Penn State School of Visual Arts Associate Professor Cristin Millett returned to Gramolazzo, Italy, as a resident artist at the 2016 Digital Stone Project (DSP). Millett completed a residency at the 2015 Digital Stone Project and was invited to return this summer, but this time, she was accompanied by four Penn Staters: Jamie Heilman, supervisor of DigiFab, the digital fabrication facilities in the College of Arts and Architecture; Hillel O’Leary, M.F.A. candidate in the School of Visual Arts; and alumni Cydnei Mallory (B.F.A., 2014), M.F.A. candidate at Arizona State University, and Jeff Repko (B.F.A., 2013), M.F.A. candidate at the University of Wisconsin. The five representatives of Penn State were part of an international group of eighteen professional artists, university educators, and students who used robots to carve marble under the hot Tuscan sun.
Residents of the DSP developed their ideas using advanced 3D computer-modeling software. Employing the latest innovations in digital stone fabrication technologies, projects were machined in marble with a 7-axis robotic arm at the Garfagnana Innovazione and then participants finished the stone by hand. At the culmination of the residency, the artwork was exhibited in Hard Copy at the Sala Ex Marmi in Pietrasanta, Italy.
Millett’s research on medical history informs her artwork about the human body. She creates objects and installations that represent an intersection of scientific ideas and contemporary aesthetic observations. One track in her research is a series of so-called “obstetrical phantoms,” or birthing models. As a resident of the Digital Stone Project, Millett created Visible Phantom, an obstetrical model that capitalizes on the translucency of marble to suggest the sensual quality of skin. Once the sculpture returns to the United States, she plans to project digital imagery captured through medical imaging techniques onto the smooth ovoid surface.
Each of the Penn Staters implemented diverse approaches and pushed the limits of digital stone fabrication technology. In Chain Maille, Heilman explored the frontiers of 7-axis robotic machining, but also tested the structural thresholds of marble by creating a network of interlocking stone links. Mallory’s sculpture referenced our embryologic beginnings, where in the early stages of formation, both genders are present. In his sculpture, Uncanny, Repko explains that he “simplified and abstracted Michelangelo’s David, a visual representation of the dilution and simplification of creative thinking.” O’Leary suspended topographic islands of marble with red wire cable attached to a steel pipe structure to create Terra Incognita. Of his experience, O’Leary says, “This was a fantastic learning and growing experience. To be able to travel and exhibit internationally, while working alongside artists from near and far, and becoming immersed in both the history and the future of marble sculpture, was a truly remarkable experience that I will not soon forget.”
Millett received generous support for her research and travel from Autodesk, as well as Penn State’s College of Arts and Architecture Hess Research Endowment. O’Leary’s project was supported by Autodesk, the College of Arts and Architecture, and the School of Visual Arts.
Click here to view the image gallery. Photos courtesy of Cristin Millett and Jamie Heilman
Information on artworks:
Bianco Acquabianca marble
Venato Orto di Donna marble
Venato Orto di Donna marble
Arabescato Vagli marble
Calacatta Vagli marble