about the artist
David Van Ness received his MFA in Sculpture from Cranbrook Academy of Art, graduating in 2003. He was the recipient of an Alvin Specter Scholarship and received a Joan Mitchell nomination. Previously, he earned his BFA in Sculpture, graduating cum laude from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2001. He has exhibited widely nationally, in both solo and group exhibitions. He is currently an Assistant Professor prof New Media Art at Northern Arizona University, where he serves on the Curriculum Committee and is a Faculty Advisor for Makerlab.
I spent several years working on the idea that soon all matter would be malleable, and humankind would be in charge of the design and function of everything, including all forms of life. I originally drew inspiration from Jack Womack’s Elvissey, in which mothers applied chemicals and radiation to create sculptures they would “birth.” Eventually, I began to experiment with digital design and fabrication, and I began manipulating 3D models on the code level. I saw this code as the “DNA” of my sculptures and the computer as a collaborator, rather than a tool that I used to design my art. I used a glitch art technique to alter the 3D model by adding and deleting parts of the file. I’ve refined this process and can now manipulate these 3D models fairly accurately and intentionally—I began to develop a workflow that allowed me to manipulate the 3D models with known datasets and encode concept into the file of the 3D model. My modernist training made it difficult for me to understand what the actual art form was. I continually debated if the 3D model, the data used to create the 3D model or the actual 3D print was my actual art.
At this point, I was also re-examining the subject of my work. Though animals and myth were the basis of my work, I had always felt that those pieces were dealing with my critical examination of culture and the world as I saw it. I increasingly saw my work more as extended forms of self-portraiture. That being so, I needed to connect the concepts of the work more directly related to me without the pretext of an imagined futuristic world.
I pursued this change of idea in two ways. First, I examined the material I had been using. I hadn’t considered it much and saw the plastic filament as merely a means to an end, but I knew the full potential of digital fabrication from my participation with the Society of Manufacturing Engineers and other such groups. I wanted to see if there was a way to work in a more relatable material, and therefore for the past year, I have been working on the way to biological 3D print my “self-portrait.” This portrait will be 3D printed in a bio-supportive material by Dimensions Inx, and then stem cells will be grown on the two-inch sculptures that will be converted into human bone when complete. I created the design of this portrait by combining non-visual data like my DNA, social media, and biometric data into a 3D model.
The second way I am re-examining my work is by pulling back from my obsession with animal forms and looking at myself and my interest in symbolism and myth as a means to examine our culture. I grew up in an upper-middle-class suburb of Dallas. I constructed my childhood worldview through a series of stories and myths that I invented. Many of these myths and symbols came from my love of history, fantasy, and science. From these childhood stories I have chosen to concentrate on the Western-influenced ideas that illustrate a more global inclusive world view