Charles Harlan

Charles Harlan
Charles Harlan, Sarvisalo Birdbath, 2018, Sarvisalo installation view. Photo: Tim Bowditch


From 27 May to 11 June 2018, American artist Charles Harlan undertook a residency at Zabludowicz Collection in Sarvisalo. This new commission draws from his most recent series of works, which reflects on the parallels between baptismal fonts and bird baths. Originally from the town of Smyrna in Georgia, Harlan grew up in a Baptist household. In this Southern part of the United States, ornamented baptismal fonts sometimes adorn the Churches’ front entrance. Baptism ceremonies can be carried out outside the Church in the public sphere, blurring the lines between religious and secular, as well as rituals and mundane activities.

In the context of his residency in Sarvisalo, Harlan was inspired by found-materials and the wealth of bird and duck life on this island. He created a functioning birdbath and installed it deliberately close to Suvikunta’s Finnish sauna, drawing parallels between human bathing rituals and animal bathing. Referencing the rusty wheelbarrows found on the farm, this work speaks to Harlan’s nearly anthropological investigation of daily life artefacts and the ways in which industrial materials reflect the values of a culture. In this respect, the work also testifies to the artist’s desire to unthread both the narrative of civilization and individuals, and how his works infuse everyday objects with new meaning and connotations.

b. 1984, Smyrna, Georgia, USA. Lives and works in New York, New York. USA.