Nelson Guda is an artist who sees life as a canvas for art and actions and choices as paints on that canvas.
Guda began his studies in a dual degree program in physics and art and then spent three years studying Japanese calligraphy and ceramics with traditional artists in Japan. After university, he received a fellowship from the National Science Foundation, earned a Ph.D. in biology, worked in the rainforest for several years, and helped form an interdisciplinary research institute at the University of Texas. He eventually left academia to pursue art full time.
From 2006 to 2009 he worked on ROADLESS, a project in which he explored and photographed US National Forest Inventoried Roadless Areas across the country. As the issue was being hotly debated in Congress, he explored lands that few people see and met dozens of people on both sides of the issue. He exhibited the photographs in 2009 in the atrium of the United States Senate Building, and the work was shown in an exhibit that celebrated the influence of Ansel Adams on contemporary photography.
While working at the Archie Bray Foundation as a visiting artist in 2010, he conceived the ENEMIES Project. Guda’s work has been shown domestically and abroad, but he takes more pride in his experiences and countless connections he’s made through his art.
ENEMIES – My search for light in terrible conflict
I am an artist and photographer. In 2011 I began a project to try and understand how people move back into a place of light from extreme tragedy and conflict. I called the project “ENEMIES” and began traveling to conflict zones around the world. I have already done work in Kenya, South Sudan, Rwanda, India and Kashmir. In the beginning I brought people together from opposite sides of conflicts, listened to their stories and photographed them together in the same space. Later I met with ex-militants and visited mass graves.
This isn’t an academic study or a humanitarian effort. I am an artist, and the art from this project is meant to move people and make them think. I see these acts of bringing people together and trying to understand resilience as a form of art in its highest sense of expression of the human experience.
After returning from Kashmir in 2012 I spent six months coming to grips with mild PTSD, and I found my own resilience being born out of the stories I had heard from the places of deepest tragedy. The ENEMIES Project is not about conflict. It is about light.