The Irwin Scholars art exhibition is held at the Sesnon Gallery annually each spring quarter. It is a highly-publicized and anticipated event for the Art Department to celebrate the achievements and work of the student recipients of the prestigious award. Though all other scheduled spring exhibitions were postponed due to campus precautions around COVID-19, planning continued for an Irwin 2020 virtual exhibition.
Sesnon Gallery staff enlisted the support and experience of DANM Technical Coordinator, Colleen Jennings, to design a 3D model of the Sesnon Gallery for the exhibition to take place online.
By creating a 3D model combining the Sesnon Gallery, Porter Faculty Gallery, and Underground, we were able to provide the same available footprint to this year’s Irwin Scholars that is typical of past (physical) Irwin exhibitions. Below, Colleen shares her experience building the virtual model and thoughts on its potential.
A 3D Gallery Model As Exhibition Space
By Colleen Jennings
Using the Sesnon Gallery’s provided floor plans, reference photos from past exhibitions, and my memory of being in the physical spaces, I replicated the gallery as a virtual model using a 3D software called SketchUp. This software is mostly used for architectural modeling, so it is an effective tool for creating models of the gallery. In SketchUp, the model is built from the floor up, with walls, windows, and ceilings that imitate the Sesnon Gallery. 3D canvases are built inside the model as placeholders for artworks. The model is then exported to include textures and images and uploaded to an online 3D model cloud service called SketchFab.
SketchUp is a program I have been using for many years as a means to experiment with size and space and to create sculptural work. 3D models from the program translate easily to other CAD (Computer-Aided Design) processes, like 3D printers, laser cutters, and CNC machining. This type of work is part of my personal art practice.
Not another slideshow
As museums and galleries convert exhibitions to be experienced online, virtual models offer more than a slideshow or webpage format. The freedom to navigate a space on your own terms is one of the key experiences of the gallery visitor. Moving at your own pace through each section is built into 3D interaction. Part of curating an exhibition is making spatial decisions based on proximity and context to create a narrative moment. Moving through spaces that circle back, lead to quiet reflection, or energetic entanglement is an experience that can be replicated through this technology.
An alternative, not a replacement
While virtual galleries can’t possibly replace or completely reinvent the physical gallery, they are a part of a long cultural exploration of creating invented spaces through the internet that connect our experiences simultaneously. The gallery we are constructing doesn’t have the same light, atmosphere, or experience as the physical Sesnon Gallery, but it offers something completely different.
Future uses and the potential of virtual galleries
A virtual gallery has some advantages over the physical gallery: it can be installed for a much longer time, hold more documentation, and link visitors directly to other resources. With the popularity and innovation of VR (virtual reality), virtual galleries already make it possible to travel and experience world history and culture. As access to the internet increases, these become opportunities for access to education and experience. Especially in this historical moment of social isolation, virtual galleries are a tool that enables us to extend our reach farther than our own communities.
SAVE THE DATE
IRWIN 2020: Collective Solitude opens ONLINE June 3, 2020
Online Reception through Zoom: June 3, 6:00-7:00pm
Awards and remarks by Irwin Scholars from all over California 6:15pm
RSVP for the Online Reception invitation to Zoom