Brian Christiansen has an exhibit at the Nevada Museum of Art called “Trophy Hunter,” on display until May 9th. It’s an exploration of both hunting culture and material choices in everyday objects.
“Raised in a small log cabin in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Christiansen experienced all the requisite activities of a rural childhood: absorbing nature, communing with wildlife, and learning to hunt. But at the same time, he also grappled with the complicated and tumultuous happenings of his family’s domestic life. When Christiansen arrived as a student at the University of Nevada, Reno, he turned to art as a way of wrestling with the conflicting realities of his past” (NMA).
Christiansen skins sofas and armchairs, displaying the culled hides on the wall. He then creates sculptures of hunted animals from the innards of the now dead furniture. “The furniture that is thus skinned and gutted is then reassembled into totemic animal forms, like some strange new shamanism of couches. These creatures now stand alert throughout the gallery space, their bodies ingenious reconfigurations of wooden legs, springs, and seat frames” (BLDGBLOG).
The kind of art that I like should be becoming apparent at this point – work that is both beautiful and provocative in some way – so I won’t go into that as I have with Chris Jordan and David Maisel. What makes Christiansen’s work stand out for me though, is the ingenuity and creativity displayed. It’s one of those things, that I would never think to do, but just seems to make sense in a weird way once it’s done.
Christiansen’s animals have an antique quality to them, like you would see them displayed in the livingroom of a Victorian manor. Yet while their appearance is surprisingly innocuous, the idea behind them is strikingly odd. They are stand-ins for killed animals, and if we really follow Christiansen’s hunting analogy to the logical conclusion, they are skinless trophies, more like the Bodies Exhibit than conventional taxidermied animals.
This multifaceted approach to art is awesome. Trophy Hunter is definitely one of my favorite projects that I’ve seen for a while.