Trent Radio 2023/24 Online Ads
Severn Court (October-August)
Theatre Trent 2023/24
Arthur News School of Fish
Photo courtesy of Michael Nathaniel Green.

In Conversation with Michael Nathaniel Green for "Come Closer"

Written by
Cameron Noble
and
and
October 16, 2023
In Conversation with Michael Nathaniel Green for "Come Closer"
Photo courtesy of Michael Nathaniel Green.

I had the opportunity to attend the reception and opening of Michael Nathaniel Green’s new exhibition at Artspace, Come Closer, which is available to view until November 25th at Artspace. 

I’ve seen Michael’s work exhibited three times in Peterborough including a solo show at Evans Contemporary, a group show at Coeur Nouveau, and work exhibited in the Artspace 50/50 Art Auction. Michael has also exhibited work at Drey Gallery in Toronto and internationally at its sister gallery in Berlin, Germany. I’m a fan of Michael’s work and was excited to hear that he was available to talk with us about Come Closer

Cameron: As I understand you’ve spent lots of time in Canada, including living in Alberta and Barrie studying fine arts, before finishing your master's degree from Ohio State University and taking a periodic break from producing artwork. How did you end up moving to the area?

Michael: I moved to Peterborough for a job building solar panel farms, but have been coming to this area my whole life, more specifically Havelock where I live now. My mother was born in Havelock, and I have a ton of family in this area.

Cameron: Could you introduce our readership to some of the themes present in Come Closer?

Michael: The Show is about creating strength, resilience and courage by being kind to oneself and others, particularly in relationship to mental health and the darker parts of oneself we reject and push away. If you really follow that thread and get down to it Kindness is action, and one realizes “the world is workable.” There are no parts of the world inside and out that are not able to be touched by kindness in action. The title of the show, Come Closer, is essentially about intimacy and mystery. In Scott Erickson’s book SAY YES he released a question into the universe, “why so much Mystery?” and an echo of a whisper came back to him that said “to bring you closer.” That to me made total sense to me; if all our questions are answered, where would our longing come from?

Cameron: I’ve had the opportunity to see your artwork exhibited at Evans Contemporary, Coeur Nouveau, and now Artspace. This felt big, both in terms of scale, but also how intimate this felt to you as an artist. Even the name, Come Closer, felt like this work invited me to get to understand you more. I understand Come Closer to be quite a personal endeavor, what prompted you to tell a personal story of resilience, now?   

Michael: It is nice to know that you have seen my work over the years in the community. So, you will know that I pushed myself very hard for this show. It meant a great deal to me to share, contribute and be authentic about my mental health and creativity for this show. To be a light bearer for Schizophrenia and conversations about mental health people don't want to have. Pain helps us to empathize and come closer to each other. Kindness is action and it soothes the pain from ignoring parts of ourselves we wish would go away. I mean in western culture we used to just throw people away into institutions that were outside the norm of mental wellness. At least now there are seeds of change and hope where mental health is being talked about with younger generations.

Cameron: With that said, it’s fantastic to see your work at this scale at Artspace. Arthur has had the pleasure of being involved with the center for decades and thank you for giving us the opportunity to get in here and dig into some of their programming. Could you tell me a bit more about what it’s like working with an artist-run center?

Michael: In my opinion artist-run centres are the creative backbone of Canadian art. They allow artists to push themselves and experiment without the pressures of the market and because of CARFAC (Canadian Artists Representation/Le Front des Artistes Canadiens) they get paid. Artspace is one of the oldest artist-run centres in Canada and has been a vital part of the art community in Peterborough for years. On a personal note, contributing artwork to the 50/50 fundraiser rekindled my art making career and gave me tremendous momentum to continue. I have a deep sense of gratitude to Artspace and the Peterborough art community and feel extremely honored to show at the gallery. It means a lot to me.

Cameron: You mention in the artist statement that your drawing and photographic work, in essence careful observation, are the incumbent stages of creation for your sculptures. Could you tell me a bit more about this germinant phase of your process, particularly for Come Closer?

Michael: Having a sketch book, journal and photography has been my way of immediately noticing the beauty in the everyday world around me.  It is a foundation, a non-judgmental space for me to express myself. I can't emphasize enough the practice of noticing the beauty around you, capturing those threads and following them over time can lead you to, well you. There is an invisible beauty behind everything.

Cameron: In previous interviews, you’ve remarked that gold, particularly gold in your previous sculptural works like (Echo)incidence, The Cage, and Light Choices, represents the symbolic significance of gold in art and culture; its rarity, prestige, and association with the material. In Come Closer, you comment on the “unhealthy ego.” I'm interested in the intention behind your use of gold in this exhibit, particularly the relationship of the gold sculpture to the sculptural representation of the scythe?

Michael: I am drawn to the color gold and moved by it. As “The last Stardust Secret” its rarity is unquestionable, scientists aren't even sure how it’s made in the universe. On a personal note, the scythe for me was an image of Death. It poses the question: has a dream of yours ever died? or have you ever been broken? There are varying degrees of death in life. I had a psychosis at the age of 32 and spent 10 years not making art and simply gave up on life. In Japan there is a practice called Kintsugi that restores broken pottery vessels with golden seams. The beauty of these highlighted imperfections is much of what the show Come Closer is pointing to. How do you rebuild your life? I feel it’s through kindness to yourself and others. That is the courage needed in the world today.

Cameron: I was curious about the process of using the tools and skills at your immediate proximity; you mention the hardware store which I assume is located near your studio space in Havelock, Ontario. How does your process, which seems to have particular focus on spiritual connection and community, connect to the themes present in Come Closer?

Michael: As a sculptor the logistics of making work can be very overwhelming and often you need help from your community and your friends. Also, when a sculptor comes out of school the tools and skills developed in facilities of the school are not there anymore, so you need to make things up skill wise and tool wise for a number of years. I worked as a carpenter for eight years, and that helped me become more confident with tools outside of school. I currently work at a hardware store, so I get many of my materials from there and am influenced by the materials I see there. I also can get many technical questions answered there from people in the trades about building things. I am soon going to learn how to weld from a guy just down the street from me that fabricates my metal work.

Cameron: I loved what you had to say about the transition of the ‘I’ to ‘We’, in the latent stages of your technique and confidence in your work, you mentioned in your interview with Charles Hackbarth. I’m curious if you could elaborate on the themes of hope, and how Come Closer aims to reach out and attain the “We” you describe?

Michael: In the show there are Magenta colored seeds in all of the pieces. The image for me is one of growth, hope and giving. The belief of growth as change and that the 'world is workable' *Jack Kornfield despite how dark it can get. The 'we' is about giving and contributing to the world as a bearer of light. Shining light on areas of mental health people don't want to talk about. Part of this show will have a panel discussion on Nov. 15th about Mental Health and Creativity. For me it is as important as the show, these potentially uncomfortable conversations are important for growth and change.

***

Special thanks to Michael for sitting down for the interview, and to Leslie Managh from Artspace, for helping with the interview.

Trent Radio 2023/24 Online Ads
Severn Court (October-August)
Theatre Trent 2023/24
Arthur News School of Fish
Written By
Sponsored
Trent Radio 2023/24 Online Ads
Severn Court (October-August)
Theatre Trent 2023/24
Arthur News School of Fish

Heading 1

Heading 2

Heading 3

Heading 4

Heading 5
Caption text

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

"Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system."
  • adfasdfa
  • asdfasdfasd
  • asfdasdf
  • asdfasdf

Heading 1

Heading 2

Heading 3

Heading 4

Heading 5
Caption text

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

"Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system."
  • adfasdfa
  • asdfasdfasd
  • asfdasdf
  • asdfasdf