Did these towering sculptures emerge from the earth or did they touch down from somewhere far, far away? Either way, Michael Christian’s artwork seldom stays put for long. Designed to be transportable, his striking creations invite audiences all over the world to explore in playful and revelatory ways.
Website – www.michaelchristian.com
Climb Inside Michael’s Brain
Oakland Originals profile by Robert Ablon
Sculptor Michael Christian invites you to experience the pure joy and whimsy of climbing inside his giant baby brain this summer at Burning Man, the annual experiment in art, community and self-expression in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.
Michael, whose monument-sized metal installations have traveled the world and become a fixture on the music and festival circuit, is scrambling to finish his latest piece, Brainchild, a 20-foot steel baby with a climbable brain, just in time to greet an estimated 70,000 “Burners” at the end of August.
“It has a lot of whimsy, it’s playful and interactive,” Michael says of Brainchild. “I like to create pieces that get people to engage. Also, this piece has a lot of hands-on craftsmanship. I like all the metal sculpting.”
Michael describes himself as an intuitive artist, and says he doesn’t spend much time focusing on what a piece means in a particular cultural or thematic context. He prefers to let his sculptures speak for themselves.
“My purpose is not to create a piece that sits in a museum gallery forever,” he says. “I really just want to enjoy the creative process and create something interactive and fun.”
Michael also says he appreciates the temporary, transportable nature of his sculptures and the recyclable, remoldable consistency of steel.
“Brainchild is actually recycled from of a piece I made years ago that we transformed into something completely different,” he says. “I needed to have it live again or die.”
An East Bay resident since 2001, Michael and his team at Xian Productions occupy roughly a third of an 18,000 square foot warehouse space near the Oakland/Berkeley border. “I love the community of people here,” Michael says. “I never thought I would be here for more than two years, and now it’s going on 14!”
As a metalworker, Michael says he’s been able to take advantage of Oakland’s proximity to shipyards and industrial steel fabrication facilities, including West Oakland’s The Crucible, where he collaborated with twelve teenage women to create The Bike Bridge.
At the same time, Michael says Oakland’s relatively compact size allows him to make and keep connections with friends and other artists.
“Most of my friends live within 2-5 miles of where of where I live, so it’s pretty easy to stay connected,” he says.
Michael also credits Oakland with doing a good job of accepting and welcoming art and artists into the community.
“Art murmur has been a huge boon to the city,” he says. “The fact that Art Murmur exists, inspires me. The fact that The Crucible exists shows what really amazing support for the arts we have in Oakland.”
Michael also takes inspiration from Oakland’s unparalleled diversity.
“I love that we’re not a monoculture here, that we’re such a melting pot,” he says. “We have so many influences coming from different directions, and so much support for a wide range of diverse artists. I respond to that.”