Interview with Katie Bonadies
Charlie Nordstrom is a filmmaker and sculptor living in Portland, ME. His passion is making videos about artists, art organizations, and museums. In his studio art practice, Charlie makes clay, bronze, and multimedia sculptures. He has been a member at RWS since July 2022 and created the Print Jam promo video that debuted this year. Charlie started his career in 2006 making videos for the Human Rights Campaign in DC. He then moved to San Francisco and got a job at Autodesk filming the artists at the Pier 9 Artist Residency (some were architects or product designers). That’s how he learned he wanted to focus on artists and began making videos for art museums in the Bay Area. After a year of following the residency artists, he realized that he wanted to begin an art practice of his own. Though his two practices are distinct, Charlie hopes all of his work contains a sense of curiosity and wonder. With his sculptural work, Charlie’s process often consists of finding inspiration from patterns in nature. When he was a teenager he found a whale vertebrae on a beach. The bone has markings from time spent tumbling in sand that has given it an osteoporosis look. (He has since called a wildlife conservancy to report his finding; they said that since it was not a part of a decomposing whale when he found it, it was alright for him to possess the bone.) He made rubber molds of the whale vertebrae that are able to capture the smallest details of the bone’s pitted surface. He uses the molds to create a top to bottom, back to front mirror of the object.
Nordstrom Films Reel. 2023. 1:27. Video.
The process of his whale bone project is similar to his experience working as a video editor where he rearranges different segments to tell a story, “With video it’s easier to grab someone’s attention and tell a story because you have images, sound, pacing, and time," whereas with sculpture the viewer is observing an object and how it is situated in its surrounding. It’s a challenge that Charlie enjoys, taking an object that people know and making it feel unfamiliar. Charlie’s bone sculpture is a form that people recognize and the texture is reminiscent of bone, but the size is so large that it’s hard for many to believe they are looking at a replica of an actual bone. He has plans to take the sculpture a step further by stretching the bone so that it gives viewers a distorted feeling of space and time.
Charlie uses a special kind of clay, called ‘paper clay’, that allows him to take
fragments from the mold and rearrange them as if it were a cubist interpretation of a natural object. He has to wait for the clay to dry completely before he can take it out of the mold and paper clay has the special property of being able to join pieces of bone-dry clay together. Paper clay is a clay slurry mixed with the pulp of a fibrous material (such as paper, flax, or wool) to a desired consistency. What Charlie finds really interesting is that regular clay is very hard to connect once it is dried and will crack when fired, but paper clay has microscopic cellulose fibers that act as a circulatory system for water that keeps it in working condition.
Physeter. 2023. 23"x11"x11". Ceramic.
For Charlie making art is a state of mind. When he creates his sculptures he exits survival mode and enters a realm of mystery in which he can just enjoy and explore questions that don’t need immediate answers or may not even have any. With his sculptures, Charlie is exploring the shifting theories in quantum physics, “That part of science right now is really ripe for artists because part of it questions whether there is an objective reality at all.” He’s referring to things that scientists are learning about gravity and the difference in behavior of light when it’s being observed and when it's not. It gives Charlie a lot of fodder to feel like there are still so many mysteries. The stretched whale bone sculpture will become a visual distortion of space and time meant to emulate that mysterious feeling.
March 7th 2012. 2018. 13"x13"x13". Ceramic.
May 6th 1983. 2019. 13"x13"x13". Ceramic.
Charlie also has a series of portal sculptures that invite the viewer to look through a created space and think about light and space and time. The sculptures evoke questions like, Is death merely a passage? While he’s creating, Charlie likes to imagine these sculptures as beings you might encounter on your way to the other side. View Charlie’s whale bone sculpture at the RWS 20th Anniversary show at Cove Street Arts, November 9, 2023 - January 6, 2024. View Charlie's sculptural work at charlienordstrom.com/sculpture and his video website at charlienordstrom.com. Charlie is currently taking on new video clients. Email email@example.com.