Take a drive to Sellwood, grab a coffee to-go at Living Room Coffeehouse, stroll the neighborhood blocks, and you just might run into Julian Voss-Andreae’s humble Sellwood studio. While Voss-Andreae is a fellow member of the SE Portland community, who shops at the local Freddy’s and visits seasonal farmers markets, he is also a globally revered sculpturist and physicist, who spearheaded the concept of “quantum sculptures.” So, when the sky clears, the artist is known to open the garage door and work on his sculptures in the driveway of the 6,000 sq. ft. studio. You might catch magic in the making!
For an inside look at Voss’ distinctive artistic approach, let’s travel back 40 years. In 1982, TIME Magazine altered its annual traditions of awarding “Man of the Year” and named the personal computer “Machine of the Year.” As it be, this was the year Juliane Voss-Andreae, age 12, picked up his computer programming hobby. By 16, he also picked up drawing and painting, followed by a deep interest in quantum physics in his 20s. Voss-Andreaerode the idea of using mathematics in design and sculpting, studying quantum physics and philosophy at the University of Berlin and University of Edinburgh. During his postgraduate studies at the University of Vienna, he participated in a seminal experiment, researching “Wave–particle duality of C60 molecules” which ended up inspiring a handful of future art pieces. Following his studies, he officially coined the concept of “quantum sculptures” which are constructed of metal plates, defining cross-sections of the human figure depicted. In other words, Voss’ human figure sculptures can “disappear when seen from different visual perspectives, due to the way light reflects at different angles on the metal ‘slices.’”
A picture is worth a thousand words! Check out the below example to see Voss’ concept in action.
The Scientific Method
Julian Voss-Andreae’s human form sculptures always start with a live model, posed and photographed by Voss. From there, photographs are digitally translated into small plastic models using 3D-printing, which serves as a tool for his life-size (or larger) sculptures. Final sculptures are made of stainless steel, titanium, or bronze, steel cut with lasers and welded sturdy, all representing the complexity of the human body.
These quantum sculptures seem to disappear from certain angles, due to light reflection on the metal “slices.” Voss-Andreae explains, “in quantum physics, an object is described as wavefronts running perpendicular to its direction of movement. The metal plates of his sculptures represent these wavefronts.”
Selected Works: Portland & Beyond
While we can dissect the science and engineering behind Voss’ novel artwork, it doesn’t do justice to the awe his figures instill in viewers. Portland locals can spectate his work at the PCC Southeast Campus where a cross-legged woman reading a book sits in the lawn. When you visit, start 10-feet away and walk in a circle, to view her from every angle. One moment she’s there, and the next she’s not!
“The Reader” – Portland Community College Campus
Before you book your plane ticket, I have collected a few of my favorite Julian Voss-Andreae works beyond Portland, along with reflections from the artist himself. Find his full portfolio here, with artwork located in eleven US states and internationally.
“Quantum Man” – Zürich, Switzerland
The Quantum man is one of many spread across the globe, and Voaa-Andreae’s most famous piece. The example below was curated for a private residence in Zürich. However, other Quantum “Men” can be found in Portland, Australia, Canada, and multiple locations across Washington state.
“It looks solid from both sides, but directly from one angle, it seems to disappear. And I felt this was a really interesting connection with how quantum physics tells us that everything depends on your perspective.” – Voss-Andreae
“Isabelle”– Palm Springs, California
“By day she is sought to capture the brilliant sun and beautiful colors of the Coachella Valley through the polished stainless steel. By night, enhances by an elaborate integrated custom lighting system, the sculpture will play on the glitz and glamor or Palm Springs’ vibrant nightlife” – Voss-Andreae
“Poly”– Atlanta, Georgia
“Inspired by my ongoing investigations into the physics of foams I have created a design approach that is evocative of biological cells and patterns similar to light diffracted by moving water. A cell-like lattice defines a female figure sitting on the ground, gazing over an overgrown pond. Her quiet presence brings a tranquil and poetic quality to the site. The open structure allows plants to grow freely through the sculpture, engulfing its lower portion during the summer season and visually unifying the figure with nature.” – Voss-Andreae
“Agave Dreams” – Texas Tech University
“The sculpture depicts a female figure, kneeling on the earth with outstretched hands touching the ground. Sheltered between her hands grows a live agave, a plant with a history of deep significance to the native peoples in the area. Through her gesture of blessing the plant, Agave Dreams encourages us to question our attitude toward nature and the entire web of life. The mindset of separating subject and object, of detaching ourselves from nature, and of dividing the world into small parts assuming this will lead to an understanding of the whole, is contrasted with a holistic dream that seeks to integrate human physical and spiritual needs with the rest of creation by recognizing both as fundamentally one.” – Voss-Andreae
“Transparent Man” – Fürth, Germany
This sculpture is Voss-Andreae’s first public art piece in his country of origin, Germany. The Transparent man, also named Der Durchsichtige Mensch, was commissioned by Jochen Schreier who notably works in biopharmaceutical medicine. Schreier remarked on the artwork: “It is exciting to see how contemporary art and technology, as two very different expressions of human culture, have evolved along converging paths.”
Artists such as Julian Voss-Andreae remind me of the ingenuity of creative minds and the power of art to connect a community. Yet another perfect example of why I hold local artists, architects, and engineers in such high regard! For Voss-Andreae’s complete portfolio and updates on upcoming projects, visit his website here.