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I Got to Sit in an Igloo: An Interview with Untitled 17 Artist Nick Chatfield-Taylor

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

Untitled Tinsel Curtains, 2022

If you came to the opening of our Untitled 17 exhibit, you might have missed Nick Chatfield-Taylor’s piece, Untitled Tinsel Curtains, 2022, right at the front of the gallery. It’s all part of Nick’s plan. He works with spaces and supporting-act objects—disposable party decorations, plastic packaging, air, fog—to elevate these forgotten materials and separate them from their former lives, while making a minimal impact on the surrounding environment.

We hope that if you did miss the flowy black tinsel that you eventually got a chance to see it. The wafting tinsel, pushed constantly by an oscillating floor fan, is meant to be subtle and it achieved that beautifully. On opening night we watched as the tinsel, despite being a large black rectangle that covered our entire entry wall, was missed by some as they entered and headed to the inner galleries. Others came up to our desk and asked us where Nick’s piece was, and we got to point behind their shoulder and say, “right there.” We, and Nick, loved all of these reactions.

The artist with Untitled Tinsel Curtains, 2022.

Like other pieces Nick has worked on recently, Untitled Tinsel Curtains is meant to be observed and sat with over several cycles, as a moment to experience meditative rhythm and to encourage finding variety in monotony. Nick likened the repetitive movements of the tinsel to waves on a shore, or wind moving over grass. They may seem like the same movement over and over, but with close attention and time, the viewer can start to pick out differences. It’s also a nod to the absurdity of a repetition that has outlasted all meaning or purpose.

The other integral element of Nick’s work is space. Each of his pieces considers its surroundings, which has been a common thread through his past work. In a previous body of work consisting of architectural sculptures in natural environments, the space around the work was as much a part of the art as the structure itself. At present Nick explores ways to affect an environment with as few gestures as possible, leaving no permanent alterations. He wants his structures and installations to invite others into the space, while also leaving space for others to contribute. “The textbook history of sculpture is teeming with white men who often take up all the oxygen in the room,” Nick tells me. “I’m asking, ‘How can I inhabit a space and be present, but not prevent others from co-inhabiting?’”

Nick Chatfield-Taylor inside the igloo, wearing a SICK green jumpsuit that I neglected to get a good photo of.

Now to address the igloo: it’s true, Nick invited me to sit in an igloo, which he made himself, in his backyard while I interviewed him. We were able to stay out there for an hour and half on a relatively icy Saturday morning and I felt pretty proud of us. While the igloo is minimal, impermanent, employs a one-time use material, and totally fits into Nick’s scope of work and aesthetic, he mainly decided to build it in order to decompress after arriving back to snowy Minneapolis after a 1500 mile drive in January. This is all the more remarkable because Nick is not from Minnesota (he’s from the east coast) and he moved here from Oakland. Please join me in congratulating him on his resilience.

Nick continues to work with one-time-use materials and exploration of space and his impact on, in, and around it. You can see Untitled Tinsel Curtains at SooVAC until March 25 (that’s this Saturday!) and Fusion of Landscapes, his exhibit with Meagan Marsh Pine, at the University of Minnesota’s Larson Gallery until May 19.

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