At best, objects make unreliable tour guides. They cannot argue with the narratives we imagine for them. As a maker of sculpture, I am interested in the way we re-interpret and re-tell the past through the filter of our current experience. These re-tellings also manifest themselves as objects: the museum replica, the diorama, the stage set, or the laboriously hand-sewn and fussily detailed garments of a re-enactor.
Objects such as these are the jumping-off points for my projects. In particular, I am interested in the approximations and shortcuts that we make in the interest of re-creating a given historical experience. Take, for example, a period interpreter on Philadelphia's Independence Mall, clad in an 18th-century frock coat sewn from flimsy polyester. Making my own meticulous replicas of historical objects generates its own little slippages and elisions, whether or not my objects can 'pass' as authentic. These slippages connect us to larger ideas about how we write and re-tell history, questioning the narratives we choose to emphasize and those we neglect.
At right: Work underway on A Monument After the Bicentennial at SculptureSpace, summer 2016.
Born in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Lewis Colburn holds a BA in studio art and Russian language from St. Olaf College, and a MFA in sculpture from Syracuse University. Colburn has participated in residency programs at the Center for Land Use Interpretation, the Vermont Studio Center, D’Clinic Studios in Zalaegerszeg, Hungary, and SculptureSpace in Utica, New York.
Colburn’s work has been shown internationally and throughout the United States, at venues including the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, the Arlington Arts Center in Arlington, VA, and South China Normal University in Guangzhou, China. He has an upcoming project scheduled at the Torrance Art Museum in Los Angeles, CA.
Colburn is also a member of NAPOLEON, an artist-run project space in Philadelphia’s Rollins Building. His works have been featured in Sculpture magazine, as well as the Philadelphia Inquirer. He is currently based in Philadelphia, and teaches sculpture at Drexel University, where he is an assistant professor.
At left: Faces for A Broken Index fresh from carving on the CNC router, summer 2017.