Areas of Expertise

Sculpture, computer modeling and animation, rapid prototyping, digital photography.


For a complete portfolio view

Most recently, Visser served as one of the jurors for INTERSCULPt’s International digital competition.


BAE. MFA, The Ohio State University


My field of research is in the application of rapid prototyping processes and their impact upon the education and the development of three-dimensional knowledge for the student. The term rapid prototyping (RP) refers to a class of technologies that can rapidly construct physical models from Computer-Aided Design (CAD) data. These “three dimensional printers” allow designers to quickly create tangible prototypes of their designs, rather than just two-dimensional pictures. Such models have numerous uses. They make excellent visual aids for communicating ideas, which is perfect for the art student. In addition, prototypes can be used for design testing. For example, an aerospace engineer might mount a model airfoil in a wind tunnel to measure lift and drag forces. An artist could use this to construct real world models of his/her various design possibilities and select the best solution to construct large scale. A surgeon can use this process to practice surgery on specific patient’s brains thus eliminating the surprise factor. Designers have always utilized hand made prototypes; Rapid Prototyping allows them to be made faster and less expensively. Drawing from the cutting edge of this research into Rapid Prototyping as an artist I am able to create a work of art within the virtual reality world of the computer and bring that work into the physical world at any scale. This research is extremely unusual in a number of ways. I can of course see my artwork in the setting it will eventually occupy. But more importantly, I can use any data to create a physical form. I can change this data before, during and after any stage of the creation. What this really means is that not only can I create forms from scans of real world objects and rearranged this scanned data to create new forms, but I can go beyond this normal mode in the artistic process to work with data that previously was used only to record sound or light. I can make physical forms of ephemeral information from data that comes from music, voices, data streams, movement, cloud formations, internal and external workings of the human form. In other words I can make works from information not previously thought of as having a physical presence. I can with the aid of computer software and rapid prototyping create a physical form where previously it was not possible. This opens up the entire field of sculpture to new possibilities.


Artwork by Professor Displayed in Conjunction With Olympics

  • Mary Visser’s sculpture “Hera’s Women in Movement.”

Everyone knows the Olympics include numerous athletic competitions. Not as well known is the fact that the Olympics also include an artistic component and that many cultural events take place in conjunction with the games.

Everyone knows the Olympics include numerous athletic competitions. Not as well known is the fact that the Olympics also include an artistic component and that many cultural events take place in conjunction with the games.

This year there will be two artistic exhibitions traveling around China in conjunction with the Olympic games in Beijing. The work of a Southwestern University faculty member will be featured in one of them.

Mary Visser, professor of art, was one of a group of artists worldwide selected to be included in an exhibition titled “e-Form” that will be devoted to the relatively new art medium known as rapid prototyping. The exhibition will travel to the Beijing Today Art Museum in October, to the Shanghai Duolun Museum of Modern Art in November, and to a museum in the southern China city of Chongqing in December.

Other artists featured in the exhibition are from England, New Zealand and France, as well as Arizona, California and New York. Visser is one of a small group of sculptors who have pioneered the use of rapid prototyping in creating sculptural forms, in which three-dimensional models are constructed from computer-aided design (CAD) data. Her work has been included in more than 120 international, national and regional juried exhibitions, including the International Rapid Prototyping Sculpture Exhibition, which toured the United States and Europe from 2003 through 2006, and the annual INTERSCULPT competitive exhibitions held in Paris, France.

Visser will have two pieces included in the “e-Form” exhibition. One, titled The challengers is a group of figures 14 inches tall with a highly detailed colored surface pattern.

This work was constructed by Axiatec in Paris, France. Axiatec is one of only a few places in the world that have the capability to output rapid prototyped works with full detailed color patterns. The second piece is a gold-plated piece called “Hera’s Women in Movement” that Visser designed specifically to pay homage to women’s participation in the Olympics. It is 25 inches tall and features 20 figures of female athletes on five levels. The four figures on each level are joined by a ball.

“The work demonstrates the sense of strategy, support, physical endurance, strength, stamina, grace and agility women athletes have shown in their pursuit of excellence in sports,” Visser says. This piece was built in Austin over the summer at a company called ATI Accelerated Technologies, and was made of polycarbonate/ ABS resin-based powder and glass before being metal plated. Visser’s works have always focused on women’s contributions to society, so she said the opportunity to produce some pieces for the cultural activities surrounding the Olympic games was perfect for her.

“Hera’s Women in Movement” represents the power and beauty of the female athlete in a concerted effort to perform and at the same time support the ability of all women to take part in the Olympics,” she says. The exhibition of rapid prototype sculpture will accompany a second exhibition titled “Digital Stone” that features granite sculpture enlargements designed by American artists Bruce Beasley, Jon Isherwood, Kenneth Snelson and Robert Michael Smith. Both exhibitions are sponsored by Autodesk, a 3-D modeling software company in the United States.

“It is especially wonderful that these two exhibitions will be shown in three different areas of China during the Olympics because this will ensure a worldwide audience for this new field (rapid prototyping),” Visser says. Visser says rapid prototyping allows her to produce very intricate and finely detailed works that would not be possible to construct in any other medium.

“I like the idea that this medium allows me unlimited possibilities for designing a work. This truly opens up the role of the artist. You can create interlocking figures with very delicate gestures that you cannot make in other mediums,” she says. Visser has been a member of the Southwestern faculty since 1979.

Her pieces for the exhibition were produced with the help of a grant from the Cullen Faculty Development Program. They were shipped to China July 31 in 2008 and will be on exhibit until January of 2009.

Honors and Awards

Ms. Visser has completed several large-scale public and private commissions, the most recent being for the City of Austin, and Sprint Inc. Her work has been included in several multimedia and video presentations here and in Europe (e.g. The Computer: A Tool for Sculptors PBS, U.S.A., Clay Artists, America’s Best, France, Texas Artists in Clay, London, England, Clay U.S.A., Boston and Atlanta.) Her work has been featured in Texas Monthly, Artspace, Ceramics Monthly, Sculpture International and in the book, A Comprehensive Guide to Outdoor Sculpture in Texas by Carol Morris Little. Visser’s work has been included in more than 108 international, national and regional juried exhibitions. Most recently her work was included in the International Digital Sculpture Exhibition sponsored by The New York Institute of Technology at the Rourke Art Museum in Minnesota in April of 2002. Her work has received numerous awards among which she received the “1990 Design Excellence Award” from the City of Austin Design Commission for her sculpture “Color At Play”, a Mellon Technology Fellowship in 1998 for her work in multimedia, and a Mundy Fellowship for rapid prototyping in 2002 where she completed a Partnership in Stereo Modeling with PRISM Labs, Inc. at Arizona State University. Visser organized one of the first juried national digital art exhibitions for the Brown Symposium in the early 80s and has published several articles on women artists. Her most recent publication is entitled “Perspectives: The Interface: Computers, 3-D Modeling and Women Sculptors” for the International Sculpture Center web special at this url: She has given numerous workshops on modeling digital sculpture and organized the rapid prototyping workshop for the 2000 International Sculpture Symposium in Houston, Texas. Ms. Visser was one of the curators for the International Rapid Prototyping Sculpture exhibition that has been touring since 2003. This exhibition has been shown around the world and last appeared at the Zoller Gallery at Pennsylvania State University in 2005. The exhibition will appear next In January of 2006 the exhibit will be at the DAAP Galleries at the College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning, University of Cincinnati and in May 2006 at The Robert v. Fullerton Art Museum at California State University in San Bernardino, California. Most recently Visser received a Cullen grant to work with Accelerated Technologies to produce large scale rapid prototyped works of her sculptures in polycarbonate and bronze materials.


Ars Mathematica, Vice President, Paris, France 

ARS MATHEMATICA is a non-profit association, founded in 1992 by Christian LAVIGNE and Alexandre VITKINE. It’s aim is to promote the encounter of Art, Science and Technology and, more particularly, computer sculpture - an valued field of electronic art . In this field, Ars Mathematica has been a pionneer.Since 1993, Ars Mathematica has organized the world biennial of computer sculpture.

The event is called INTERSCULPT and in 1995 it became interactive and simultanous in France and the United States with demonstrations,video-conferencing and transmission of files through the Web. The was the first transnational telesculpture and in 1997, the exhibition became also virtual in ActiveWorlds and internet community. In 1999, INTERSCULPT brought 5 sites together: Paris, Manchester, Cincinnati, Phoenix and Hongkong.. In 1997 and 1999, the French Senate accomodates the French part of the symposium which accompanies the exhibition. The November 2001 event did better: about ten real and virtual venues was interconnected. In 2003, INTERSCULPT celebrated its 10th birthday, and, for the first time, African sculptors, trained in Dakar, Senegal, by Christian Lavigne, created and exhibited digital sculptures.

The Sculpture Network of Texas

The Sculpture Network of Texas is a forum for the sculpture community of Texas to exchange ideas and develop collaborations. The Symposium has been presented annually since 2004. On even numbered years, the TTU School of Art sculpture area presents the Symposium at the Junction campus in collaboration with The Sculpture Network of Texas. On odd numbered years, other Texas venues have used as sites for the Symposium.