Not unlike the Futurists of early twentieth century, I find a great deal of beauty in a well-built machine. Its movement, structure and synchronization leave me with feelings of strength and continuity. Even more than a machine’s design, I am especially interested in its implied function. A question I often ask myself is, ‘what does this thing look like it’s supposed to do’?
Instead of designing a machine that has a particular purpose, I’m drawn to building one that only appears to have a purpose; one that suggests some obscure function that may never quite reveal itself.
I like to say that form follows fiction, and as such, I seek to voice that fleeting sense of purpose, or, the suggestion of some yet untapped pseudo technical methodology. To me, everything is fiction, metaphor... allusion.
I’m fascinated by systems and technology, the way things work, evolution, massively large numbers, complex algorithms, the human brain, entropy, eternity, language, sex, disease, animals, economies, and the functional aspects of just about every part of this great, big, wonderful thing we call reality. It’s true, my work does tend towards the technological, but that’s just the way I choose to communicate. What and how I think is largely based in science. I can’t help but see the physical world as an endless field of size, scale, complexity and granularity. The universe is at once infinitely large and infinitely small. From the farthest reaches of the cosmos to the most diminutively infinitesimal corner of sub-atomic space, a diverse complexity reigns.
Charles Emlen was born and raised in Paoli, Pennsylvania. He received his BFA in sculpture from Pennsylvania State University in 1981, and his MFA in sculpture from Arizona State University in 1984. After leaving ASU he worked for several years as a sculptor’s assistant with Arizona artist Michael Anderson. In 1987 he returned to Pennsylvania where he built a sculpture studio and for the next twelve years worked on sculpture commissions and custom metal work. During this time he also worked as an electrician and CNC programmer. In 1999 Emlen took a position at a local avionics company and spent the next 18 years as a software engineer, designing and programing aircraft flight display graphics. In 2017 he retired from the avionics industry and has since been devoting mostof his time to sculpture, machine art, and site specific installation.
1984 Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ MFA
1981 Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA BFA
Awards & Honors
2020 2020 BOA National Juried Exhibition, Craven Arts Council & Gallery, New Bern, NC Best in Category for Sculpture
The Phoenix Show: Inner Visions, The Conservatory, Doylestown, PA 2nd Place Award
2019 11th Annual Juried Art Show, Riverviews Artspace, Lynchburg, VA 2nd Place Award
Red, Arts Illiana Gallery, Terre Haute, IN Honorable Mention
31st Annual Juried Exhibition of the Texarkana Regional Arts & Humanities Council, Texarkana, TX 2nd Place Award
The Woodmere Annual 78th Juried Exhibition, The Woodmere Museum, Philadelphia, PA Jacques MacQuiston Dowling Award
2018 63rd Open Juried Exhibition, Perkiomen Valley Art Center, Pottstown, PA 3rd Place Award for Sculpture
Greater Norristown Art League, Norristown, PA Mary Benfield Memorial Award
Wheels Exhibition, Studio B Gallery, Boyertown, PA Artistic Excellence Award
2018 Testing Lab Artist Residency, San Pedro, CA
2021 The Unruly Persistence of Suburbo Ritualistic Paganism, Birchrunville, PA Installation of light, sound, motion, music, and fire