UMOCA Artist-in-Residence

Nick Pedersen is a photographer and digital artist currently based in Salt Lake City, Utah. He holds a BFA degree in Photography, as well as an MFA degree in Digital Arts from Pratt Institute in New York. He has shown artwork in galleries across the country and internationally, recently including the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, Paradigm Gallery, and Arch Enemy Arts. He has published two artist books featuring his long-term personal projects Sumeru and Ultima. Many of his images have been recognized with awards from the International Photography Awards, the Adobe Design Achievement Awards, and the Photoshop Guru Awards. His work has been featured in numerous publications such as Vogue, Create Magazine, Juxtapoz, Hi-Fructose, and on the covers of Photoshop User and After Capture. In the past few years he has also completed Artist Residencies at the Banff Center in Canada, the Gullkistan Residency in Iceland, and the Starry Night Retreat in New Mexico.

Artist Statement

My artwork is primarily inspired by my experience with nature and environmentalism. It is specifically motivated by my concern for the future due to the effects of climate change and many other environmental impacts humans have had on the planet. With carbon emissions reaching levels not seen in 15 million years, the atmosphere is currently on course towards a ‘climate crisis’ where modern civilization could become unsustainable. From melting polar ice caps, ocean acidification, and sea level rise to historic droughts, stronger wildfires, and more extreme weather events, we are quickly approaching a strange and unpredictable future. We now live in a precarious time where there are many tipping points that could lead us over the edge to a point of no return. This work explores the idea that the world as we know it might not be around forever, and questions the legacy that modern humanity will be handing down to future generations. My goal with these projects is to visually depict this modern conflict between the natural world and the manmade world in interesting and provocative ways, to create elaborate, photorealistic images that show a striking contrast between utopian and dystopian visions of the world. I portray this as an epic struggle and in my work these forces clash in theatrical, post-apocalyptic battlegrounds.

Influences

With much of my work, my main goal is to achieve a high-quality aesthetic of photographic believability, using my camera and digital tools to construct a complex collage of manipulated images. Each piece is carefully planned out and created as an intricately layered construction, which gives it such a hyper-real, illustrative quality. In terms of technique, I am very influenced by contemporary photo-based artists like Simen Johan, Robert ParkeHarrison, and Kahn & Selesnick, whose work similarly uses composited imagery to distort ideas of photographic truth, and create new worlds through their projects. Aesthetically, in many of my pieces I want to create a background vision of natural beauty and the sublime, so I am also often referencing early American artists from the Hudson River School. Through my work, I like to use this style of picturesque landscape imagery, juxtaposed with subversive elements from modern civilization. With this idea I am very inspired by the Pop Surrealism/Lowbrow aesthetic, especially with artists taking on environmental concepts like Josh Keyes and Walton Ford. Locally in Utah, I think my work resonates well with artists using nature as their subject matter like Claire Taylor and Mary Toscano, as well as with the collage-style printmaking work of Andrew Rice, and with Ed Bateman’s elaborate digital images.

Portfolio

“Canopy” (diptych)

“Slash+Burn”

“Sanctuary I” (diptych)

“Sanctuary II” (diptych)

“Jackson Square” Floating World – New Orleans

“South Beach” Floating World – Miami

“Coyotes” Migration series

“Guardians”

“Remnants of Time” Ultima I series

“Hunting Grounds” Ultima I series

“The Great Divide” Ultima II series

“Place of Power” Ultima II series

“The Dream Time” Ultima III series

“Shrine of the Sun” Ultima III series

“Ultima” Artist Book Edition

“Enlightened Earth” Main Line Art Center

Project Proposal 

“Writing on the Wall”

I am excited to apply for the UMOCA Residency, as this opportunity would give me the ability to focus on research and experimentation to take my work in some very interesting new directions. Over the course of the residency I’m planning to experiment with new techniques in photography, digital imaging, and printmaking, and see where this path takes me creatively. Much of my past work has explored the conceptual boundary between photography and illustration, taking advantage of digital imaging tools to create new worlds with my photographs. For this project, my goal is to push this idea farther, and create even more surreal work that challenges photographic perceptions of reality. I am greatly inspired by a Dadaist quote that I use often which says, “Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.” So in my work I try to incorporate this idea that art can be used as a tool to raise awareness about things like scientific truth and social justice, to inspire action, and to get people to think about the kind of future we are creating. For my residency project I want to take many of these conceptual motivations concerning environmental issues like climate change, and create a new body of work for a gallery installation under the tentative working title, “Writing on the Wall”.

With this project, I’m very interested in exploring the concept of disrupting the picture plane, and creating more collage-style photographic images. I want to expand on many of these ideas I’ve been starting to investigate like using diptychs and groupings to continue an image through multiple frames (like “Sanctuary” and “Migration”), or revealing different layers of imagery within the same piece (like “Slash+Burn”). I’m also most interested in creating an installation using highly stylized and patterned wallpaper imagery (like my piece “Canopy”). For example, I’m very influenced by the bold and colorful work of the art collaborative FAILE, and their incredible integration of collage, sculpture, and installation. For my residency project I want to create an installation in the gallery that incorporates all of these mediums, to create beautifully detailed pieces that subvert and question the world around us. Specifically, I’m envisioning a wallpaper installation on the full back wall, with large framed pieces, diptychs, picture groupings, and possibly sculptures filling in the surrounding areas. The concept, “Writing on the Wall”, is that this installation will be about beautiful decay, with my pieces revealing a satirically post-apocalyptic vision of the not too distant future.

The UMOCA Artist-in-Residence program would be a huge benefit to my creative and professional development as an artist. Hearing insights about my work from visiting curators, critics, and lecturers would be invaluable. Also, having a studio space to create and work on projects would be a great resource, especially to have room to set up studio lighting to photograph different subject matter, and the wall space to hang a lot of large-scale printed work to help build up my concepts. Exhibiting this new body of work in the A-I-R Space at the end of the year would also be such an honor. Thank you for your consideration, I think my work highlights many interesting techniques and innovative ideas, and I would love to share my residency project with the local artistic community.

Links

Please view more examples of my work, technique, and creative process through the links below:

WEBSITE – https://nick-pedersen.com

PORTFOLIO – https://www.behance.net/nickpedersen

RESUME – https://nickpedersen.files.wordpress.com/2019/12/cv_2020-1.pdf

INTERVIEW https://www.pbs.org/video/changing-minds-about-climate-change-d4981m


New Sample Project 

I also wanted to include a newer project I recently started on about the “Inversion” problem in Salt Lake City, to give a sense of my current ideas that could be incorporated into the residency. These are very rough mockups but I think it shows my concept of a satirically colorful dystopia that visualizes the effects of carbon emissions in Utah. Mainly, I want to use this idea of the mist covering everything as a metaphor, representing the existential dread that humanity is facing with anthropogenic climate change.