While some students view art as either being two-dimensional or three-dimensional, Lucas Hearne, a senior fine arts major at the University of Rhode Island, has made an art project that can be switched between the two at any moment.

“I did use actual wood, it’s fir,” explained Hearne, about how he made the tree-like prints. “I cut out some boards, and I have to plan these out because they get folded pretty meticulously into these objects. And not only do they have to work as objects themselves, but they have to work with other objects and fit right… And then I make another object that interacts with it.”

For the past two semesters, Hearne has been working on what has now become his senior seminar project. Once he creates a print, he can remake it as many times as he needs. Then he can use different groupings and arrangements to make more pieces fit together.

A closeup of Lucas Hearne's artwork. - Credit: Casey Kelly/The Good 5 Cent CIgar
A closeup of Lucas Hearne’s artwork. – Credit: Casey Kelly/The Good 5 Cent CIgar

“They fold into these pieces that can be fit together with a pin, like a dowel piece [into other prints],” Hearne said. “So technically you can make whatever you want out of these… you can make other objects out of these, you can start putting them together in different ways.”

As an artist, Lucas enjoys the three-dimensional side of art much more than the two-dimensional, though his prints may seem to say otherwise.

“I’m not a very two-dimensional person,” Hearne said. “I like to work more sculpturally. So I was in a printmaking class and I was having a lot of trouble making something flat. And it really wasn’t worth anything to me… I wanted to do something for myself, [and] even though [it] doesn’t look very personal, it’s just a couple pieces of wood, but that’s what I’m really interested in”

Lucas re-inks the old prints using a large press. After he has reloads the paper and re-inks the print, the new prints will come out the same as the original. But he calls this the easy part.

“The whole planning part is really rough,” Hearne said. “So I’ll cut the boards out and get the shape that I want. Each one of these is a separate piece; like this is flat grain, this is end grain, flat grain again, and they all match up and make sense… so that when it all comes together they look like a real piece of wood.”

But this wood finish is not just a bandsaw’s doing. Lucas changes the wood himself to achieve his desired finished product.

“Once [the planks are] cut and shaped, I take a wire brush and I brush out the soft grain, and only the hard grain stays up,” Hearne said. “So all the lines you see are because I brushed out the softer grain, and all the harder grain is up and that’s what catches the ink. So that you can actually pick up the grains. Because it would just be flat [otherwise], you wouldn’t get the character of the wood out of it.”

This all started with a single project, but has turned into this extensive body of work.

“These are a lot of trouble to put together,” admits Lucas, “to make a print that eventually turns into a three-dimensional object. But it’s not all about the object, it’s them both interacting together… even when [the prints are] flat, there’s still some aesthetic [to them]”

Lucas has gone through this trouble because of his appreciation for Japanese craftsmanship, which inspired him to create these prints.

“The combination of Japanese crafts and practices, held really well with this idea,” Hearne said.  “Combining wood printmaking, which is one of the really ancient traditions in Japanese culture, and carpentry, which is another one, and origami (folding these prints into objects), those three things … it just kind of clicked for me.”

Currently, Lucas has two completed pieces, made up of four separate prints, which interact with each other. He is working on two more that will also work with each other, but he does not know how many he will end up making in total.

This body of work will be displayed as a part of his senior seminar class’s show, with some exhibited as flat pieces of paper and others fully built and connected to show their versatility.