Vermont sculptor and video artist Colin C. Boyd pulls from nature to raise existential questions about our connections to animals.
In a video that Colin C. Boyd created for a gallery exhibition in Minneapolis this past summer, a bear looks out a small basement window at a squirrel that runs away, seemingly envious of its freedom. The video installation, entitled “The Mechanical Bear and Thunderbird’s Wilderness Dream,” uses stop-motion animation with the live-action presence of the bear sculpture that Boyd built, as well as Boyd himself. Another scene in it shows the animal having a conversation with his creator at a kitchen table.
It’s a sometimes lighthearted, sometimes melancholy view that imagines the animal’s perspective—or reflects the artist’s emotional interpretation of that perspective. Boyd will personify or distort the typical animal image but with a sense of wonder and admiration for the complexity that nature made. “I’m really, really attracted to the form of animals,” Boyd says. “The world of animals is full of the most fascinating things in the world.”
Boyd’s work—whether sculpture, drawings or video—is grounded in natural history, the geological and zoological landscape without human influence. Most importantly, Boyd says, he explores the way we come to understand ourselves and our interaction with the world through these organically formed elements. “It all has to do with the human and the human narrative of our relationship to these animals,” he says.
Boyd grew up in Rome, New York, and took classes at Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in nearby Utica. He completed his bachelor of fine arts degree at The College of St. Rose in Albany and then got his master’s at the University at Albany in 2008.
In graduate school, Boyd learned about mastodons that had roamed the Northeast and started fishing for information through museums across New England. He studied reconstructed mastodon skeletons and yearned to know more about the process of doing that work. In 2013, after floating through various art teaching positions in upstate New York, he landed at Middlebury College as an art studio technician. It brought him new terrain to explore—the fossils found from New England’s early development and remnants of the pre-colonial era.
“The landscape here and the environment are much more conducive to what I’m looking for,” he says. “This whole region is very rich in those early discoveries.”
The bare rock formations of the Green Mountains in central Vermont and the White Mountains in New Hampshire became the focus of his contribution to an exhibition last year called Future Perfect: Picturing the Anthropocene at the University at Albany Museum of Art. He built a science-fiction scene with rock elements as monuments against a sky that changes colors from dusk to dawn. The piece evolved, using video, over time like a work in progress, Boyd says.
Boyd’s work is currently on view at Albany International Airport. “Cormorants and the Whale” depicts the sea birds flying around a reconstructed whale skeleton, intended to capture “just the awe of the size of the creature,” Boyd says.
For an exhibition scheduled to open in Albany in November, he is building an aluminum “walrus apparatus.” Unlike the bear that interacted with a human and the world outside, the walrus will fit a human inside to control it.