The Art of Engineers
A gallery of students’ creations erases the line between analytical and artistic expression.
Article and Photographs by Chris Milliman
Visit any of Dartmouth’s art studios at the Hopkins Center, and you’re likely to find an engineering student at work. Every year a suite of drawing, photography, sculpture, painting, and architecture courses entice Dartmouth undergraduates to combine studio art and engineering as a double major, minor, or modified major. More Dartmouth engineering students modify the major with studio art than with any other subject. Last year studio art accounted for a third of all modified engineering majors.
For the five students featured here, studio art has been both an outlet and a haven, a complement to engineering and a refrain from it. Whatever the medium, their work shows what engineering and art display in common: the beauty of the creative mind.
Ariel Diaz ’02, Th’03
The woodshop was my creative outlet. As an undergraduate I was spending a lot of time doing crew and a lot of time at Thayer School, and I needed to balance that out. A lot of my early woodwork designs were inspired by crew. This bookcase was based on the shape of the bow of the boat, then became a little more abstract and functional. Visually it’s really light, but it’s a lot more stable than you’d think because of the cantilevered shelves.
In wood you work with the limitations of the wood and the grain. I’ve seen a progression in my designs — in woodworking and engineering — where I start thinking more about the end product and the manufacturing. How I’m going to make it becomes an integral part of the design.
Austin Lord ’06
Ledge Gallery: CAD Rendering
As a Dartmouth student and a resident of a relatively small hometown, I find myself continually frustrated with the lack of artistic forums in everyday spaces. Both on campus and at home, art is often confined to a certain delegated space. The goal of my Ledge Gallery is to create an outdoor public forum for art. I try to marry the aesthetic and the structural, creating something modular and simple, yet complementary to the landscape. The initial design was sited on a specific ledge along the Connecticut River, but the gallery’s adjustable components and skeletal design allow the structures to be arranged in various tesselations across a landscape. The idea is as much one in landscape architecture as in product design.
Emilie Fetscher ’03, Th’04
World Trade Center Tower: CAD Rendering
I worked on this project the fall of 2001 in an Architecture 2 class. Our topic was to suggest a redesign for the World Trade Center site following the attack. We created both a physical and CAD (using FormZ) model of the southern portion of Manhattan to understand the greater landscape this site was a part of. My design involved one prominent building based on a contracting and expanding spiral as well as several smaller buildings. Central to this design was a memorial/reflection space depressed under the building itself. The building functioned as a gigantic funnel, open to the air above. Water continually flowed spiraling down the inner windows and into a suspended pool at the center of an underground dome room — a memorial space — where it was then circulated back out to the site. I felt water was appropriate for the memorial and had hoped the design would allude to the convergence and divergence of world cultures and our shared knowledge.
I find art, the creative process, and engineering closely related; each is an exercise in problem solving. Both engineering and creative design are ways in which you train your mind to think. In my work within the studio art department, I find the emphasis is placed on the creative process and the ideas behind the end result. Often in engineering, students place the emphasis on the result, and the process becomes secondary. We learn skills and techniques in order to analyze or create a component or system correctly. My richest experiences have involved bringing the two fields together — the aesthetic details and conceptual ideas of the art world as well as the analysis, systems integration, and real-world application of the engineering world. Although I don’t see myself continuing in a traditional engineering field, I do hope to bring perspective to my creative work from engineering.
Narissa Chang ’05
Scultpure: Beanbags and Coffee Grinds
When it comes to studio art and engineering, I prefer to keep each subject independent of the other. I am not overly concerned with integrating the two. People often ask if I am planning to study architecture; my answer is most likely not, although I do believe that art and science do go hand in hand. For me, one is more of an escape from the other. If I need time away from problem sets, a visit to the studio allows me to clear my mind. If a sculpture has me stumped, engineering work pushes my mind to think more analytically, and my mind shifts to problem-solving mode. Working as both a studio art and engineering student seems only natural at times; together, they form a dynamic balance.
Inspiration for this sculpture, as is often the case for my work, was the material itself. After playing with the basic materials — nylons and cotton stuffing — the size of each part of the piece became apparent. The soft materials asked to be sewn. The sewn pieces asked to be held in the palm of a hand. Altogether, there are four rows of seven. Each object is labeled with a number, 1 through 28, with one mound left unoccupied, in order to keep the eye moving throughout the work. Each component, while set on its own plot of ground and given its own number, serves to create a definite space. The numbers are meant to imply some sort of order, the color a sense of history, the texture, rawness, and collectively, time. It intimates being, at once present and absent, while also suggesting a happening, an event of marked significance.
Roy Small ’04
Scultpure: Wood and Metal
I like making things that blend in with the room. I like how they’re attached. It’s a good break from engineering.
This sculpture is a bleeding piece of metal being beaten by wooden mallets that can’t even reach it. I don’t know what it means; I just thought it was a funny idea. Some people could probably read more into that than I can. The enjoyment is in creating and not overthinking.
For more photos, visit our Student Projects set on Flickr.