Artist Statement

I am a contemporary artist, activist and former scientist. I make work in a variety of media ranging from large-scale audio-visual projections to interactive projection installations. I believe that life is a canvas for art, and that actions are the purest form of art. The motivation for my work has always been to change the world for the better, and I have worked in places ranging from isolated wilderness to international conflict zones. I try to blur the line between art and life to help change people's minds about what it means to be human in a complex world.


Nelson Guda began studying art as a child at the Cleveland Museum of Art and went on to study fine art and physics at Carnegie-Mellon University. During university, he spent three years in Japan studying with contemporary artists and traditional masters.  He had his first solo show in Japan and then returned to the US to earn a BA in architecture and a PhD in biology. In 2000 Nelson helped establish the Environmental Science Institute at UT Austin.

In 2007, Nelson left the sciences and moved back to art full time. He used his background in biology to focus his artwork on a politically controversial conservation issue with National Forest lands, and in the winter of 2009 had his first major U.S. exhibit in the rotunda of the US Senate building in Washington, DC.. During this time Nelson developed his philosophy that actions and decisions in life are the purest form of art.

In 2010 Nelson conceived of a project to blur the boundary between art and life. Called the “Enemies Project,” he traveled to conflict zones around the world to bring people together who consider themselves to be enemies. Now, after traveling six months out of every year for his art, Nelson has resettled in Austin where he is building a startup magazine and creator community dedicated to connecting people who use creativity in any area of life.

Selected Recent Exhibits

  • Recent Installations:
    • “We Are Clouds”, Interactive Projection Installation, Emergent Arts, Hot Springs, AR
    • “We Are Clouds”, Projection Performance, Napa Valley TEDx
    • “Harsh paradise”, Projection Installation, Cleveland, OH
    • “Eyes of Kashmir”, Projection Installation, Austin, TX
    • “Harsh paradise”, Projection Installation, Austin, TX
    • “Barton Screams”, Video Installation, Austin, TX
  • Recent Exhibits
    • 2015, “Chaos”, Group Show, Ro2 Gallery, Dallas, TX
    • 2014 – “Incite Insight”, Video Installation, Juried Show, Lincoln Arts Center, Fort Collins, CO
    • 2013, Silvia White Gallery, Juried Show, Ventura, CA
    • 2012, Earth Through A Lens, Juried exhibit, Palm Springs, CA
    • 2011, “The Lonely Scientist”, Music Video, Holter Museum, Helena, MT
    • 2011, Earth Through A Lens, Juried exhibit, Palm Springs, CA
    • 2011, Roadless – One Man’s Search for America’s Least Known Public Lands, Carbondale, CO
    • 2010, Fall of Man, Installation Exhibit, Archie Bray Foundation, Helena, MT
    • 2010, Love’s Writ, Juried exhibit, Austin, TX
    • 2009, Open Shutter Gallery, Durango, Colorado
    • 2009, Colorado Roadless Tour, Durango, Grand Junction, Golden
    • 2009, Roadless – In Search of America’s Least Known Public Lands, Russell Senate Building Rotunda, Washington DC; Curator and main exhibitor
    • 2009, Love’s Writ, juried exhibit, Austin, TX
    • 2008, Under The Influence: juried exhibit. A Retrospective of the Influence of Ansel Adams on Contemporary Photography, Chico CA
  • ROADLESS Exhibits
    • May 2011, American Mountaineering Museum, Golden, CO
    • June 2011, Shilling Studio Gallery, Telluride, CO
    • June 2011, Open Shutter Gallery, Durango, CO
    • June 2011, Boulder Public library Canyon Theater, Boulder, CO
    • June 2011, Around the Corner Art Gallery, Montrose, CO
    • June 2011, KAFM Art Gallery, Grand Junction, CO


Brief History

  • Go to college in fine art and physics
  • Run out of money & leave college
  • Drive west, explore, climb
  • Enroll at a less expensive school
  • Learn to blow glass
  • Get a scholarship to study art in Japan
  • Study shōdo, ceramics, and printmaking for three years
  • Travel to Indonesia during military dictatorship
  • Return to US
  • Graduate and work in architecture
  • Enter graduate school in biology
  • Do research in the Central American rainforest
  • Spend nights alone in the rainforest chasing frogs and being followed by jaguars
  • Hone photography skills in the rainforest
  • Help establish an interdisciplinary research institute at UT Austin
  • Finish PhD
  • Teach Field Biology in Ecuador. Take work trips to Brazil to build relationships with Brazilian universities
  • Begin photographing Inventoried Roadless Areas – the last places without roads in the US
  • Create a website that maps all U.S. roadless areas
  • Give a talk to Google employees about the mapping website
  • Leave academia and the sciences
  • Spend months in the wilderness, mostly alone
  • Travel the country interviewing loggers, activists, ministers, artists & fisherman
  • Exhibit roadless photographs in the US Senate Building in Washington DC
  • Spend a winter in Montana as a visiting artist at Archie Bray
  • Create Enemies Project
  • Spend most of a year in Africa
  • Meet with warlords and priests, slum dwellers, farmers and warriors
  • Photograph Elephants for the WWF and the peace talks in South Sudan for the US Institute of Peace
  • Return to the US to raise funds for Enemies Project
  • Spend most of a year in India and Kashmir
  • Motorcycle across the Himalayas
  • Visit mass graves & meet Kashmiri half-widows
  • Return to US with PTSD
  • Create more art
  • Give TEDx talks
  • Have website and computer attacked by a foreign government
  • Give more talks
  • Have a family
  • Find more family