally brought us within reach of that goal. As is often the case, artists had to wait for technology to catch up with their visions." ... Corinne Whitaker

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Rose Stasuk is a Florida-based artist born in Chicago, who holds an M.F.A. in Electronic Intermedia from the University of Florida. Stasuk is known for her video sculpture; media-assisted performance and interactive, multimedia installations. She is currently working in closer association with the "machine" substituted here for a range of computer software and technologies that facilitate digital imaging and hyper textual language coding for creating interactive, Websites. As a result Stasuk has adapted her artwork to participate in online, collaborative and solo exhibition opportunities on the internet. As an artist, Stasuk attempts to undermine the homogeneous sales pitch of the mass communication model with individual circumstance. Information sampling is characteristic of Rose Stasuk's hypermedia project "Jason and the Cybernauts." For this project Stasuk collected found imagery from newspapers, magazines, photographs, films and video. Using 3 dimensional modeling and animation programs she designed the physical set that the viewer encounters before entering the virtual set of the computer program. Stasuk blurs the real world and the virtual world by painting the "furniture" in the same texture as rendered in the virtual world of the computer. Her conversion in artistic intent from unstated, unconscious message to the use of semiotics and montage shifts the importance to the viewer. This interaction is primarily viewer dependent because the readers own cultural experiences determines in part how the codes and signs which make up the context will be interpreted.

"If I have internalized the depictive conventions of my traditional art upbringing, in my current work I now divulge these precepts as social constructions. I intentionally exploit practical, cultural experience shared through communication media. .... There is, I think, an obvious advantage to using a system which simulates human intelligence and responds to human needs without prejudice or favor. The possible situations of democratization that computers create by facilitating information access and group interaction may ultimately lead us to realize our interdependence." ... Rose Stasuk

The computer is a only a tool, but it is a powerful one when coupled with the internet. Just as the sculptor in the modern period was influenced by the industrial age, the artist in this post-modern period has had to deal with the electronic age. In the past with modernist works artists generally tried to hide their sources to minimize the interaction thus control the viewer's vision. In this post modern culture one sees artists and architects embracing a rich variety of images and sources while rejecting the visually stark elements represented by minimalism which is seen as the "end" of modern art. The internet has made it possible for images of artworks to be accessible at any time to an international audience. This removed viewing may require a more direct connection to ones sources thus the move toward an interactive medium. What I have found in many of the works by women sculptors using the computer and see more broadly in our general culture is a pointing more specifically toward ones sources. I think many of us can relate to collecting things as an artist and the computer process offers us a way to create virtual catalogs of visual 3 dimensional forms. Once collected the software lets the artist shift and recontextualize the information. The internet offers the viewer a more active way to participate in this process. The post modern movement away from minimalists works runs parallel with the use of the computer as a tool in the creative process. Unlike a pencil and paper sketchbook the computer allows you unlimited ability to replicate, reconstruct and renew your experience with an unlimited number of forms, surfaces and mediums. Virtual reality coupled with the internet offers the viewer more accessibility as an active participant in the aesthetic experience. These artists who also happen to be women have taken this tool and pushed its boundaries to fit their visions.


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