By Alexxis Hutchinson

Joshua Solomon's career was shaped by a fortuitous meeting with a gypsy.

In 1999, Solomon, working in a California youth hostel, noticed a hand-blown glass pipe in the staff room. A European gypsy named Lydia owned the pipe. When he asked her about it, she led him to a glass studio down the street.

"I thought it was really exciting, and I just kept going back and I kept watching them work, until a week later they offered me a chance to get my hands dirty," Solomon said.

This encounter led to a degree in studio arts at Bard College, then an apprenticeship with renowned glass artist Barry Entner.

In 2012, he joined the assistantship program at the Chrysler Museum Glass Studio in Norfolk, where he now works as an instructor.

This year, Solomon was named the inaugural artist-in-residence for the Virginia Modeling Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC). The resulting artwork, "Emergent Inquiry," will be on display in the foyer of Perry Library until the end spring semester.

The VMASC program allows artists to collaborate with engineers, scientists and researchers to explore creative applications of cutting-edge fabrication, exhibition and interactional technologies.

VMASC faculty members Saikou Diallo and Krzysztof Rechowicz hoped to incorporate other disciplines into engineering and modeling and simulation and led the way in creating the opportunity.

The processes Solomon used were very different than those for the delicate, blown glass art he typically creates.

Solomon worked with scientists and engineers at VMASC to use virtual reality sculpting, large scale 3-D printing, projections of objects and projections onto objects to create the pieces.

"Where the art lies, for the pieces that are on display, it's really a combination of things. It's not just the object. It's not just the projection, it's the experience you have being introduced to these things in space," Solomon said.

Working with VMASC staff and faculty was a positive experience for Solomon.

"If I said, 'Can we do this?' the response was always something along the lines of, 'I'm not sure, but we should definitely try it,'" he said.

Creating the art often pushed the limits of technology.

"I think that benefits all of us, because it's those liminal spaces where the arts and sciences come together that really interesting things happen," Solomon said. "This artwork is very much about experimentation, struggle and the desire to really push boundaries and have fun with the process.

"I look forward to seeing other artists do residencies at VMASC and I think this is the beginning of something really exciting."

In conjunction with the display, Perry Library will be offering a series of free virtual reality sculpting classes on Fridays throughout the semester.

Solomon's website can be found here:

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