The Somerville based sculpture creator reflects on indoor and outdoor works
(Somerville Wire) – If you’ve ever walked along the Somerville Community Bike Path recently, you may have seen Chris Frost’s work. His public art installation “Annex” appears to be a refuge for birds, consisting of a series of intricately designed tree dwellings for them. I asked Frost to tell me a bit more about his inspirations, processes, and future projects.
Your work is mostly three-dimensional, as you create indoor and outdoor sculpture. How would you describe your approach to artwork, and what are your influences?
Though I do create mostly on three-dimensional artwork, my interests are material, form and site. These influences tend to expand the range of the work from painting, indoor/outdoor sculpture, and installation. Materials vary from ceramics, cast concert and metals, constructed wood to resins and expanding foam. Siting of the artwork also shifts; traditional wall and pedestal work, to site-specific outdoor installations in the woods or on a street corner. I am not interested in humanness or societal concerns, though I often reflect on the human effect on the natural world.
You have an installation on the Somerville Community Bike Path called “Annex.” What inspired these birdhouses that you created? Were you hoping that birds would make these sculptures a home?
The inspiration for “Annex” (located on the Somerville Community Bike Path) was a larger piece I completed with my daughter, Basil, in 2018. The piece, “Colony,” was also along the Minuteman bike path in Arlington. Initially, we were interested in making a few very fancy birdhouses for our local birds. Then we thought we’d put a few houses together, then a few more, then bridges, etc. Then it got a bit out of hand, with a structure of 30 buildings of various architectural styles and scales. After being selected for a Visual Arts Fellowship Grant from the Somerville Arts Council, I thought I would construct a smaller version (“Annex”) as my Community Benefit. It was an opportunity to bring the work closer to home and to provide a shelter for the birds in my neighborhood. These are both temporary artworks, meant to last a couple years, but the purpose was to attract birds. Note, no birds stayed in the structure in Arlington. Last spring, there was a robin who nested and raised her chicks in “Annex.”
What have your most recent projects been like, and what are you working on now?
Currently, I just deinstalled a site-specific sculpture that was part of an outdoor sculpture exhibition in Gloucester. This piece consisted of a large (4’x3’x2’) concrete hand that held a three dimensional stained glass flame. The flame was illuminated with lights from within. This piece currently resides in my front yard on College Ave. Come check it out at night.
Future projects include a large ceramic totem for an outdoor exhibition in Falmouth and an indoor installation of ceramics and fountains.
What do you like about creating art pieces that are displayed outdoors and in nature?
Creating work for site-specific outdoor locations is really what most interests me. For me, these works should have a connection to the site by a physical relation and/or the site’s history. I enjoy the process of investigating each new site and delving into its history. I get to know a location more intimately, and I hope to provide for the viewer a fresh way to experience the site through form and narration.
Has the pandemic influenced your process at all? How have you navigated these times?
During the pandemic, I have been fortunate enough to be able to continue working in the studio and continue teaching. So my production has not really been affected, though it has been a bit more isolated. What did change was the ability to exhibit my work and the ability to visit exhibitions. Luckily, things are now opening up, people are coming out to see art, and galleries and museums are responding.
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Shira Laucharoen is assistant director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and assistant editor and staff reporter of the Somerville Wire.