From Trash to Transformation: The Art of Nathan Terborg  

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In a studio filled with tools that weren’t meant for art and materials that were meant for the trash, Nathan Terborg is right at home.

“My work is driven by curiosity, experimenting, and desire to find meaning in the darkness. I am fascinated by the way things weather and break down over time. I study the degradation caused by use, misuse, the elements, and time. The physical evidence of scratching, cutting, bruising, melting, peeling, denting, fading, tearing, and burning have become the visual language for my work.”

The majority of the materials Terborg uses are found, salvaged, or repurposed. “In working with things that would otherwise be thrown away, I’m attempting to highlight the beauty that’s already baked into the life it lived before. Much like the scars we all carry, these marks were made the hard way which also makes them valuable. So examining what’s left behind and giving it a voice is important to me.”

“I’ve developed a number of trash hookups. All my neighbors in the industrial area near my studio know I’ll take everything from shipping crates, packing plastic, and yard signs to used printing products. My daily walks always end with me sorting through the garbage I collected along the way, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I am also a committed dumpster-diver.” One look at the materials list for his work confirms that nothing is off-limits.

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Terborg’s tools are as unconventional as his materials. “I haven’t stepped foot in a traditional art supply store for quite some time,” he laughs. His process is a cycle of destruction and discovery- balancing time between blow torches, power carvers, and sanders with delicate precision using scalpels and other surgical tools.  “There’s a certain feeling I get when I’m excavating artifacts that were previously discarded, hidden, or forgotten about. I want to keep peeling back the layers to discover what’s at the core. That’s what I’m chasing.”

This approach manifests in his work, shaping his philosophy that scars can be transformed into superpowers. His experiences with drug addiction and recovery are deeply infused into his art. “Addiction took me to the darkest, lowest moments of my life, but it also showed me what’s possible on the other side. My hope is that my work serves as an invitation to lean into curiosity and consider new possibilities.”

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Loss and grief also played a large role in Terborg’s decision to pursue art full-time in 2021. The passing of his sister and father shaped a question that would alter his path. “I began to consider if I was doing what I was meant to do with my life. It’s one thing to know that tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us, but it’s another thing entirely to experience it. I hadn’t made art for almost twenty years, and I didn’t have a plan. I just knew I wanted to make art. From the very moment I began to create again, I knew this was all I wanted to do with the rest of my life.”

Terborg’s passion for art has also led him to create the Just Make Art podcast, where he and his co-host, Ty Nathan Clark, discuss lessons learned from their studio practice, art history, and the process of developing as artists.

The unique nature of Terborg’s process and work has accelerated his progression. His first solo exhibition last year was less than two years into his practice, with his second solo show, That Which Remains, opening at Another Galleryin Denver on March 1st and running through the end of April.

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