If you believe the phrase “subtle as a chainsaw” is a misnomer, then you’ve never met artist Curtis Ingvoldstad, and you’ve definitely never seen his work. Curtis is a sculptor and carver who uses a chainsaw to create art that is unique, expressive and profound.
He’s an unassuming guy with a rare talent for bringing beauty out of the mundane. A dead tree becomes blue heron patrolling the shallows. A ten foot piece of wood becomes an homage to heroes of the Civil War. A backyard stump becomes a mushroom suitable for Alice to use as a seat at the Mad Hatter’s tea party. The powerful tool he uses, with that loud roar and thick cloud of sawdust, belies the grace and detail of his vision.
Indeed, Curtis himself is an affable, easygoing fellow, and maybe does not cut the imposing lumberjack figure one might expect a chainsaw carver to have. His artistic philosophies, however, are strong convictions. An artist, he believes, must have two defining characteristics: a belief in what they do so they can communicate that vision and they must have an ability to rise to any occasion.
This is what sets the true professional artist apart from the rest. Curtis grew up in White Bear Township when there was still quite a bit of undeveloped area on Northern edge of the Twin Cities Metro Area. “I lived on this little dead end road,” he said. “There was a cornfield, and woods area and wetlands. My back door just opened up to that whole world. We’d go look for frogs and we’d look for snakes. My whole life revolved around hanging out with the animals.
“I was making little guys out of grass when I was a kid. Looking back, I was always
making things out of sticks; always sculpting and doing things with my hands.”
His road to becoming a professional artist was a circuitous one, however.
Despite twice being advised in school that he could be a professional artist, once in junior high and once in college, Curtis shied away from the volatile unpredictability of an artists’ life, preferring instead to train for a career in engineering.
After two years at lowa State, and just after he was accepted into the school’s prestigious engineering program, Curtis’ true calling tapped him on the shoulder. “I went to this student gallery show. And I saw this really cool line drawing done in conté crayon, so kind of a greasy line, but it was really well rendered with these thin lines that were shaded a little bit and it was so cool. And then there was a human skull there, and inside the skull there was this pencil drawing of a dove kind of busting out of there, but it was done so subtly and so beautifully. It was just one of those *a-ha’ moments.
The subtlety he saw in that drawing, and the contrast of hope that arose out of that dead skull would foreshadow his own future work.