The Intricate 3D-Printed Sculptures of Joshua Harker

by Nastia VoynovskayaPosted on


21st-Century Self-Portrait, based on a CT scan.

Though 3D printing technology still in its infancy, Chicago-based artist Joshua Harker has made strides in the creative potential of the medium. The artist has experience in both the technical and creative applications of the technology: His engineering and software development backgrounds culminated in what he describes as a “perfect storm” of skills that paved the way for his foray into 3D-printed art. Harker’s technical background certainly comes into play when creating his intricate sculptures with fragile, lace-like embellishments and organic, tangled shapes. Monochromatic like bone, his works have served as wearable headdresses in fashion shows as well as free-standing and hanging sculptures that are testaments to the technical possibilities of a largely uncharted artform.

Harker describes his work process as intuitive. He does not do preliminary sketches to avoid a clumsy translation from one medium to another. Rather than coding his work, he works in a virtual program that he explained is akin to traditional sculpting and drawing. “I’m essentially a classically-disciplined sculptor,” elaborated the artist, “meaning my work is more about the form and my interpretation and execution of it, rather than data and computational manifestations.” When the work is finally printed, Harker explained, the experience is like a birthday for the piece. One can imagine the artist feels like an expectant parent after the long hours spent laboring over the sculpture in virtual space.

Harker looks optimistically into the future of 3D-printed art. With the technology’s potential to evolve, he is both skeptical and welcoming of the hype surrounding it. The world is not yet equipped, he believes, to look at 3D-printed artwork with a critical eye because most people don’t are unexperienced with the medium at this point in time. “That said, it will become a real part of our everyday lives and may well prove to redefine how our global economies function and how we participate,” he predicted. “It’s truly a revolutionary time.”


Quixotic Divity Headdress on the runway in London, 2013.

Monochromatic Radiance, a kinetic sculpture made from nearly 2000 separate hand assembled pieces. Undulating in a sine wave, the 12 arms depict the 12 musical notes in a chromatic scale, the 12 colors in a color wheel, as well as the representation of time & measure.

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