Open Works

A Virtual Evolution Stephen Hendee

Open Works

A Virtual Evolution Stephen Hendee

When I think of award winning Sculptor and Open Works member Stephen Hendee, the words visualizer, actualizer, and educator rest steady in my mainframe.  As I listened to Hendee describe his relationship to the materials he uses, the places he’s been and where he’s headed next on his artistic journey, I knew that I was speaking to an artist who could create with any form of matter he’s handed.  I set with wonder and amazement as I listened to over 25 years of experience, consistent creative evolution, and a voice with a willingness to learn more.

“I am a sculptor who primarily uses computers to manipulate materials to make objects out of those materials. But it’s not as simple as that.”

Hendee is a Master Sculptor and professor at MICA (Maryland Institute College of the Arts) whose work tends to explore both the physical and virtual world in an interconnected way. Well traveled, he has dwelled in several cities throughout his life and so has his work. Over the course of time, his sculptures have been exhibited in galleries and museums such as; the Smart Museum in Chicago, Illinois,  the St. Louis Art Museum in St Louis, Missouri, Rice University Art Gallery in Houston, Texas as well as the PS.1 Contemporary Art Center, the New Museum,  Sculpture Center LIC and the Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria in New York, New York. He is even the designer off the Monument to the Simulacrum in Las Vegas, Nevada, designed to stand until 2105.

His physical expression of the virtual world started during his studies at Stanford University in the early 90’s. He would use VRML, (Virtual Reality Modeling Language) a programing language, that was  designed when they were still deciding whether to make the internet interface or three-dimensional.

Virtual Reality Modeling Language is a standard file format for representing 3-dimensional (3D) interactive vector graphics, designed particularly with the World Wide Web in mind.

Hendee would use this programing language to design virtual sculptures, however, because it was so early on and no real output had been made accessible, he never had the opportunity to see his work actualized back then. Furthermore, he continued to use this programing language as a virtual sketchbook and began to use other materials to replicate his virtual designs.

Installation “CASCADE” by Stephen Hendee , Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA “Bay Area Now” curated by Renny Pritikin June 14 – September 7, 1997.

“Because of places like Open Works, it’s possible for people to make things virtually.”

Although the virtual world has greatly inspired Hendee’s artistry, his interest in many art forms over the years have shaped and intertwined itself into his work. He has actualized his virtual vision with many different materials; from clay to wood and from metal to cardboard boxes.  Here at Open Works, with access to outputting tools like the CNC Router, Laser Cutter and other digital fabrication tools, he is now able to make his artistic expression of the virtual world clearer, more defined, textured and precise.

“This has been part of a process. Going from something that’s handmade, ….kind of emulating something that’s from the  virtual, to making something completely in a computer and then outputting it as an actual object. …there are differences between them, and I’m in the process of figuring it out.”

“Objects for a Lunar Base (#2) 2017” by Stephen Hendee Acrylic, Metal, Tape, Glue  20” x 16” x 20”

(Digitally designed and fabricated from laser cut parts)

As Hendee continues to ‘figure it out’ creatively, we get to accompany him along his journey as he continues to create and explore the technology centered work he spent many years creating by hand. His desire evolve along with the technology over the years compiled with his wealth of knowledge and desire to share what he learns is what makes Hendee’s work so enjoyable to experience.  His next exhibition will be at The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco for Sabbath: The 2017 Dorothy Saxe Invitational, where he will be displaying his latest work he designed and created right here at Open Works. The exhibition runs Nov 12, 2017–Feb 25, 2018.

Q: What’s the best advice you ever received and took?
A: Well, I think the best advice I got was an inadvertent feedback from a teacher of mine Cork Marcheschi. He said, “you know one day you’re not gonna want to work with steel objects anymore. You should think about working with lighter materials.” I think I, at the time, didn’t take it very seriously, but then I realized over that, well you get old and he can’t do the same thing all the time. (Laughter on both ends)

Q: What advice would you give to future makers?
A: Recognize opportunity when you see it.

For more information about Stephen Hendee visit

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