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Digital Technology as Art

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Analytics and problem solving are essential skills for artists of all disciplines. By collaborating with other skilled professionals , artists can broaden the spectrum and depth of ideas and break down barriers of traditional standards. Today’s creative field of visual art utilizes new technologies, science, ecology, engineering, politics, and many more strategies of expression in ways that have never been used before.

The new Gregory Allicar Museum of Art, formerly known as the University Art Museum, includes a permanent collection of over 3,000 works. Colorado State University’s newly upgraded museum brings a wide variety of high quality art that caters to educational needs across many disciplines for students, but also focuses on multicultural perspectives and “Bringing Art Integration to Youth” (BRAINY). With so many sculptures, paintings, prints, textiles, and multimedia works of art, Keith Jentzsch, the museum’s Chief Preparator and Operations Manager, must make specialized and unique presentations for each work of art.

Jentzsch's abstract art incorporates red wood table slats, tense braided wires, and a white 3D printed crow

Jentzsch’s abstract sculpture incorporates red wood, tense braided wires, and a white 3D printed crowPhoto courtesy Keith Jentzsch

“Making support mounts for display, storage, and shipping is a very specialized operation, and I must safely and securely follow museum standards,” Jentzsch explained. “Designing, fabricating, and following these standards can be very challenging.” Displaying some works of art can be complicated, and require a careful archival process. For example, sculptures cannot be put directly on dry paint, but mounts must be camouflaged so it doesn’t distract from the visual art itself. Jentzsch designed a series of mounts for African tribal masks that are hidden from view. “It gives them a spiritual essence of presentation,” he said of his work. He also designed a system of lights and acrylic mirrors to illuminate a collection of 18th century miniature broach paintings. When it comes to unique works, Jentzsch appreciates using 3D printing to display  art. “I can 3D scan the base of a sculpture and review the 3D base in a software program,” Jentzsch explained. He can then print a mount that preserves the artwork, fits it perfectly, and can be customized for the needs of each 3D piece.

Jentzsch uses 3D printing technology in his own artwork as well. “An artist’s personal work is synchronized with facets of design, technical applications, and high quality craftsmanship,” Jentzsch said. His most recent work incorporated a white 3D printed crow, designed and printed at Idea-2-Product. “I wanted the  details of the crow printed close to a real crow’s structure and scale. Crows are intelligent birds, and I see them as really precious, not irrelevant, so I give respect to living things,” Jentzsch said of his art. The crow is incorporated into a sculpture of an abstracted customized table. The piece, which uses slats of old red wood and tightened braided wire, expresses tension. When Jentzsch added the crow, he considered painting the crow more realistically, but decided it fit the piece better in its raw printed form. “I like the conceptual weird complexity of a black crow being presented as white, as a 3D blank canvas is waiting for acceptance and respect.”

Jentzsch's white crow was printed in halves at Idea-2-Product Photo courtesy Ray Huff

Jentzsch’s white crow was printed in halves at Idea-2-Product
Photo courtesy Ray Huff

3D printing fits in a more conceptual vein of artwork. “Art is really a strongly analytical field. Artists are problem solvers,” Jentzsch said as he explained the importance of 3D printing in his artwork. “Artists can collaborate productively through and with scientists and other professionals,” he explained. “I want to know what engineers say, and get a clearer, more in-depth understanding of what they know.” Technology continually helps artists solve problems and create new pieces. “I get frustrated with corporate institutions, so my work is sometimes based on expressing facets and tension between the fake and the real, or opening new levels of visual perception.” Jentzsch said that 3D printing can help capture the concepts he expresses, which is why he chose to use a 3D printed white crow.

“Like a poet that opens the written language for emotional expression, artists do the same with a visual language. Visual art is an interesting and special way to broaden our levels of perception and express new ideas.” It can be said that 3D printing is the same as well. The creations at Idea-2-Product allows artists, scientists, and hobbyists to think of things differently, and create something unique. By combining technology and art, designers and scientists alike are able to contribute to the world in a new way. Even then, Jentzsch said, “I respect and enjoy technology as a tool, but it shouldn’t take over your mind with fictional entertainment. The real world is below your feet, not on a flat screen.”

The Gregory Allicar Museum of Art opens at CSU on September 10, 2016.