At first glance Bathsheba Grossman’s intricate sculptures could be mistaken for imagined structures weaved and crafted at the hand of a precise laser cut. Not so. Grossman’s art is the product of emerging technology, far away from the bronze and wax casting practices of Degas.
Grossman’s approach to art is much more left-brained than her predecessors. Instead of imagining a structure to create, Grossman relies on algorithms and scientific structures to produce elegant pieces of fine art with the help of computer-aided design (CAD) and a 3D printer.
Grossman first saw the potential of combining math, software and sculpture after getting an undergraduate degree in mathematics from Yale University, a master’s in sculpture from the University of Pennsylvania and coding professionally for 15 years.
In 2000, she bought a 3D printer for $55,000 and began “sculpting” algorithms, printing them first in plastic and later in metals. She says the technology gave her the kind of freedom and flexibility in design she could never achieve with traditional sculpting methods. 3D printing, she believes, is more than a blip on the tastemakers’ radar.
“It’s the most exciting thing to happen to sculpture since lost wax casting—and that was 6,000 years ago,” she says.
Grossman’s work intersects squarely between art, technology and science, and she is always looking for new ways to innovate. When a biologist friend asked her to create a 3D image of a protein, Grossman jumped at the chance—but not without some creative ingenuity. Grossman wrote custom software that culls scientific data to make a CAD model of the protein structure and then used laser glass etching to produce the design in the transparent cube.
“You can hold them in your hand and see things you can’t see on screen,” she says. Pharmaceutical companies now regularly commission Grossman to make etchings like these as retirement gifts and awards, or to commemorate new products.
Today, Grossman’s creative curiosity has taken her in a new direction. She is experimenting with unique ways to combine 3D printing and traditional hand-cast glass, designing and printing ceramic molds and then adding hand-cast glass to the steel and bronze sculptures.“My goal is to combine 3D printing with other artistic techniques and the universe of old craftsmanship,” she says. “The trouble right now is that I end up with a lot of broken glass.”
In the multi-part feature with WIRED Brand Lab, Lenovo looks at six extraordinary innovators who work relentlessly to move their field forward. Check all six stories from the series here.
Rahil Arora leads Lenovo’s Customer Stories program.