Using 21st-century technologies as both medium and subject, these artworks use technology to highlight issues of land, biodiversity, and climate change.

In this project, technologies and software are collaborators employed as naturalists to observe, design, and craft archives from their environments. When applied to organic matter, infrared scans create an abstracted shell, one where the software manufactures artifacts of misinterpretation. These digital objects are overly saturated, bulbous, disintegrating, like conglomerate pieces of plastic detritus washed onto a riverbank after a storm. To FDM print these objects is to turn them into containers—exoskeletons that hold the metaphysical power to embody what remains. Long after the original subject wilts, dries, or decomposes, the FDM holds its form like a funerary mask, a memento, or a portal to a spirit world. The objects morph between microcosms, topographies, and fluid landscapes. They come into being, disappear from being, and represent a removed, artificial, and distorted relationship with the natural world.

Scroll to see artworks in reverse chronological order.

the rig

4K video on view at  Mareel Feature Space
Shetland Arts, Lerwick, Scotland, May 1–June 30, 2023

The Rig, 2023, 5:37 minutes, 4K video (web version 1080p), courtesy the artist
Veselka visited Shetland in May 2022 and became interested in the decommissioning of the Ninian Northern offshore platform at Dales Voe and the marine life that had grown on the rig during its forty years of operation. Surprised by the amount of life that had lived on the structure, she found a symbol of hope. Visually, petrochemical infrastructure is often used as symbols of human ingenuity, energy demand, climate change, or environmental degradation. But to Veselka, the ecosystem living on the rig was a different type of symbol—one that represents life’s resilience. 

Thinking about the opposing themes of energy, environmental destruction, and resilience, Veselka created this 3D animated video to experimentally represent the many possible functions and metaphors of an oil rig. She eventually hopes to reuse an offshore platform as a public artwork that intentionally creates habitat for pelagic birds and marine life. 

To hear more about the artist's experience in Shetland, please listen to her interview with Chris Bonfiglioli on the Coastal Knowledge Podcast of the Young Academy of Scotland:

More information on the project: X-CHANGE: Artist Residency & Exchange | Shetland Arts


Residency and Exchange Program
Shetland Islands, Scotland, 2021/22

3D model of a cold water coral found on the jacket of the decommissioned Ninian Northern offshore oil platform
X-CHANGE is a partnership between Shetland Arts and McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas.

It is an artist residency / exchange opportunity exploring the extraction economy and the environment, funded by The British Council and Creative Scotland with support from Art Fund (UK) and Association of Art Museum Curators (US).

The two diverse geographies of Texas and Shetland have been heavily exploited for their natural resources. Shetland - the archipelago at the most northerly tip of the UK – was made rich by the oil and gas processing industry in the 1970s and thrives off the oil and gas fields that skirt it. It now looks to renewables for its future with construction underway on what will be the largest onshore wind farm in the UK. The oil-rich state of Texas has a longstanding and complex relationship between its natural reserves and the gargantuan industry built around it. It also has the largest onshore windfarm in the world.

The two selected artists are Shetland based filmmaker and writer Shona Main, and Texas-based conceptual artist, Holly Veselka.

3D model of an oil drum protesting a perceived ban on new offshore drilling off the coast of Scotland

An Exhibition of the Buffalo Bayou Collection
Lawndale, Houston, TX, February 8–May 1, 2021

Installation Shots, 3D printed bioplastic, pigmented powder coat, found objets, 1080p HD videos, Lawndale, Houston, TX; photo by Nash Baker, courtesy of Lawndale

Installation Shots, pigmented archival prints of compressed point clouds, editions of 1, 1080p HD video, Lawndale, Houston, TX; photo by Nash Baker, courtesy of Lawndale

“Each component of her presentation contains iterations of 3-D scans of objects taken from the Buffalo Bayou vicinity, such as styrofoam, sand, brick, and shale. Subverting the scanning technology’s intended use, Veselka strips the detritus and natural elements of their original context to create airy, glitched, compelling, and eroded echoes of the originals. ... Rendering these objects often unrecognizable, Veselka celebrates the flaws inherent in technological transference, likening the process to the work’s intangible and fragile subject matter.”

– Curator Patricia Restrepo, excerpt from exhibition pamphlet

“Veselka offers juxtapositions in her works: Some are found objects, others are representations of those objects that have been processed by a 3-D scanner and printed or placed upon one of three video monitors. The duality is intriguing in its mix of artificial and organic. A dragonfly she found just outside Lawndale rests upon a pin, and a tiny frog appears perfectly preserved. Her prints take other natural objects — such as a bundle of flowers — and break them into a matrix of tiny squares. “

– Andrew Dansby, excerpt from Houston Chronicle

“ Holly is deeply concerned with our relationship to nature. The objects themselves, while beautiful, tend to have somewhat of a melancholy air to them, especially when juxtaposed with more tangible, human made objects, such as this metal spoon, the iron, a rock from the Bayou. The objects that she's chosen to create with her printer, like this series of flowers here, have a slightly wilting effect. They are organic objects that are decaying.”

– Stephanie Mitchell, excerpt from Houston Public Radio interview, Houston Matters

artist studio program

Buffalo Bayou Collection
Lawndale, Houston, TX, 2019/21

As a resident at Lawndale, Veselka used 3-D scanning technology to study objects from the Buffalo Bayou—the only remaining, semi-natural, flowing waterway in the city of Houston. It's sediment holds organic and inorganic remains—both natural and not—that span thousands of years. Collecting here represents an attempt to see into this vast container of geologic time, looking for markers of anthropogenic change. In doing this research, Veselka developed a deep sense of loss. Here on the bayou’s banks are the survivors of a once vast, beautiful, and intricate wilderness. The night herons, pileated woodpeckers, longleaf pines, and magnolias feel like distorted visions of the past. They are ghosts to remind us of what we’ve lost.  

Video by Ryan Hawk courtesy of Lawndale