Artist Talk: Sculptor Miguel Horn visits PCA&D Oct. 18

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Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

You won’t want to miss the work of Miguel Horn, a Philadelphia-based large-format sculptor, who visits the College Friday, Oct. 18, for a noon lecture open to the public and a 2 pm demonstration for PCA&D students. Both events will be held in the Atrium.

An artist with Colombian and Venezuelan roots, Horn integrates the natural and digital worlds, and emphasizes the role of artist and craftsman in an age of digital automation. His public works of art are on display on several continents (you can read the story of one recent Philly piece, from ideation to creation, here.)

Horn will be accompanied during his PCA&D visit by Joel Pollett from Cimquest, who will bring a handheld 3D scanner and work alongside Horn for the afternoon demonstration.

Horn talked with PCA&D about that tension between technology and human creativity; how they’re intertwined; and the necessity of both techies and artists to find a shared language. Read on to find out more about his appearance at PCA&D:

What is it about the large scale in which you work that really speaks to you? What was the genesis of your decision to gravitate in this direction? 
MH: I choose to work in large scale often when it is for a public space or audience;  it is a means to communicate proportionally to the environment where my sculptures are placed. It allows me to engage with a wide cross-section of a population and hopefully reflect on the subject matter. Some might take it at face value, while others might pause to look further into the pieces.

Are there ways in which you think about the art itself — the themes, or how you express them — that’s different when you’re working on smaller pieces? Or does it feel like the subjects and the scale are intertwined in way that would be difficult to separate?
MH: I tend to follow a simple breakdown in developing projects: What am I trying to say, who am I trying to say it to, how am I trying to say it. I prioritize the subject matter, the intended audience, and then find the scale and material that reinforces the means of expression. Sometimes the same subject can create vastly different experiences in different scales that reach different audiences. In the past I’ve repeated works in various scales and materials just to do so. 

You’ve talked in other interviews about the need to reinforce the vital nature of craftsmanship and *human* artistry in an age of mechanization and computers. And you balance on that edge between the two. How much of your process can you attribute to each? 
MH: I try to keep my workflow pretty balanced … I always start with drawings in sketchbooks, then use a mix of analog and digital to develop concept imagery for proposals or my own iterative development processes. I use digital tools to facilitate model building and do as much manual sculpting as the process allows. Then it turns digital for a while when I develop production files. Most of that has been streamlined with custom automated tools so I don’t have to spend so much time in front of the computer. Eventually, it becomes a physical form again and I get to be involved in assembly. I can’t do one thing for too long, so it is pretty nice to have the ability to jump back and forth.

Does the art community occasionally “push back” against the use of tools such as CAD software?

MH: Less and less these days. It’s like any technological advancement: There are early adaptors and those that begrudgingly accept its presence and use eventually. Resistance is futile. I try to look at digital tools as just that, a tool. You can learn to master it just like you would a lathe. That tends to resonate better with a lot of craft-oriented artists than trying to argue the validity of data visualization as an art form.

In the same vein, is it difficult to find tech resources that understand, appreciate, and take into account artistic challenges? 

MH: Yes, machines are set in their ways, they don’t like to do things differently than they were designed. They have the capacity to do so; they just need some hand-holding. Sometimes, you find the people that run them to be excited for a change in the routine and enjoy the variety, but ultimately I find that there is a gap between the software development and integration into industry. The software that runs the machines, and the software that generates the 3D models, are not on the same level. It’s getting better, but we need more artists that demand better integration to steer the industry where we want it to go. Architects have taken the lead role in pushing those boundaries, but I think artists need to be able to speak that same language if we want to stay relevant. 


What projects are you now working on?

MH: I hope my Cuthbert Street project (in Philadelphia) creates a public space from a neglected one. That is a long-term project that is currently in production; I’ll be sharing some of that with the students this Friday. I have a piece in a show currently with Philadelphia Sculptors in the Delaware River (The show is “Flow;” you can visit it at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia or find out more about it here). It opened this past Saturday and I’m really stoked about it; the publicity image used for the lecture (at PCA&D, see above) is a rendering for that installation: an 8-foot acrylic portrait of my father, submerged in the Delaware River. More of that in the talk, too!

What are some of the main takeaways you hope PCA&D students gain from your visit here? 
MH: I wish I had gotten started with digital processes earlier in my career. I often tout their benefit because I feel like I would have gotten a lot further quicker had I, myself, not been so resistant to adopt them. I guess if I can get a few people excited about playing with processes they would otherwise ignore, I would be thrilled. 

Miguel Horn @ PCA&D


Artist lecture: Noon, Atrium

Artist demo: 2 pm, Atrium