Boyd Christensen, my dear friend, passed away yesterday. He was friend, buddy, and my artist mentor. A quiet man, his art focused on design in nature.
As an artist creates, his or her ideas and medium of expression evolve. One can see this in the body of Boyd’s work and the materials through which he chose to create.
He was a problem-solver, good at design, good with his hands which he applied to construction. He and Betty, brought their unique abilities to every home they owned–each a masterwork of thoughtful, organic design.
Boyd taught me what an artist’s life is about, not through words, but through his daily actions which I observed over the 30 years we knew each other. He was always thinking about his art, and I noticed that he saw shadow, light, negative space and motion/form in all things. His mind was clear.
He worked in his studio almost daily but he also kept up a playful active life which I believe refueled the artist impulse. He liked to “work in his woods” and to ski, mostly cross country–sometimes in what he described as a heat wave (above zero in Duluth). I was a desert dweller and later a Floridian whom he like to tease about being a wimp when it comes to a Minnesota wintertime.
Their current home in Duluth, MN is a beautiful place set on a hill overlooking Lake Superior. There were thick copses of trees which Boyd set about clearing to improve the view. A man who cared deeply about nature, in fact found the inspiration for his art from nature, he kept each tree for his art.
The popple tree (big-toothed aspen) provided an easy medium for his sculpture. Under the gray or green-yellow bark, the pith is white and smooth, looking at times almost like bone or ivory. Boyd carefully cut each tree, saving the trunks, major limbs, and all the smaller branches, cataloging them so that he could juxtapose these in a sculpture, a set of relationships that reformed the essence of the tree into a new expression. He stayed at his new form of art for many years and finally amassed what he named The Folded Forest. Here is one example: