Project II: ATLAS

ATLAS is the combination of two components: an art installation and a book. Currently, I am seeking funding for the installation series, called PLANETS, which is a series of seven 3D-printed sculptures (see prototype above) and seven Viewmasters. Read the following artist statement used in the grant application to understand the conceptual foundation of the installation. 

Following a health scare in 2016, I noticed that I was locking myself away more often in my studio, desiring less human contact and even going so far as to wonder what would happen if the Sun went out. I remember similar periods of contemplation as a child; I would look out my window and imagine myself floating among the stars –– alone. At that age, space travel was a dream that seemed like a distinct possibility. Not anymore though. Aging provides limits on what we are physically capable of, and these limitations, in turn, affect our imagination. When we are children, daydreaming is common, and imagination is encouraged. This relapse into a child-like mentality has been the foundation of my series PLANETS. In a way, I am a child in a science class who has been tasked with making a model of the solar system. However, these creations are less carefree and optimistic but are rather informed by my turbulent phase of entering adulthood.

This body of work I am proposing will be a multimedia installation comprised of seven Viewmasters and seven 3D-printed sculptures. Viewmasters are toys that allow the viewers to experience 3D imagery by placing a reel of images into the toy and directing the gaze towards the light. The sculptures are made of 3D-printed sandstone pieces in the shape of an open-faced heptahedron (a seven-sided, three-dimensional object) mounted on a metallic frame.

The title of the series, PLANETS, is of Greek origin, meaning “wandering star.” Up until the 16th century, the Sun and the Moon were considered planets because the Earth was viewed as the centre of the universe. It was thought that everything was revolving around the Earth and humanity. It is for that reason that the Sun and the Moon are considered planets in this installation. During this particular time in history, as astronomers looked through telescopes to understand our place in the universe, alchemists were attempting to convert common metals into gold and find the elixir of life. Just as there were seven visible planets at the time, there were seven metals known to humans. Seven has long been considered a mystic number in Western society, transcending culture, religion, and geography. Therefore, seven occurs throughout my project: from the seven Viewmasters and the seven images within the Viewmaster reel, to the seven sculptures and the seven-sided shape of the sculpture itself.

Each component of the PLANETS project contributes to a multimedia self-portrait. The visuals that inform the narrative found in the Viewmasters consider my struggles with becoming an adult and the slow realization that I am limited –– in body, mind, and existence. The imagery references the book Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, which features a boy who visits seven planets to understand what coming-of-age means. The Viewmasters act as a telescope transporting the viewer to the different planets. The planets that the viewers see are the same sculptures that are hanging on the wall next to them. I will be the boy in the images, reinterpreting the compositions found in Le Petit Prince.

As mentioned earlier, each sculpture is an open-faced heptahedron, consisting of two components: the 3D-printed material (six triangles and one rhombus) and the metallic frame which holds the 3D-printed pieces together. From a distance, the seven sculptures will look identical, but as the viewer moves closer, distinguishing features will appear. There are seven designs which are based on our celestial neighbours: the Moon, the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter. The textures will be sourced from NASA’s public archive of images from their various space telescopes and manned missions. These images are in the public domain. MOON, for example, uses images taken during the Apollo missions in the 1960s and 1970s. As these sculptures are not exact replicas, these textures are the only references to the individual planets. Depending on the specific sculpture, the metal used for the frame will vary. The type of metal used to plate the metallic frame will be based on alchemical references to the planets: MOON (silver, Ag), SUN (gold, Au), MERCURY (should be mercury, but it is liquid at room temperature, so gallium, Ga, will be used instead), VENUS (copper, Cu), MARS (iron, Fe), SATURN (lead, Pb), and JUPITER (tin, Sn). These metallic frames, when lit, will add a reflective element to the wall behind the hanging sculptures.

This installation of sculpture, imagery, and interactive objects is a contemporary approach to art making which considers the gallery space an integral part of the work. This exhibition follows in the footsteps of Canadian artists such as Pascal Grandmaison, Geoffrey Farmer, and Douglas Coupland, whose installations are immersive experiences, combining sculpture and imagery to enhance the physical experience of the viewer. Viewers are not simply looking at the images but interacting with them.