Erik ‘Ole’ Nelson

Erik ‘Ole’ Nelson

By: Kali Gillette

“Anything you can draw, you can cut.”

Ole Nelson bought his sign shop with 9 months left of college. Twenty years later, it’s a thriving business, which has provided him with the equipment and techniques to create fine art sculpture.

Though he is humble about his sign making, the designs are works of art in and of themselves. His BFA degree in Graphic Design and Sculpture mix well with both sign making and sculpture, but sculpture is where his heart is.

The Art Crossing program became the catalyst for him to start sculpting. “I needed the extra push,” Ole says. “Once I was able to have that real exhibit and deadline, I saw what was possible.”

The process is not a simple one. It goes from freehand drawing to sizing and measurements, computerizing the image, cutting it on a plasma table and finally building and welding the final piece. His newest sculpture is a full size version of The Guardian, on display in the Bozeman Library Sculpture Park.

There are 5 original pieces on loan in the Art Crossing collection. FishFace is a People’s Choice award winner which can be found at Soroptimist Park on the corner of Main and Rouse. Other pieces include DayDreamer, in front of City Hall, the first iteration of The Guardian at CTA Architects and FlameDance at the Bozeman Library. “It’s always awesome to be able to exhibit locally,” said Nelson. His latest piece will be his 7th submission.

Currently, he is working on a sculpture for the Cancer Support Center in Bozeman. The piece will live in the front courtyard of the Center, but he is creating small replicas that will be sold as mementos to offset the cost of the sculpture, with a percentage going to the Cancer Center.

Ever evolving, his current designs have begun abstracting the face. “While focused on a subject or an object I’m fascinated with, I capture some of the representational elements as well as reveal an energetic side,” Nelson says of his work.

What he loves most? “The trump l’oiel, the fooling of the eyes,” he says. “My work can flip back and forth, flat and static from one angle and full of motion from another.” Agreeably, one of the most interesting elements of his art is seeing something for the first time, and on second glance seeing something altogether different.

The full collection can be found at

As his body of work continues to grow, Ole finds himself torn between two worlds. “It’s a weird position,” he says. “What if I say no to making signs for one year and see what happens?”