Creating Other Worldly Visions in Metal with Traditional and Modern Methods

Christopher Bathgate—artist in metal. 

Introduction

There is no doubt that Christopher Bathgate is an artist in metalworking. His craftsmanship aims to be visually stimulating. However, the road to creating appealing shapes and colors in metal is not an easy one. Christopher has spent many years teaching himself the processes of metalworking in order to bring his visions into reality. He started out learning the basics, but has gone on to acquire some of the most advanced level skills—including learning G-code before designing and building his own computer operated machine tools. Chris didn’t just use CNC tools as a way to save labor, though. In fact, it actually increased the number of things he needed to learn, and the variables he would need to deal with.

When it came to adopting CNC, Chris simply felt that it was the logical next step in order to take his work to a higher level. In the same vein, he didn’t adopt CNC for the ability to duplicate thousands of parts quickly and efficiently—like one might in a production environment. Chris’ works are one of a kind, with only a few identical parts between any one of them. Instead, he sees CNC as merely another tool—no better or worse than any other—for achieving a particular result. Like any tool, CNC allowed Chris to expand the landscape of his creativity.

As a user of CNC, Chris has put together some interesting thoughts on its use and place in the craftsmanship world. As someone who has learned and used nearly every hand, manual, and computer controlled metalworking technique, you may find his perspective enlightening. Like many arguments about the place of machines and computer automation in artwork, the role of CNC machining in craftsmanship has also been debated. Chris, however, considers CNC to be just another color in his pallet, no different from his many other tools and capabilities. If you find this topic to be interesting, see Chris’ interpretation of the issue.

Here is an example of Chris Bathgate’s work. This one is called BC 443621141281783. Each of his pieces is numbered rather than named.

Another of Chris’ sculptures, titled SC 415522332.

The following words are reproduced from Christopher’s own website. We have also reproduced images of some of his work on this page.

About the Artist

Chris Bathgate is a self-taught machinist sculptor who was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1980. He has spent more than a decade learning how to build and use a variety of metalworking tools and machinery. Over time, he has assembled an elaborate machine shop consisting of repurposed homemade robotic and manual machine tools. The shop also contains a number of other inventions and equipment in his basement studio.

Now, Chris’ work is a collection of intricately machined metal sculptures which show a combination of his own unique style along with a more traditional approach. He combines the math and logistics used to perform the complex tasks of modern machining with a more emotive and aesthetic problem-solving ethic. The resulting work shows that creativity can be driven by the need to solve and overcome problems. Whether its through the necessity of process, or simply a result of arbitrary guidelines set by the artist himself, each work becomes a creative response to a series of mathematical and subjective visual parameters. The final pieces are precise and otherworldly art objects that exude a creative logic of their own.

As a result of his fine craftsmanship, some of Chris’ more notable accomplishments include being featured in Make magazine, Popular Mechanics magazine in Russia, Sculptures Pacific magazine, and Best of American Sculpture Volume II. He was twice awarded grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, first in 2007 and then in 2011. Chris has also earned recognition in his hometown, receiving a Creative Baltimore grant in 2008, and a Baltimore “B” grant in 2011. His works have been exhibited in museums and galleries across America, including the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Dennis and Phillip Ratner Museum. His pieces are also held in numerous private collections throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Chris with a large, multi-part creation known as ML 622254434732323.

Chris at work in his shop. He has built some of his own shop tools, and modified others.

About His Work

In contrast to many of his contemporaries, Chris’ use of metal is neither structural nor illusionistic. His metalworking doesn’t shy away from transforming the medium altogether, and he doesn’t play on the medium’s opposites (e.g. lightness from metal’s weight, or organic forms from its rigidity). Bathgate’s process most closely resembles that of a machine builder or engineer. Over the years, he has become increasingly involved in using mathematical techniques in his art. This has allowed him to achieve the high degree of precision necessary for assembling such intricate works (his sculptures are not cast).

The resulting work is a transformation in itself, with the pieces fitting together in such a way that they cease to appear man-made. Yet in spite of the perceived absence of personal touch, they emanate a presence that is unmistakeable and engaging. Bathgate’s entities are like objects of a foreign intelligence. These sculptures call up a type of “creature feeling” reflecting their intellectual (as opposed to emotional) humanism. According to Chris, every sculpture is an experiment in response to an abstract problem (as opposed to a pragmatic one). By this he means that the experiment does not work toward a presumed result. From Bathgate’s view of the process, a finished work is not an end in itself, but rather a place that one goes.

Chris has contributed this sculpture to the Craftsmanship Museum, where visitors can see his work in person.

Another one of Chris’ intricate sculptures, this one is titled RN 753362224531143.

Selected Honors and Awards

2011Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant Recipient. Baker Artist B Grant Recipient.

2008 Creative Baltimore Fund Individual Artist Grant Recipient.

2007-2008 Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant Recipient.

2004 Best in Show Award, Projekt30 Online Gallery.

1999 Maryland Institute College of Art, Merit Scholar Grant.

1998 Bernard Fall Art Scholarship Award. NFAA/Arts Recognition and Talent Search, Honorable Mention.

Solo Exhibitions

2011 Packer Schopf Gallery, Chicago, IL.

SOFA NY, Packer Schopf Gallery, New York, NY.

2010 New Works, Viridian Artist Inc., New York, NY.

Energy Fields, The American Center for Physics, College Park, MD.

Chris Bathgate at 1275, 1275 Pennsylvania Ave, NW Washington DC.

Selected Group Shows

2012 Off the Wall, The Dennis and Phillip Ratner Museum, Bethesda, MD.

SOFA Chicago, Packer Schopf Gallery, Chicago IL.

Baker Artist Awards Exhibition, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD.

Heavy Metal/Precious Metal, GVG Contemporary, Santa Fe, NM.

Back to the Future, TAMIU, Laredo, TX.

2011 Meyers East, Santa Fe, NM.

Black Rock Center for the Arts, Germantown, MD.

New Art Center, New York, NY.

Art Dimensions, Baltimore, MD.

2009— Viridian Artists Inc., New York, NY.

Gallery Imperato, Baltimore, MD.

2008 Viridian Artist Inc., New York, NY.

Device Gallery, San Diego, CA.

Lerner Corporation Sculpture Show, McLean, VA.

2008 Continued— Gallery Imperato, Baltimore, MD.

32nd Symphony Decorators Show House, Baltimore, MD.

Gallery 10 Sculpture Invitational, Gallery10, Washington, DC.

2007 Craven Arts Council and Gallery, New Bern, NC.

Montpelier Arts Center, Laurel, MD.

Man Made, Gallery Imperato, Baltimore, MD.

2006 Mixed Media, Columbia Art Center, Columbia, MD.

Micro Monumental, Xavier Gallery, Cincinnati, OH.

Washington Square, Washington, DC.

Micro Monumental, Flashpoint Gallery, Washington, DC.

2005 2 Much, Current Gallery, Baltimore, MD.

Artscape Festival, Catonsville Community College Gallery, Baltimore, MD.

Press

2011— “Tools of Artistry,” Make Magazine, Volume 25.

International Contemporary Artist, Volume III.

2010 Best of American Sculpture Artists, Volume II.

“The Other Lobbyist,” Where Washington, September.

“Chris Bathgate’s Totems of the Mechanical Age,” Gallery & Studio, February/March.

2009“Sense and Sensibility Christopher Bathgate,” Popular Mechanics (Russia), May.

“Obsessed with Patterns of Obsession,” Radar Redux, April.

“Innovation and Determination at the Gallery Imperato,” Examiner, April.

2008 “Acorn Identity,” City Paper, August.

“Featured Artist: Chris Bathgate,” Urbanite, August.

“Two Summer Group Shows Worth Seeing Here in Baltimore,” Baltimore Art Examiner, August.

2007 “Critic’s Choice: MAN-MADE,” City Paper, January.

“The Steely-eyed Vision of Imperato,” Carroll County Times, February.

“Machine Biology,” City Paper, March.

“Sculptures Make Metallic Art Both Hot and Cool,” Prince George’s Sentinel, June.

“Sculptures Test Their Metal,” Laurel Leader, August.

Artisan added: December 6, 2012 - Last modified: August 21, 2020

Presented by The Joe Martin Foundation for Exceptional Craftsmanship