It should come as no surprise at this point that I'm interested in digital modeling and 3D printing; I like the idea that objects in the Met's collection can be used as inspiration and raw material for new works. For that reason, when I recognized a model of a Met object at 3D Notion, a recent exhibition of 3D-printed works at the Bruce High Quality Foundation University, I was immediately intrigued. The artist, Daniele Frazier, had incorporated a 3D model of Jean Antoine Houdon's Bather (from a fountain group), a sculpture in the Met's collection. I caught up with Daniele to ask about her inspiration for the artwork, Implied Water, and about her artistic process.
Don Undeen: How did you come up with the idea for your piece?
Daniele Frazier: I collect all kinds of objects and materials and for a while they kick around my studio until I start asking myself, "Why did I get this thing?" Once I can identify what interested me about an object (a form of talking myself out of throwing it away), I can then build on those qualities. In this piece, I started with the lily pad, which I bought right out of a koi pond at an aquarium store. I liked the size, color, and the fact that it floated. I began to envision a sculpture that was low and broad—more landscapey. I added the flower, which was from a nightlight, and wired in the pink LED light element. I then 3D-printed a riser for the underside of the lily pad so that it could float a bit off of the pedestal. From there, I knew I wanted there to be a figure of some sort and that this piece was about implying the presence of water. I became fixed on the idea that the subject of the piece was something invisible. This is a subtle concept, sort of an intellectual "slow burn," that prompted me to keep the imagery quiet and feminine.
Don Undeen: Why did you choose to work with an object from the Met's collection?
Daniele Frazier: I ended up with a piece from the Met's collection because I was searching online for a 3D object that I could appropriate, just like the other elements of the sculpture. Most importantly, I needed a figure that I could place on a ledge and which had an arm or leg dangling over. That was where the piece would become dynamic. I wanted the figure to have the familiarity and simplicity of a statue because the figure itself would not be the focal point. This is not a portrait.
Don Undeen: In what ways did you modify this work from the original scan, and why?
Daniele Frazier: I modified the original scan by severing the leg off of the woman at exactly the level where the surface of the water would be. This is the crucial point where the trick of implying water would happen.
Don Undeen: What do you like about working with scans of classical art objects?
Daniele Frazier: I like the ready-made quality of museum-store tchotchkes, which set a precedent for recycling and using art reproductions in new works, so I wasn't afraid of the gesture becoming the subject of the piece. I was safe with something as recognizable as a marble statue. Knowing that this piece is Jean Antoine Houdon's Bather is unimportant because I am using it as a general symbol of that type of figure. MakerBot prints are monochromatic and not highly detailed, and so for this figure to be all white and relatively smooth is excused by the fact that it reads as marble. But like I said, it's all about the foot hanging over.
Don Undeen: Could you tell us a bit about your process—the tools (hardware, software, physical) you used, the printer, if there are non-3D-printed parts as well as printed parts, etc.?
Daniele Frazier: I used a MakerBot Replicator 2X. I scanned the lily pad and then autotraced the silhouette in Illustrator. I offset that path by about an inch and exported it to SketchUp, where I extruded that path to get the desired height. I epoxied on the battery holder. The figure's leg was cut off with a Japanese handsaw. I also frosted the inside of the clear flower to give the pink LED light an evenness.
Don Undeen: Anything else you'd like to add?
Daniele Frazier: Being able to watch a sculpture print in lateral layers gave me insight into the nuances of the Bather and how it might have originally been approached by the sculptor, who used a reductive technique. This piece actually inspired me to get out the clay and try my hand at modeling the old-fashioned way.