affinity_header_800.png is the artwork of charles c. emlen


mfa in sculpture, arizona state university, 1984
bfa in sculpture, pennsylvania state university, 1981

Artist Statement

Not unlike the Futurists of early twentieth century, I find a great deal of beauty in a well built machine. Its movement, structure and synchronization leave me with feelings of strength and continuity. Even more than a machine’s design, I am especially interested in its implied function. A question I often ask myself is, ‘what does this thing look like it’s supposed to do’?

Instead of designing a machine that might have some particular purpose, I am more drawn to building one that only appears to have one; one that suggests some obscure function that may never quite reveal itself.

Where I grew up the landscape was littered with old stone structures. The structures that intrigued me the most were the mills. I saw these crumbling, colonial installations as temples to the industry of the past. While a specific enterprise may only have been suggested, the overall feeling I remember was always one of function; intention. It never really seemed to matter just exactly what was made at these sites only that a sense of purpose was overwhelmingly present.

This exposure to the industry of the past as well as my work in the software and electronics industries may well be responsible for why my artwork tends to lean towards a kind of fictional function. I seek to voice that fleeting sense of purpose, or, the suggestion of some yet untapped pseudo-technical methodology. To me, everything is fiction, metaphor… allusion.

I can easily be distracted, though, by the seemingly mundane matters of line, form, balance and composition, and as such, I sometimes stray from the fictional/functional milieu. Sometimes I find myself working in a purely formal manner. Things I might consider… How is the weight distributed? Does this member articulate well with that member? Is the shape true? Do I want symmetry or asymmetry, repetitive iconography or unique symbology? Where is the focus?

Even when I’m distracted by the fundamentals I always seem to find my way back to some suggestion of purpose, and I continue to ask the question – ‘what is the intention?’

influences and interests include but are not limited to...

iconography, entropy, claus oldenburg, srl, robert smithson, infiniti, zen/calculi, martin puryear, david therrien, symbolic logic, richard serra, and of course, sub-ethereal decay.