Medium: Painting and Drawing

Studio Location:
75 3rd Street


Artist Bio:
the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1982 and her MFA from Yale University in 1985.

She has taught at University of Massachusetts at Amherst as an Adjunct Professor, at Mt. Wachusett Community College, and at Westfield State College. She currently teaches painting and drawing at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan.

Her works have been represented by the Icon Gallery in Brunswick, ME. Her paintings were exhibited as part of the, "4 Women Painters," at Anderson University. Her paintings were included in the "Posers and Rockers" Show at the Brooklyn Artist Gym, as well as in Group Shows at 440 Gallery, and in the "Metro 26" Show. She recently has had solo exhibitions of her paintings at 510 Warren Street Gallery in Hudson, NY and The Bleecker Street Gallery in Manhattan. Her paintings can be seen annually as part of the Gowanus Open Studios and the 92Y Faculty Show.

She is a recipient of a Grant from Ford Foundation, and of an award for Excellence in Drawing from Strathmore.

She currently lives and maintains her studio in Brooklyn, NY.

Artist Statement:
Of late, I have been collecting porcelain figures: a menagerie of dogs, deer, birds, cowboys, and princesses. I find them both nostalgic and humorous. I have also amassed a vast collection of samples and swatches of the most beautiful fabrics made to adorn the finest interiors of New York. The richness of their color and the complexity of their patterns captivate me. These are the things that surround me, and I paint them.

My paintings have an insular, intimate quality consisting mostly of still lifes and self-portraits. I have discovered that my porcelains and fabrics allow me to create table-top universes in which I could play with elements of scale, the dynamic between foreground and background, to blur the distinction between two-dimensional and three-dimensional space. Dogs become giants, and people made to cower in their shadows, all in good humor. Background patterns become jungles for the porcelains to become entangled in, activating a focus on the negative space enveloping them. They are discreet, hermetically-sealed universes in which I control every element, down to the angle of the raking light that creates the shadows that fall on the foreground and the background, belying their true space.

A great deal of consideration is given to the formal composition and spatial relationships. I arrange my figurines and fabrics by how they fit, by height or color, how shapes and line flow and weave, with the goal of striking a harmonious balance of mass and space. I get caught up in trying to capture the crisp coldness of the porcelain, the texture of the silk satin, using the right value and intensity of the right color in the right spot as quickly and as accurately as I perceive them. More recently, I have been looking beyond the formal aspects of these compositions, and paying more attention to the symbolic and narrative power that these figurines can hold, and in future works, being more mindful of their potential to tell a story.

My Self-Portraits provide me another opportunity for detailed exploration, now with myself as the focus. They are a way for me to reflect as the passing of time and events influence my inner state of being. Here, too, I have the opportunity to create a narrative, and to be playful, once in a humorous historical reference with myself as Velezquez's La Infanta Maria Therese, in a homage to Freud's Queen Elizabeth portrait, or as a hipster with a hip-hop attitude.

But, still, most importantly, I am captivated by the physicality and craft of painting, its viscosity and malleability. When the oils and pigments coalesce and congeal to an almost sculptural effect, that is when I reach my personal nirvana.

All images and text copyright NANCY JOHNSON