Nancy is an artist printmaker who derives inspiration for her work from the people closest to her, from the news media, and from other artists. She uses art as a language to convey information about issues that are important to her. Sometimes she rages, but mostly she quietly submits to the viewer conceptual, political narratives about her issues with the hope that the viewer will understand her passion. Her imagery is about the stresses that women experience as a result of societal restrictions of their personal liberty. Her work can be seen at Dabbert Gallery in Sarasota. She is also part of the Creators & Collectors – Suncoast Art Tour
sVA: What pushed you to go forth with a career in art?
I always enjoyed making art, whether it was painting, baker’s clay, stained glass or rubbings. However, I didn’t draw well, didn’t really like drawing and figured that art wasn’t my strength. Besides, making art was fun for me, and learning how to make a living was supposed to be hard work, not fun. In 1990, I took my first printmaking class from Prof. Lloyd Menard at the University of South Dakota. The creative process was stimulating and I worked very hard and made some nice work in his class. He encouraged me to continue in art and when I told him about my lack of skill in drawing, he just stood back and told me that anyone, including me, could be taught to draw! It was like learning math….it just took practice. A whole world opened up for me and I’ve been making art ever since then.
sVA: When someone asked you your senior year of high school what you were going to do with your life, what did you say? How did that differ, or did it differ, from what you did and are doing right now?
I was going to be a drama major! I loved being a part of a production, working together as a team toward one glamorous end. I especially enjoyed painting scenery. But, on stage I was shy. Not a good fit. I changed my major to social work, then to sociology, then….I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I married and graduated with a degree in Education in1966. I did marvelously well in my educational art classes but was never encouraged to pursue it. By the time I graduated, our first child had been born, family took all of my time and energy and I could postpone dealing with the question of what I wanted to do with my life. As luck would have it, we moved to Vermillion, South Dakota in 1991, where my husband resumed a teaching career at the University of South Dakota. To keep busy, I signed up for some graduate education classes and two art classes. By the end of the second week I had dropped all classes but my printmaking class with Prof. Menard and I’ve stayed with printmaking ever since. After taking a year off to deal with breast cancer, we moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where I continued taking art classes and volunteered at women’s health care clinics. Recognizing the need for a more rigorous art education, I applied to and was accepted at the Ringling School of Art & Design in Sarasota, Florida, where I worked harder than at any other time in my life. I loved my Ringling experience. I received a BFA with honors in 2001 with a dual major in printmaking and painting. So, in a sense, I recreated myself.
sVA: Can you explain your art making process, and how has technology impacted this?
I will often read a story in a newspaper or magazine which will be the genesis for a new print. From that point it’s all about conceptualizing the new idea and getting it down on paper. That’s the challenge. I worry over it, turning it over in my mind for days, sometimes weeks, searching for an image that will say what I want to say. The next decision is to decide which printmaking process or processes at my disposal would best express this new concept; relief, collagraph, etching, or mixed media. There are many printmaking processes and new ones are being developed every day using special papers and inks, special plates and lights and other specialized equipment. There is always something new to learn, and I regularly take classes in printmaking and drawing. I marvel at the new technologies, but I have had to make choices about what will work safely in my studio at home.
sVA: What motivates you to make art right now?
The political process is bringing out the worst in many of our candidates…to these candidates, politics is more important than women’s lives and health. Many candidates are willing to sacrifice not only their principles but also people that they are supposed to represent. Women’s lives are at risk throughout the country because of the controversy over women wanting to make their own family planning decisions without government interference. “Abortion” has been made an ugly word, but there have always been abortions and there will always be abortions, legal or not. To make them safe and legal, to preserve women’s lives, that is what is important. Yes, I am passionate about this subject and it is a strong motivator.
sVA: Your work comments on the stresses that women experience as a result of societal restrictions. Do you consider yourself a feminist artist?
I dislike labels. I have been called a feminist artist as well as a narrative artist. I consider myself an artist who happens to be interested in women’s issues. Some of my work is politically motivated. However, I have a body of work which is abstract and other work which is about my life and what it means to be a woman in this time and place. I discovered a long time ago that my life’s experiences are not unique to me, that many women have had similar experiences and thoughts. If all of this makes me a feminist artist, so be it.
sVA: In recent years, “feminism” has taken on a wide spectrum of meaning both positive and negative. What does “feminism” mean to you?
To me, “Feminism” means women receiving equal respect, equal treatment, equal opportunity and equal pay to men. It means social equality as well and no “glass ceilings” in the work place. It means that women and girls are not to be bought and sold into marriage like so many bags of potatoes. It means being outraged when women are abused and denigrated. It means women supporting women. Women make up more than half of the world’s population! Imagine the world where all women are encouraged to realize their full potential! Imagine a world with all men and women treating each other as equals……a very different world!
sVA: What do you think has been the greatest accomplishment to date with your work?
My series, “Women in Crisis, ” is my greatest accomplishment to date. It is composed of twenty-eight prints in all, based on seven newspaper articles, and is about the lives of seven women and girls in crises situations, all from different cultures. “Women in Crisis” addresses the role of women, the underlying fragile nature of families, and the inherent threat of violence against women throughout the world. I began this work because it was the only language I knew to express my outrage, my horror, and my empathy for these women. It is the goal of my art to make people aware of this violence and to take steps, wherever possible, to end it.
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