Syntax Issue 10
Denver Syntax

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To live as a working artist and even more than that – to live as a working artist that is not only independent but fiercely successful – this is one of the primary goals of every artist. For Christopher Owen Nelson, this is not only the reality, it is the consequence of many years of toil and hard work.

Certainly, when you find success even at a young age, there are modicums of pressure – but also rewards and applause. Christopher Owen Nelson’s childhood revolved around art. And rightfully so, for very early on, it was apparent to all around Nelson that he had a gift, and more than that – a pronounced gift. A profound gift.

In a juried contest, Nelson dramatically won a scholarship to art school. And while the compliment was well-received, once immersed in art school and Nelson’s creative drive was drowned and so, he left. For several years, Nelson’s artistic pursuit went on the lam and he immersed himself in the next-natural extension: playing music. In music Nelson located a deep and overwhelming sense of movement, above and beyond the trivial and daily life. Still, while Nelson explored the world of music, he didn’t stray too far from his visual art roots. He learned how to see music through color, composition and the organic nature of both balance and imbalance alike.

Christopher Owen Nelson’s visual art explores the natural dichotomies of existence – the surreal element of life as well as the man-made orchestration of constructs like buildings and boundaries.

And then the time was right and Christopher Owen Nelson began producing new work. Intriguing in this reacquaintance with his art was Nelson’s move from the architectural lines and structures that he worked with through art school to the very natural world of bizarre landscapes and primarily, trees. Realistic, aching trees reaching into the tortured sky like trunks and torsos and hands and arms and legs kicking madly for relief.

In part, this move was not a big stretch from Nelson’s architectural history. No, staying true to his style and knowledge was still the interplay of order and chaos, controlled hysteria and neat, clean life sprouting up from the earth.

And while his style is certainly idiosyncratic, it is Nelson’s process and method which distinguishes him from most any other artist one can name. To begin, most of the process is kept under wraps, as it was Nelson alone who created this peculiar method of work. Running analogous to how he began selling his work by simply hitting the streets, talking with galleries and learning the jargon, where to shop his work, where to sell it – Nelson created his method of production, out of the ambiguous organic dirt.

From working in a snowboard shop with acrylic, Nelson began tinkering around and carving into the acrylic with a variety of tools. Then, it dawned on him – how to produce the kind of work that he was growing inside of his head. Out of necessity, he began creating custom tools to get the job done and now, over-simplified, Nelson’s process looks like this: Negative relief carving into the back of a piece of acrylic, paint, blowtorch the paint, carve, then paint more.

This is when Nelson hit the streets, talking with gallery owners about how to enter again into the public eye. And while he did find opposition, disinterest and hardships, it wasn’t too long before he also found acceptance and interest. Nelson showed around town, but quickly learned that there was also another avenue to make a living from – commissions and collectors. Soon, he was producing pieces for commercial and residential installations alike.

For most artists, the business side of being an artist is torture. And while this may not be Nelson’s favorite aspect of being a living, working and successful artist – he has kept his head up, and his expectations realistic. It is maybe on account of this realism coupled with hard work, why Nelson has grown into the successes that he has.

In the end, there are a multitude of factors which have set Nelson apart from his contemporaries: his surrealist exactitude, his process and method, but it is also his relentless drive to be a shrewd business man and networking artist that have all amalgamated into one fine, rare gem that, while stationed here in the Queen City – is showing and installing work all around the country.

This is the life of the working artist, to keep progressing, to continue working, being smart about opportunities and the industry at-hand. In total, this is the grand story of Christopher Owen Nelson’s art: to create life from chaos, and to replicate that symmetry time and time again with a delicate hand and a hard-working soul.