“Full Circle started for me in the 1990s when I started working with a computer,” artist and professor Mary Visser said. “I was doing the Brown Symposium and they had one of the first Macs here [at the university]… and they had a wonderful graphic of a Japanese woman on it, and I thought, ‘You can do that with a pixel?’ I was hooked.”
Visser wasn’t the only artist intrigued by the artistic possibilities of computers and the Internet. She soon found DAAP, a community of sculptors, artists, and architects who created in an online world supplied by the 3D virtual reality platform Active Worlds.
“First we were just sharing files across the internet because we didn’t have a way to build any of them,” Visser said.
This all changed in the early 2000s with the invention of a new technology called rapid prototyping.
Basically, a rapid prototyping machine uses a digital line drawing made up of 900,000 tiny triangles as a template for creating a tangible version of a digitally created sculpture. The machine rolls a fine layer of some sort of powdered resin over a surface, and wherever the triangles make a point on the line drawing, the computer tells lasers to fuse that resin. This is called selective laser centering and it allows for extremely detailed work that’s impossible to achieve using mediums like wax or clay.
“[Rapid prototyping] offers the sculptor a different way of thinking. You’re not limited by gravity and you’re not limited by reality… You can have imagination, you don’t have to be real,” Visser said.
Full Circle celebrates this new way of creating and the artists who pioneered it. The exhibit is on display in the Fine Arts Gallery until November 9.