Briefly describe the work you do.
Most of my work involves interviewing my friends or family, asking them about their relationships, personal experiences, and quirky perspectives on life. After the initial in-depth interview (often 2-3 hours long), I edit the text or audio to the most germane information and then pair it with a visual. Sometimes it’s photography, mostly it’s video.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I grew up in a small town in rural Minnesota. My parents were music teachers and devout Lutherans. I am the middle child, with an older sister and younger sister. I have always been overly sensitive. I’m a pretty good listener. I’m not an actor and have no training, though I spent a lot of time in front of the mirror as a child. All of these characteristics directly shape the work I make.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My “studio” is the people around me, an audio recorder, a video camera, and my laptop. I still seem to toil away alone a lot, especially when editing (I think I spend an extraordinary amount of time editing), but my work relies heavily on the outside world and the people around me.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
Though my work is deeply personal, I hope to provoke a lot of questions in each individual viewer. I want my work to challenge established mindsets/preconceived notions. Not necessarily in a huge world-altering way, just on a daily or personal level, especially in regards to the way we think about ourselves and others and how that shapes our relationships. I didn’t initially set out as an artist with these goals, but they’ve developed over time.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
I wish I had a best time to work… and I wish I could set aside a regular schedule. Some artists are so good at that. I make work pretty sporadically. Often a concept sits with me for a long time before actually taking action on it. It’s so cliché, but deadlines are the best motivation for me.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
I think the same basic principles still guide my work — questioning and exploring personal relationships, personal viewpoints, etc. In the last five years I’ve become more and more interested in cinematic techniques. I’m no auteur, but my work now relies more on the visuals and camera techniques of cinema than it used to.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
My main artist influences have been Gillian Wearing, Cindy Sherman, Candice Breitz, Rineke Dijkstra. My family and friends have been influential, as they have directly been a part of my work. Former professors at St. Olaf College, especially Meg Ojala and Pat Kelley, and Paul Berger at the University of Washington have played a big role as well.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I always wondered if I should have pursued Sociology in some way. Luckily, my profession as an art professor complements my profession as an artist.
About Peter Becker Bonde Nelson
Peter Bonde Becker Nelson received his BA in Studio Art from St. Olaf College in 2004 and his MFA in Interdisciplinary Visual Arts at the University of Washington in 2010. From 2010 to 2013, Peter taught at St. Lawrence University in Northern New York. He currently teaches at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN.
Nelson has exhibited in such places as the Corcoran Gallery, Washington D.C.; The Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA; The University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA; The College Art Association Conference, New York, NY; Minnesota Museum of American Art, St. Paul, MN; and the Pingyao International Photography Festival, Pingyao, China. Nelson was the recipient of the Graduating with Excellence Award from the University of Washington School of Art in 2010 and has received grants such as the 4Culture Individual Artist Project Grant, the Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant, and faculty development grants at St. Lawrence University. His work has been reviewed in national and international publications.
Examining themes of gender, aging, class, and identity, Nelson records and interprets the personal narratives of his friends, family, and self. As one reviewer recently wrote, “His work delves into the nuances of human connection — love, friendship, intimacy, frustration and loss.”
In addition to art, Peter sings and plays the mandolin with the indie-folk duo Jayber Crow.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.