Students Create 3-D Exhibit As a Metaphor for U.S.-China Relations

CAMDEN — As Brandon Borrelli explains it, throughout the past century, the relationship between the United States and China has oscillated between being “open,” “restricted,” and “closed,” with each country’s respective leaders repeatedly changing their attitudes toward one another.

Pictured (left to right) are LiQin Tan, Chris Hengen, Jacquelyn Riel, Javier Diaz, and Brandon Borrelli

Pictured (left to right) are LiQin Tan, Chris Hengen, Jacquelyn Riel, Javier Diaz, and Brandon Borrelli

That point comes alive thanks to Borrelli and fellow electronic art majors Javier Diaz, Chris Hengen, and Jacueline Riel and their new 3-D exhibit, Sino-American Chess. The imaginative work features a series of juxtaposed, virtual busts of American and Chinese leaders: Harry S. Truman and Chiang Kai-Shek; Ronald Reagan and Deng Xiaoping; Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong; and Barack Obama and Hu Jintao, respectively. Created under the supervision of LiQin Tan, an associate professor of art, the exhibit earned the Dean’s Undergraduate Research Award. It will be on display at the Celebration of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity, to be held on Thursday, April 18, in the Campus Center’s Multi-Purpose Room.“Javier Diaz, Brandon Borrelli, Chris Hengen, and Jacquelyn Riel are the top students in my animation courses currently,” says Tan. “Each one of them has displayed an enormous dedication to this research project. In addition, Javier has demonstrated great leadership by organizing numerous idea discussions and technical studies. I am proud of them for achieving positive results at the current stage of research.”

The concept behind the project is a metaphor for the political games that are played between the United States and China, two of the world’s greatest superpowers, says Borrelli, a resident of Mount Laurel. “Despite the intense amount of tension during the Cold War between the U.S. and China, the economically difficult times today have emphasized the importance of cooperation between the two countries,” he says.


The students embarked on the ambitious project after discussing the concept in great detail with Tan. Using Tan’s sketches as well as their own, they began to “flesh out” the project more thoroughly. The students then created storyboards focusing on the relationships of American and Chinese leaders from various times periods. Each of the students then sculpted a pair of virtual busts.


The final project calls for the busts to be arranged in a hallway-type setting, with each pair of leaders positioned directly across from one another and interacting through synchronized animation. “Viewers will be able to walk directly between the two leaders engaged in cross-hallway interactions, allowing them to essentially experience the Sino-American relationship in person,” says Borrelli, who adds that, although the project does not focus solely on positive relations between American and Chinese leaders, it depicts a stronger relationship in more recent years.

Borrelli credits Tony Gore, an adjunct professor of fine arts, for instructing the students on how to sculpt and apply textures professionally using Z Brush software. “Before participating in this research opportunity, I had no ability to sculpt or texture three-dimensional models using Z Brush,” says Borrelli. “The addition of these technical skills has greatly improved and diversified my skillset as an animation student.”

Following their CURCA presentation, the students hope to display the final project next year at the Special Interest Group on Graphics and Interactive Techniques in China.

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