Envision a robotic arm, eight feet high and covered in a fine white dust, intricately carving a massive piece of marble in a large, otherwise empty room, the buzzing sound of the machine bouncing off the walls. The “operator” is a computer guiding the arm to carve the marble based on a 3D model created by an artist who is not only absent from the room, but located an ocean away.
That artist is Cristin Millett, sculptor and associate professor of art at Penn State, who recently completed her second residency with the Digital Stone Project (DSP) at the Garfagnana Innovazione in Tuscany, a state-of-the-art center for carving marble using the newest technologies. Prior to her June 2016 residency, Millett spent almost a year perfecting the computer model of her planned marble sculpture, and then corresponding with the engineers at the DSP to ensure the seven-axis robotic arm was doing what she wanted it to do. By the time she arrived in Italy, the marble sculpture was ready for the detailed work only human hands can complete.
“The robot roughs out the form, and then I refine and finish the stone by hand, working in areas the robotic arm can't access," she explained. “I never thought I would carve marble, but new technology makes it possible.”
Full story, by Amy Milgrub Marshall