Fun with Parametric Design

Here are several views of a digital 3D Morningstar form made in Autodesk Fusion 360, a powerful CAD program. Any design made with the Morningstar form relies heavily on precise measurements, whether in quilts or other textiles, painting, sculpture, etc. That's why using software tools for creating the Morningstar, Anpa O Wicahnpi, as a parametric form is extremely useful.


Studio Musings

Here are a few things I'm working on in my studio this week. I am continuing my exploration of the morning star, Anpa O Wicahnpi, through screen prints, bead work, clay molding and laser cut sculpture. These are all works in progress, or just for testing purposes. The morning star form is so beautiful and versatile.


Morningstar Form Expressed Through a CNC Cutting Machine


In my first semester here at MIT, I was lucky to be accepted into Neil Gershenfeld's class, "How to Make (Almost) Anything" at the Media Lab.

Check out the work I did in this class on my class webpage, which includes the final project, "Morningstar Lightchamber."

It's been fun, extremely challenging, and ultimately liberating to learn digital fabrication methods. This week, I got to use a Shopbot, a computer numeric control (CNC) cutting mill, and I decided to express the morningstar form through this technique.

I used an inexpensive piece of OSD to create the form which began as a vectorized image.

The material required much post-prep after cutting in order to effectively depict a morningstar.

I decided to add strips of LEDs in between the layers to create a glowing star, which can be hung on the wall and plugged in to an outlet.
It's still a work in progress, but it was a great way to learn computer controlled cutting, I look forward to continuing with this tool to create unique and possibly useful forms!


I exist in a world of ideas

I exist in a world of ideas
Building ladders and weaving hammocks in my imagination
To swing from my place of contentment
Between thoughts of peace and strife
Seeking solutions to problems for a moment or a lifetime
Predicting possible futures and visiting the past in a flash
Ancestors embrace and buoy me from behind the curtain, just beyond where I can touch
I exist in a world of ideas
Breathing intangible perceptions and recycling them for use as bodily fuel
Floating in a vast ocean on another planet too many light years away to get there by flying
Projecting myself into the minds of others to find out their motivations and expand consciousness
Protecting myself with a bubble of thought-neutrons
Spinning a web of possibility to help me make decisions
Listening, I find the world around me and the one within are not that different
I exist in a world of ideas
Take flight in my dreams but have some trouble landing
Through sieve-like senses, I filter the universe
I am tiny and I am large
I am ugly and I am beautiful
I am a doomed wretch and I am an enlightened being
I get stuck in a vortex and have trouble pulling myself out, but I keep trying
I exist in a world of ideas
I am a vessel through which things flow, and sometimes what comes out is a mystery to me
I have a path and yet I am directionless
Befuddled and walking through a strong wind, I alight on a sail and suddenly all is right
Wading through information, gathering it, sorting it, and stacking it in piles for later use
But hoarding is not good for my mind, so I learn to let go of the clutter
Facts are embedded in a mineral substrate, I am chiseling to get to the big ones but sometimes get lucky when I find a little one, rare, crystalline and relevant
Pounding and pulling, building muscle mass, making a mess
Stepping forward in a random choreography of thought patterns
I exist in a world of ideas
 ©2016 by Erin Genia


Anpa O Wicahnpi, Morningstar - Dakota Pride Banner

5’ x 35’ dyed and pieced ripstop nylon

Anpa O Wicahnpi, Dakota Pride Banner is my first public work. Commissioned by the City of Seattle, it is a temporary work, installed in a covered walkway just to the east of the International Fountain. It was installed between August 2017 and June 2018.

The piece came about through my participation in the City of Seattle Office of Arts and Culture’s Public Art Boot Camp. Over two weekends, artists learned about the many facets of the realm of public art. We also had the opportunity to work with a public art professional to develop a proposal for a public art opportunity. I was interested in the possibility of having my artwork in the Seattle Center Sculpture Walk. As a resident of Olympia, I often come to Seattle Center for festivals, holidays and WNBA Storm games at Key Arena, and the kids love playing on the epic Artists at Play playground.
Frolicking in the International Fountain

Using a rainbow palette to signify the celebration of diversity that is at the “Heart of the City” – the theme of this year’s Seattle Center Sculpture Walk, I sewed a hand-pieced Morningstar banner that hangs along the ceiling in the International Pavilion Covered Walkway, creating a festive ambiance below as people make their way to and from the activity at Seattle Center. 

Seattle Office of Arts and Culture Program Project Manager, Elisheba Johnson and I during installation

As an urban Dakota person, whose traditional home is far away, it’s rare to see images from my culture reflected in local art. I know there are many people like me, living in a diaspora, who are here as a result of the federal Relocation program during the 1960s. This piece is an homage to our journey and a shout out to fellow Oceti Sakowin, Great Sioux Nation, people who reside in the Pacific Northwest – there are many of us!

Anpa O Wicahnpi

In my work as a student and practitioner of Dakota art, I have seen a traditional Morningstar design in Dakota quillwork and in beadwork, and painted on old buffalo robes. Robes are placed around the shoulder of a person who is transitioning into another state in their life, or for honoring. The Morningstar design has been translated to cloth by women of the Oceti Sakowin, and the blankets are gifted in the same way.

The banner begins at the entrance by the Armory building with a red Morningstar, and ends with a violet-hued Morningstar, a color that references Schwendinger’s “Dreaming in Color,” a permanent public art piece located in the walkway next to McCaw Hall. Like Chihuly’s Bridge of Glass at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, the piece relies on light filtering down to the viewer below to illuminate the imagery.
Sewing a thirty-five foot banner

Using the seven colors that make up the spectrum of light, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet, or ROYGBIV, the rainbow Morningstar banner draws comparisons to the pride flag which is meant to celebrates diversity and solidarity with the LGBTQ community and was created in the Castro District of San Francisco.

This year, the City of Philadelphia updated the pride flag to include new brown and black and black stripes. The additional colors symbolize the City’s Office of LGBT Affairs’ commitment to inclusion of people of color. I was inspired by this and also included brown and black in Anpa O Wicahnpi. Each Morningstar has four colors in addition to white. 

In my search for ripstop nylon in all colors of the rainbow, I sourced the fabric from sail and kite-making companies as well as specialty fabric stores. I used fluorescent colors where I could, since they remind me of the bright colors of powwow regalia. Still, I was still not able to find all the colors I needed. For those colors, I decided to use the dyeing process. Sourcing one color in particular, indigo, caused me to learn more about the far-reaching legacy of slavery on colonial indigo plantations.

Dyeing nylon with synthetic indigo dye

I always bring my kids along through the process of creating work so they learn what goes into the creative process. We come from a family of artists, and they are artists in their own right. They helped me piece the fabric, make design decisions, and, as an extra set of hands.

Anpa O Wicahnpi is a celebration of the diversity in Seattle, within our tribal communities and in all communities. Many different kinds of people, many ways of thinking and being make us stronger if we embrace our differences as well as our similarities. This piece activates the space in a lighthearted way while also carrying a message that diversity is beautiful and pays homage to urban Native people’s resilience through vibrant cultural expression.
The dog watches over the process
For its last month of installation at Seattle Center, the banner is located in front of the Children's Museum:
pic by Elisheba Johnson

pic by Elisheba Johnson

pic by Elisheba Johnson

Read more about the piece here and here.

Wopida Tanka, many thanks, to the First Peoples Fund for their support of this project!