Christian Burchard was born in Hamburg Germany in 1955, and has been living in the United States since 1978. Before coming to America he completed an apprenticeship, 1974-75, in Hamburg. After which, he worked as a furniture maker. In the United States he studied sculpture and drawing, 1977-1978, at the School Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. In 1978-79 he studied sculpture at Emily Carr College of Art and Design in Vancouver BC. In 1982 he and his wife, Micheline, opened Cold Mountain Studio in Southern Oregon, where they currently work.
Early work focused on furniture and interiors, but gradually shifted to wood turning and sculpture, moving between vessel oriented forms and sculptural turning. – His work has been included in most of the major turning related exhibits of the last 10 years and is exhibited widely throughout the US. His pieces are part of many public and private collections. He also teaches and demonstrates his craft at school and conferences and related turning events. Christian Burchard is a world renown artist, and ceramicist sculptor.
Publications and Awards:
Burchard's work is published in prestigious craft publications such as: CRART, Korea; Craft Arts, Australia; CART, Korea; Turning Wood into Art, Mason Collection 2000; Contemporary Turned Wood, 1999; American Craft, 1991; American Wood Turner; Expressions in Wood, Masterworks; 1997; The Art of Craft; 1999; The Fine Art of Wood; Drechseln, 1995, 1998, Germany; Living with Form, Horn Collection; Woodturning Magazine,1994, 95, 99, 01, G.B.; Wood Turning Since 1930, Yale. Commissions: Four Seasons, Jackson Hole, WY; The Viceroy, Snowmass, CO; Oregon Arts Commission, Santiam Forestry Center; Presbyterian Seminary, Louisville, KY; The Venetian Casino and Hotel, Las Vegas, NV; Orlando Hilton. FL; Ritz Carlton, Shenzen, China. Media: Materials and Process, Kevin Wallace for Crafts Arts International; Interview with Christian Burchard 2004, Connie Mississippi; Article about Christian Burchard for CRART. by Kevin Wallace, South Korea. Awards: Mr. Burchard is the recipient of awards including: Contemporary Wood Invitational; and American Art Company, Tacoma WA.2009;Raphael Prize,"Transformation", Pittsburgh, PA 2009; Oregon Arts Commission Fellowship,1997.
Burchard is collected by Museums and Institutes including: Museum of Fine Art, Boston Mass.; Bellevue Arts Museum, Bellevue WA; Gregg Museum of Art & Design, NC; Arizona State University of Art, Tempe AR; Museum of Art and Design, New York NY; American Decorative Arts at Yale University, New Haven, CT; Art for Embassies Program, DC; Art Institute of Minneapolis, Minneapolis, MN; Detroit Art Museum, Detroit MI; DeYoung Museum, San Francisco, CA; Fuller Museum of Art, Brockton, MA; LA County Museum, LA CA; Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach CA; Royal Cultural Center, Jedda Saudi Arabia; Mint Museum Charlotte NC; Mobile Museum, Mobile AL; Museum for Contemporary Art, Honolulu, HI; Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institutuin DC; Stanford University Art Gallery, Palo Alto CA; University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor MI; Wood Turning Center' Philadelphia PA.
2011 'A Wood Collectors Home', Groovewood Gallery, Ashville NC; Collect 2011, Sarah Myerscough Gallery. 2010 "Be our Guest" A Progressive Invitational, Ohio Craft Museum, Columbus, OH; The Art of Wood: Outside the Box' Holter Museum, Helena, MT; "Is Ornament a Crime?: Re-Thinking the Role of Decoration in Contemporary Wood." CWA, SOFA Chicago IL. 2009 Days of Spring, Moments of Intimate Connections, Fuller Museum, March till Dec., Brockton MA; Fall Perspective, Lovetts Gallery, Tulsa ,OK.;Wood Invitational, Blue Spiral, Ashville NC Sarah Myerscough Gallery, London, GB; 'Transformation', Society of Arts and Crafts, Pittsburgh, PA. SOFA Santa Fe, NM. 2008 Over the Edge' University of Idaho, Moscow, ID; In the Palm of you Hand' CFC, Rockport, ME; New West Coast Design, San Francisco Museum of Craft And Design, SF, CA; Collect' Sarah Myerscough Fine Art, London, GB. 2007 Far from the Tree' Messler Gallery, Rockport, ME; Craft In America: Expanding Craft Traditions, Arkansas Art Center NB; Palm Springs Art Museum '07-'09 CA; Open/ Closed AAW Gallery, St Paul MN Jan 12th to April 15th; Turning Green AAW Symposium Portland OR June/July 07. 2006 Wood Now: Craft Alliance, St.Loius, Mo Woodturning on the Edge: Unversity of Idaho, Pritchard Gallery, Moscow ID; Our Turn Now: Artists speak out in Wood, Ohio Crafts Museum, Columbus ,OH; SOFA Chicago and SOFANew York (00-10); Turning Wood into Art: Sarah Myerscough Gallery, London, GB. 2005 Nature Transformed: Univ. of Michigan Art Gallery; Artists Reflections: WTC, Philadelphia, PA; Art Invitational: Great American Art Company, Tacoma, WA; Wood Sculpture: A Rhythmical Weave of the Elements Upstairs Gallery, Tryon, NC; Davis & Cline, Featured Artist, Ashland, OR; Kebanu, Featured Artist, Bend, OR. 2004 Celebrating Nature: Craft Traditions/Contemporary Expressions Craft and Folk Art Museum, LA, CA; Out of the Woods, Atlanta Airport, Atlanta, GA; Sitka Invitational, Portland, OR; 25 years of Woodturning: BYU, Provo, U; A Tribute to Bob Stocksdale: CCG, Portland, OR; 'Collect': Victoria and Albert Museum, Sarah Meyercough Gallery, London, UK. 2003 Contemporary Turned Wod: A tribute to Rudi Osolnik, Kentucky Museum of Art and Design, Louisville, KY; Selected Works: del Mano,Los Angeles, CA; Into the Woods: Long Beach Art Musem ,Long Beach, CA; Across the Grain: Mobile Museum of Art, Mobile , AL. 2002 Modern Bestiary: Artists view of the Animal Kingdom, Wustum Museum of Fine Arts, Racine, WI ; Surface and Form: Craftwest Gallery, Perth, Australia; Hot Tea!: del Mano Gallery, CA; Collectors Choice: Collectors of Wood Art Forum, SOFA, Chicago, IL; Contemporary Wood Invitational: 01-04, American Art Company, Tacoma, WA. 2001 Woodturning in North America since 1930; The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN; The Renwick Gallery, Washington DC; Yale University Art Gallery,New Haven, CT; Challenge VI-Roots: Insghts and Inspirations in Cintemporary Turned Objects, Berman Museum, Collegeville, PA Touring Exhibit; Against the Grain: Turned and Sculpted Wood.The MacAllen International Museum, McAllen, TX. 2000 Inventions & Constructions, New Baskets, FL; Craftmen Gallery, Jacksonville, FL; Living with Form, Horn Collection, Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock, AR; Distinctive Visions, Connell Gallery, Atlanta, GA; 1999 SOFA NY and Chicago, also 00 and 01; Smithsonian Craft Show, 96, 98, 99, Washington, DC; Duane Reed Gallery, Profile, St. Louis MO + Chicago; Forms in Wood, Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston, MA; Craft Alliance, Multiples, St. Louis, MO. 1998 Turned Wood 93-99, Small Treasures 93-99, Del Mano, LA. 1997 Oakland Museum "Masterworks from the Wornick Collection" CA; "Turning in Context" Ursinus College, Collegeville, PA; "Beyond Tradition" Arkansas Art Center, AR. 1996 Museum fuer Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, Germany. 1994 "Redefining the Lathe Turned Object III" ASU Tempe, AZ; "Challenge V: International Lathe Turned Objects" Berman Museum of Fine Arts, Collegeville, PA; 1992 "Turning Plus" Redefining the Lathe Turned Object" ASU, AZ. 1991 "Turned Vessels Defined" Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston, Mass. "Challenge VI: International Lathe Turned Objects" Port of History Museum, Philadelphia, PA. 1990 "Woodturning; Vision and Concept" Arrowmont School Featured Artist, Del Mano, L.A., CA.
The Art: Artist's Statement:
I have been working with wood for most of my life. We are comfortable with each other, have a close relationship and I value the connection immensely. I am curious what is inside, how it works. I am always looking for the gifts it has to offer. At times I am awed by its beauty and the story of its history, the tracks that the passing of time have left. I am driven to expose this beauty, to make it shine. At other times I am more fascinated with its inner structure, its more subtle form and spirit.
I work just about exclusively with Pacific Madrone from the Arbutus family. My favorite parts are the burls that grow within the roots of these trees. They are harvested for the veneer market and I use the rejects from this harvest. These burls often weigh many thousand pounds. To make them usable, the dirt and rocks have to be removed, then they can be cut into blocks. By working with wet wood with a high water content (up to 20% of it's volume) and by cutting or turning my forms very thin (to about an 1/8th of an inch) I take advantage of and encourage the changes that occur as the wood dries. As the water evaporates and leaves the cells and the space between the cells, the wood shrinks. Depending on how those cells were aligned in its structure, some very dynamic changes occur.
I work with a variety of tools. The chainsaw is used for most of the wood preparation but also for sculptural pieces. Here, the marks that are left are dramatic and forceful. The lathe is used for round forms; mainly in a series I call ‘Baskets'. Tool marks here are subtle and soft. In my current series of wall sculptures, called ‘Fragments' and ‘Torsos' I work with the band saw and a horizontal band saw mill to cut large blocks of Madrone burl into very thin panels. The saw leaves subtle lines across the surface of the wood. I dry these panels slowly over a period of weeks, sometimes months, in a controlled environment, allowing them to take on their final shape, while minimizing the chances of cracking.
When they have finished drying, I sandblast and bleach the panels. The sandblasting cleans and softens them. Like a lot of my other work, I use bleach to expose what is within. I compare this to Black and White photography: I remove most of the color to simplify, to focus on the structure and the undulations and textures that occurred through the drying process. Sometimes it feels obvious how a particular panel wants to be used, at other times it takes me a while to read it, feel it, ask what it wants from me, so that I can do my part. Many are discarded. I mount these thin slices of wood on the wall. At times, I display them as single objects, but mostly I assemble them into larger groups, all cut from the same block of green wood. I am interested in their interactions and the spaces between them. I enjoy the way their shapes and textures flow together and create a whole. When mounted and with proper lighting, beautiful shadows appear on the wall, extending the form in varying degrees of grey.
In the ‘Torso' series, I have cut the wood in such a way, that after the panels dry, they carry a sometimes subtle, sometimes very obvious resemblance to human torsos, male and female. At times I approach the panels like I would a canvas and with the help of a burning tool I add my own ideas and energy, through textures and variations in color. I either try to step into the surface and flow with the grain and the underlying energy, or I start creating multiple levels of texture, sometimes adding the burning as a separate element.
In the ‘Baskets' series, I use a very simple form turned on the lathe in varying sizes, turned very thin to let the wood speak at its fullest. This simple form contains the movement of the wood during the drying. Each basket is different from the next. Here too, tool marks are left. Edges are burnt. Sometime the wood out of the actual root system of the Madrone tree is used, resulting in extreme distortion. By displaying them in multiples in varying sizes, I create families, relationships.
In the series called ‘Books', I have worked again with the band saw. They are always bleached and sometimes textured. They, too, are cut from green blocks and dried. I use a microwave to help the wood dry evenly and from the inside out. Each one's form is a direct result of the underlying grain structure. Each book has it's own personality. Working this way allows me a freedom and pleasure I did not feel while working with dry and stable wood, and this freedom is very important to me. It keeps me challenged and often surprised. It makes me feel that I am working together with my material, not trying to subdue or control it.
To be working this closely with nature is a blessing, but also often overwhelming. It is a struggle. At times I find myself needing to put my foot down, to control the outcome of my work, only to find that I trampled something beautiful. At other times I feel overwhelmed, scared: what is needed of me here, how can I match the beauty of this living thing? How am I to know when to be loud and when to be quiet…? Maybe this stuff just matches my personality, something to wrestle with, something that stirs my imagination, something to control. That nature versus manmade thing, that struggle, that tension, that conflict. My work is about my relationship with nature, my desire to connect with it on a deep level. Trying to get under its skin and be part of it. Searching, finding something sacred, adding my touch, wrestling with it. Showing the beauty of it under a different light: exposing, transforming. I make things out of a deep urge to create and out of a driving curiosity. I need to do it. I don't really have a choice in the matter.
When I am working with the panels I am looking for certain patterns. Patterns that are known to us from nature: landscapes, maps, bodies and birds. A pattern or image that elicits a visceral response. How come a piece of wood looks like a torso or the flight of birds? When the image is quiet enough to have some space for me, it becomes a canvas and I can add to or change the direction of the energy.
I get great pleasure from slowly learning what is in a panel and from following and trusting my intuition. There are hints of form that I follow, flows of energy, abstractions that are faintly familiar. I attempt to bring them into focus. Some of the more interesting imagery happens where the root burl changes into the straight-grained parts of a tree. Something special happens here, there is a charge, a place where two energies meet.
I do take a lot of chances and I fail a lot. Many ideas just don't turn out after all. I burn a lot of my work. It can feel at times as if I was holding a whole lot of strings and am weaving them together. I push and pull till it sings. And I am learning to ask more of the right questions, to set things in motion, set possibilities in motion. At times I am even patient!
I allow my relationships and my need for connection to flow into and inform the work. It is different now than it was ten years ago. There used to be lot of fear in my work, a rush to succeed and a fear of failing. Life has changed and I have slowed down, and my work has gotten simpler and quieter. The difference is that I am not looking for something new all the time. I have gained a deeper understanding of the wood that I am using, there is more breadth in our relationship. I have learned to trust the process, to give it the time and confidence it needs and deserves. That in turn is stretching my creative abilities, strongly affecting me and the work.
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