Joshua Harker

Pushing the boundaries of sculpture with intricate 3D printing

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My intent was to explore and depict the architecture of the imagination, to interpret and share forms evident in the mind’s eye

Joshua Harker

Pushing the boundaries of sculpture with intricate 3D printing

Self-proclaimed "troublemaker " Joshua Harker creates intricate 3D-printed works that near the border of impossibility, and he has been able to do so by taking the road less traveled by artists before him. Taking advantage of technology that's developed alongside his art, he uses platforms like Kickstarter to make his works accessible to a wider audience. In the late '80s, he started drawing using the surrealist technique of automatism, letting go of rational control and discovering what the subconscious wanted to express. "My intent was to explore and depict the architecture of the imagination," he says. "To interpret and share forms evident in the mind’s eye, but that cannot otherwise be described." But physical limitations barred him from moving these ideas into sculpture. "I wanted to give form to the process but there was no way to create what I was doing three-dimensionally. No material, process, or technology existed that would allow me to work in the spontaneous way needed and provide intuitive control over the complexity of shape and volume."

Introduced to 3D printers in the '90s (while working as a commercial sculptor in design and development studios), Harker essentially waited for the technology—from modeling software to material engineering—to advance to a stage where he could use it to make the art he envisioned. And in the 2000s, he started creating his "Tangle" series: 3D sculptures so technically complex that it would have been near impossible to sculpt from traditional mediums. From his intricate skulls and custom portrait masks to exploring art in four dimensions through projection-mapped sculpture installations, Harker wields his fluency of CAD and 3D printing to bring viewers face-to-face with something that's always been veiled in the past: our inner imaginations.

“I find it's been like a metronome keeping pace," says Harker on the balance between developing new processes alongside changing technologies. "While I do search and wait for specific things to happen that I can use for my work, I'm also blown away and inspired by all the new technology." He continues, "I often find myself trying to push round pegs through square holes to get what I need. So, I think I may just be too impatient to wait for something to solve all my problems. I just get started with whatever's close.”

Harker is interested in bringing his 3D-printed creations to life through kinetic sculpture, animation and live action, as well as exploring the use of 3D bioprinting in art. "Maybe in regards to how we've approached prosthetics but in a more body modification or decoration realm similar to tattoos, piercings, and fashion," says Harker. "I think there's a lot of interesting territory to explore in regards to art, ethics, and our ability to participate in the design and function of our bodies." He's still waiting on the medical industry to be receptive, however.

Illustration by Jason Ratliff, images courtesy of Joshua Harker

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