On a road trip last Spring, we made a stop in Ashland, Oregon, home of a world-famous Shakespeare Festival. The play we saw, Chekhov’s gut-wrenching “The Seagull,” turned out to be a warm up for our next act, which involved an entire menagerie. Harry the Dog, two rescue cats, goats, and baby ducks – who were swimming in the master bathtub when we met them – are just part of the fun attractions at Christian Burchard’s Cold Mountain Studio, on the outskirts of Ashland.
We stopped by to visit this latter-day Dr. Dolittle, family in tow, at the request of Telluride Gallery of Fine Art director, Baerbel Hacke, who wanted the lowdown on a fellow German and favorite (relatively) new artist in the gallery’s stable. Burchard is a master woodturner and sculptor, with a variety of new works currently on display at 130 East Colorado Avenue, a fitting complement to paintings by Mark English, Karen Kokjer and Robert Weatherford: woodworks among their garden of flowers.
Burchard was a charming host, who appears to be very much in touch with his inner Peter Pan. Toys (and the aforementioned animals) are everywhere, including instruments, his latest “thing,” in different stages of development. So are his world-famous “books,” each one’s form a direct result of the underlying grain structure of the wood from which it was fashioned, each one, according to Burchard, with its own “personality.”
There were wall sculptures, baskets, and serrated arching shapes, part of a series Burchard describes as “Songs of the Bones/Songlines,” all largely fashioned from Pacific Madrone wood, Burchard’s material of choice. (He works in Madrone exclusively and his favorite part is the burl, the row within the roots of the tree.) Books, baskets, wall panels, fanciful arches: find great examples in Burchard’s mini show within the gallery’s group blooming group show. And the main impression the work leaves when seen together is the opposite of a rigid technique turning out predictable results. Burchard is extremely responsive to his material: he lets it speak for him in a nuanced voice so that each piece, wall hanging and free form sculptures alike, displays a distinctive personality. Just like its creator.
Born in Hamburg, Germany in 1955, Christian has been living in the United States since 1978. He started out his professional life as a furniture maker’s apprenticeship in Germany in the mid- 1970s, before studying sculpture and drawing at the Museum School in Boston and the Emily Carr College of Art and Design in Vancouver, BC.
In 1982, Burchard opened his studio, which today is the architectural equivalent of Romney’s dog strapped to the roof of his car - seems out of place, but the wooden structures that make up the complex just thumb their noses at the trophy homes that now surround them.
In the beginning, Burchard’s focus was on furniture and interiors. He gradually shifted to woodturning and sculpture and now moves between vessel-oriented forms and sculptural turning. His work has been included in most of the major turning related exhibits of the last 20+ years and is exhibited and collected widely throughout the U. S., most recently at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art.
Before we headed up the coast to Lincoln City, Burchard offered a snack for the road: goat cheese (natch!) on crackers, all homemade. (Oh, and Burchard, a renaissance man if there ever was one, also does Tuvan throat-singing).
To learn more about this remarkable man and his work, watch Clint Viebrock’s video.