Culture » Visual Arts

Nicolas Ordahl connects art and fabrication


  • Griffin Swartzell
Nicolas Ordahl’s newest public art piece, “It’s About Time,” is still in progress as of our conversation. It’s the painted metallic contraption mounted on the northern face of 210 Pueblo, the new apartment building on Pueblo Avenue. When finished, the found-metal piece’s four circles will display the time and the moon’s phase. Other elements will indicate the ambient temperature. He’s doing all of that with hundreds of color-changing RGB LEDs. It’s all controlled by a small computer mounted to the piece.

“I bit off maybe a little more than I should have,” he says, “but it’s been a real learning experience.”

The piece was commissioned by Jenny Elliot, who owns and designed the apartment building. She met Ordahl through the local maker community, trying to unload hood vents she didn’t need. Ordahl says they talked shop, and then a little later, she returned with a few ideas and scores of constraints.

Critically, she wanted Ordahl to build the piece from found metal, which provided more than a few challenges, especially in the painting phase. The pieces are coated with automotive paint in a process that requires absolute precision even on smooth car bodies and is insanely demanding on found metal.

As a kid, Ordahl wanted to grow up to be an electrician, but he says he just couldn’t stop building things long enough. That’s changed now — he makes the majority of his income from electrical work and custom fabrications like doors and staircases. Only around 30 percent of his income comes from art pieces like “It’s About Time.” But really, Ordahl says there’s a common thread in all of his work.

“All of it relies heavily on creativity — unique solutions to difficult problems.”

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