Modern Makers: Meet Amenda Tate Corso

Originally thinking she wanted to go into mechanical engineering, Amenda Tate Corso realized along the way that she was more interested in seeing how scientific principles could apply to the arts. Her curiosity led her to seek out more aesthetically creative pursuits, and she discovered metalwork and jewelry. More recently, Tate Corso's innovative spirit led her to a unique intersection of technology, performance, and art: working with a robot, which uses Bluetooth sensors worn by a ballet dancer, to record movement and then digitally translate that motion into paintings.

How did you get into art? How does your scientific training impact your art?

I started my training as a mechanical engineer in college and had a realization that I didn't want everything to only be functional. I discovered that explorations into more aesthetic methods were more satisfying to me.

I was interested in science as a process: You try something, you revise it. My brain works in a way that's very mechanical and a lot of the solutions I come up with for my work come from that mechanical part of my brain.

What drew you to metalwork?

I took a metalworking class and it was fantastic. I liked that I could use the scientific approach, and ask: What are the properties of the materials; what are the properties of the chemicals? And the result didn't just have to be functional, it could also evoke emotion.

Plus, with metalworking I never know quite what the patina or what the flow is going to be like until I fully unfold it. Part of what's so exciting to me is I get to experience that translation.

What is your process like?

I like the process to be somewhat of a discovery. I know I'm going to create with these components, and sometimes I have a specific idea in mind and other times I create the elements and allow them to dictate what the end result is going to be. I want the copper to have its own voice.

When working with metal, I start with sheets of roofing copper that I cut into smaller squares. I fold and process them through a rolling mill. They're heated in a kiln, which changes their structure enough that I can open them back up and unfold them.

How did Manibus (the ballet-painting robot) come about?

I don't think I'd even been to any ballets until I was 40 and I immediately fell in love. Having the experience of the ballet was transformative for me -- I saw lines and patterns and repetition.

I'd really been thinking about what I could do to fit my curiosity with something that was specifically ballet-related, and Manibus became the solution. The robot is controlled by Bluetooth motion sensors, and as the dancer moves, their motions are translated through the device digitally into paintings. It's not just numbers. This is movement and the record of the movement as it happens in time. And you're then left with something you can reflect on.

Where does your inspiration come from?

My inspiration comes primarily from where art and science intersect, and that space where they both are equals. I also like the process as well as the result. How can I transform something and learn something about the transformation? I want it to be surprising to me as well as something from me.

How do you keep your creative fire burning?

Some of it is being able to interact with artists of other mediums, which is encouraging and inspiring. Also, I think it's highly important to be connected to one's self. Sometimes we don't hear our own voice and it's good to dial back and take breaks. If you don't do it from time to time, you're stuck in that headspace of busyness.

Do you think age and experience have played a role in your creative process?

Part of it is being able to have a broader range of experience -- to see how the art world works from various angles: commercial, retail, all that stuff you have to do behind the scenes that's not just creating.

I'm feeling like the ball is rolling. I feel pretty confident -- I know what I need to do. I'm not just trying everything. Some trees I'm not going to bark up because I've tried it before.

How do you hope your art impacts people?

I hope that people are inspired to make artwork themselves. The Manibus project gives people new points of access to try or experience things they may not know anything about.

What advice would you give to women looking to pursue a new path?

I feel like discovery is a highly important part of life. I would encourage anyone who is considering how to make a change in their life or how to approach something new to really hold onto that idea -- discovery -- and to know that if you don't open the space for those sorts of things to emerge, they won't.

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