Walking the line between fine art and craft, Brent Owens has a characteristic style of woodworking that he incorporates with a somewhat irreverent sense of humor and applies to a myriad of subjects. Conspicuously hand-carved, embracing the flaws and all, Owens enhances his imperfect look by selecting wood with notable imperfections. The casual woodwork is not a comment on Owens’ talents. Rather it is done to emphasize the fact that the human hand has influenced the material. Conceptually, Owens works from the notion that humans have a tendency to render nature amenable to their own agenda. Describing this “healthy disrespect for nature” as a “shameless manipulation of a gorgeous natural material,” Owens considers his woodworking to be “imposing his own desires on the material” in the name of progressing culture.
Owens’ exploration of craft takes him in several directions. His “Turkish rugs,” for instance, are carved freehand and modeled after Googled images. These works are juxtaposed with carved paintings of appropriated text of medical queries and responses, which have been translated from Chinese to English. The results are a mix of park signage and conceptual art exhibited as a confused mix of words that have lost the nuance of human translation. The works becomes symbolic of how epically the human desire to understand and control everything so often fails.
Both funny and frightening Owens’ works are ultimately a representation of the fact that craft as fine art becomes a commentary on fine art itself. Thereby becoming commentary on culture, and human nature at large.