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'Embrace the unknown!': The artists blurring the lines between digital and handmade art

Yassi Mazandi's Nine sculpture in the Made By Hand/Born Digital exhibition at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Caroline Feraday
/
KCLU
Yassi Mazandi's Nine sculpture in the Made By Hand/Born Digital exhibition at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art

A new exhibition in Santa Barbara explores the use of Artificial Intelligences in creating artworks.

When you think of AI or digital art tools, the finished result doesn’t probably doesn’t look like a traditional painting or pottery sculpture - but that expectation is what this new exhibition is here to challenge.

"It seems like just around the corner it's going to be digital Armageddon, and will go to singularity and it will take over the world and destroy us all," said s James Glisson, the curator of contemporary art at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. "I wanted to do something that challenged expectations."

James Glisson says the idea behind the Made By Hand/Born Digital exhibition was to feature artworks where the artists have used AI or 3D printers, photoshop or other technological tools, as well as crafting by hand - blurring the distinction between the two.

"I think good shows help the public to see how artists work and how they make creative choices," said Glisson.

The exhibition showcases artists' work who have used cutting edge technology as well as traditional hands-on techniques
Caroline Feraday
/
KCLU
The exhibition showcases artists' work who have used cutting edge technology as well as traditional hands-on techniques

"They were using traditional techniques like throwing things on a wheel or ceramics or painting. But for all of those artists, there was a step that was mediated by the computer. It might have been Photoshop, it might have been that they scan things and then rework the composition. It might be that they printed components and used some printed vinyl components. And I thought, this is interesting because, like you, I tended to think of the analog and the digital as being this kind of hard line," he said.

One of the artists whose work is on display is Yassi Mazandi. Her sculpture, Nine, with a nubby and barnacled surface, has the look and feel of being made by a person.

"I'm kind of fascinated by geometry and bone structure and engineering, and it occurred to me that flowers don't have skeletons. I thought, why not try to make imaginary flowers a bone structure? So if you look at the front and then you go around the back, the back is different than the front....So you can tell it's made by hand," said Mazandi.

"The original porcelain flower to this piece was made in 2012. I scanned it, which is what the digital language into a DICOM file, which is medical imaging software, and hundreds of piles of X-rays on top of each other, and use that file to make it larger," she explained. "We tried traditional methods of making it into a cast, but it's got too many undercuts and it got stuck in the mold. So with this one, I waited until 3D printing was more available," she said.

Mazandi says that using technology as part of the artistic process is part of the bold choices artists should be making.

"You have to think outside the box. Artists have always used technology. We've always adapted technology for our purpose. So all the new technology that's appearing right now and kind of taking over and being in the news so much is scary. But at the same time, the minute you get used to something, you adapt it. It becomes second nature to you to use it," she said.

"You have to be fearless as an artist. Embrace the unknown."

Made By Hand/Born Digital is at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art until August 25.

Caroline joined KCLU in October 2020. She won LA Press Club's Audio Journalist of the Year Award in 2022 and 2023.

Since joining the station she's won 10 Golden Mike Awards, 5 Los Angeles Press Club Awards, 2 National Arts & Entertainment Awards and a Regional Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Writing.

She started her broadcasting career in the UK, in both radio and television for BBC News, 95.8 Capital FM and Sky News and was awarded the Prince Philip Medal for her services to radio and journalism in 2007.

She has lived in California for eleven years and is both an American and British citizen - and a very proud mom to her daughter, Elsie.