Sculpture in the form of a dwelling or “house” apparently has some ten thousand years or more of tradition. Neolithic-Chalcolithic Europeans (7000 to 3500 B.C.) made small models of houses from clay. Certain features suggest that many of these represent specialized shrines or temples rather than everyday dwellings. Similar dwelling sculptures can be found from Ancient Egypt, to Greece, to Rome, to the Middle Ages, and also in cultures as diverse as China, Mexico, Sumatra, Fiji, and Japan. Sculptors working throughout the 20th Century and into the 21st have continued to explore this motif.
Human beings tend to use the dwelling symbolically, as an expression of their desire to create a realm of order within the chaos of the world. The dwelling is also a cosmological image or imago mundi. Thus, structural features and activities associated with the dwelling relate it to the paradigmatic creation of the gods: the cosmogony.
I have used the dwelling as a sculptural motif in my own work for many years, and, most recently, have utilized 3D printing to create these forms. Dwellings with transepts or crossings evoke the idea of a shrine, temple or church, and so, in the work illustrated, I am connecting back to the very beginnings of the “house,” first used as a symbolically sacred space in prehistoric times.
3D printing is a process of “printing” a three-dimensional object using a machine that translates a virtual 3D computer model into layers of material (usually some form of plastic) that are built up, layer by layer, until an actual, physical three-dimensional form is produced. The process is not much different from the way an ink-jet printer/plotter works, except that in addition to an x and y axis, there is also a z axis. Interestingly, this method is very similar to the ancient method of coil building ceramics, an additive process wherein coils of clay are built up and joined to one another row after row.
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18 July 2022
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Jon Mehlferber received both his M.F.A. degree in Sculpture and his Ph.D. in Art Theory and Criticism from the University of Georgia. His artworks have been featured in more than a hundred regional, national, and international exhibitions, and he has also conducted numerous workshops and lectures.