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Artwork by Professor Displayed in Conjunction With Olympics

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    Mary Visser with her sculpture titled "The Jugglers."

Exhibition features work created by rapid prototyping

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 Jugglers,” 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 “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. 

“‘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. Visser says she is still undecided on whether she will go to China to see her work exhibited.