Saturday, November 6, 2010

Blasts from the Past

Remember all those slides I told you I was sorting through? Well, I just got back 40 of them that I had converted to digital images. These were not 40 of my best works by any means, but I thought I could see a train of thought running through some of them that led to my current work. (Note: you can click to enlarge each image.)

Learned to Laugh, printed and collaged elements on paper with dental x-rays in found frame, about 24"Hx30"W, ca. 1995

Like many artists, I have gone through several phases in my career where I experimented with various mediums and methods of expression. In the mid-1990s I worked with printed photographic images for a few years. I settled on a couple of images of myself - one as a child of three or four years old and the other as a Girl Scout at ten or eleven. The work was autobiographical to a certain extent, but I tried to bring it to a more universal level as well. The image above was used on the postcard for a solo show in 1997 that I won at the Provincetown Art Association & Museum (PAAM).

A wall in the PAAM installation

I had the whole Ross Moffett Gallery for my show, called Rest Area,  and it was quite a thrill for me.

Double Hair Fan, , 1996. (Collaged paper on board with drawings and artificial hair, 34"H x 23" W.

I won the show as a prize for Double Hair Fan in the National Competition Exhibition in 1996. The show was juried by Ann Temkin, then curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and now Chief Curator at the Museum of Modern Art, NY. Winning was quite a surprise because PAAM had not notified me of the prize in advance, and I only learned about it when I went to see the show.

1995 and 1996 were highlight years in my career. I won a Pollock-Krasner award - a Very Big Deal. I also had a piece accepted into the biennial at A.I.R. Gallery in New York. It was my first Girl Scout work and the piece had actually been sold and borrowed back for the A.I.R. show. That piece was the Merit Badge Quilt below.

Merit Badge Quilt, 1995, quilted textiles with monotype and Xerox collage, 50"Hx35"W.

Badges were for:
Pigeon Nurturer         Group Tangoist          Edith Wharton Imitator
Hand-Holding Sycophant      
Sombrero Balancer     Dishcloth Wrangler
Salvaging Mermaid       Pastoral Romanticist             
Nude Posturer    Tamdem Rowbowist   Sexual Innuendoist    Empire Builder       
Braid Model     Adolescent Homoeroticist     Sybaritic Bather    Ugly Swimsuitist

Another piece from around that time was part of a series of Girl Scout quilts that I made which were mostly paper, some with hair and lace, and all using that photo of me.

Duty Calls, 1996, Collage on quilted rice paper, 45"H x 36"W.

The premise of the quilts was the weird combination of skills that Girl Scouts taught - part nurse/part woodswoman. I did a number of pieces about knots and first aid.

This was my paper quilt era and I also made some that were not about the Girl Scouts.

Blue Aureole, 1997, Mixed media collage on quilted ricepaper, 45"Hx40"W

This one didn't have any phographic imagery or text.

Dress for Success, 1996, mixed media collage on quilted ricepaper, 45"H x 36"W

Dress for Success was an ironic commentary on women's professions and the clothing they wore for them. The central text was about dressing as camouflage and/or cross dressing. Of course I snuck in a picture of myself - as well as my mother and grandmother.

It's All Connected, 1996, Collaged monotype and Xerox images with drawings, 13"H x 39"W.

It's All Connected was my explanation of how an imaginary umbilical cord (or chord) stretched throughout life from daughter to mother to grandmother. Yes, more irony.

Official Portrat at Age 50, 1995, monotype collage on boards with added paint and stamps, 74"Hx29"W

One of the pieces in Official Portrait

Official Portrait at Age 50 was put together at the Millay Colony, where I had a residency in 1995. It used the picture from my driver's license and told a story about my first car. The shape of the text boxes came from the official shield of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles that appeared on the driver's license.

Nancy and Ellen (now Alya), at the Chinatown studio, late 1980s/early 1990s.

And finally, because no trip down memory lane would be complete without an embarrassing personal photo, here's one of me with my studio mate Ellen, now Alya Romeos, at 109 Kingston Street in Boston's Chinatown.

Thought of the Day
Here's a question I would like to pose: Can you identify a certain number of your best works made over the course of your career? That is, can you come up with a Best 5 or 10 or 20? I think that trying to make a distinction like that would be interesting to contemplate. Would a "best" mark a turning point of development or something that really came together in color or composition or prizes, etc? I'd like to hear what you think about it. Can you make such a hierarchy of your work over time or is the last one completed the best?


Karen Jacobs said...

I've thought about this from time to time and though I could curate a show of what I consider my best works, I couldn't point to 'the best' or even the best series or medium. The best, I think, are often turning points... works that took past painting experiences and forecast new directions. I think that's often the work that is freshest and most interesting... to me.

Fun to visit your past work... they tie in easily with your current adventures.

Terry Jarrard-Dimond said...

What a wonderful article and idea! All of the images of my work prior to about 2005 are still in slide form. I think of that work sort of like lost relatives. I can see them and remember what they looked like and how it felt to make them, but I can't share it with anyone else. I can't make my list of the best 5 or 10 immediately but this is an excellent idea and I'm putting this on my "Do It" list. PS. I did not see the formal connections as much as the conceptual connections in the past and present work.

Nancy Natale said...

Karen and Terry, thanks for your comments. I think it would be hard job to evaluate and rank your own work. I'm going to give it some thought once I have all my work converted(or at least those most worthy of conversion).

Terry, regarding slide conversion, I had a guy near me do it but there are online services that are pretty inexpensive. Here is one: (It's a long link but is the main location.)
They say they charge 29 cents plus 22 cents per slide. You could try a few and see how they come out. I tried 40 at $1 each and I have more than a hundred to go. I'll probably do them bit by bit.

Diana Parkes said...

For a long time now I have always considered that one out of five pieces works really well. This means that I am very pleased with its outcome. The remaining four usually have varying degrees of satisfaction.

Student Accommodation said...

There was an amazing creativity in the pics, that you included in your post..Really Fantastic...The content of your post was also very interesting..

Chris J said...

There was an amazing creativity in the pics, that you included in your post..Really Fantastic...The content of your post was also very interesting..

Unknown said...

Seeing your earlier work ,Nancy, formed a deeper portrait of you and your vision for me. Your past honorable awards are still valid, and I congratulate you ! I find that looking back at works that were 'jury selected' or awarded a grant or prize by a museum curator/gallerist/educator for whom I have a great deal of respect,is insightful...especially when a particular body of work has been noticed again and your G.S. collage series was. Personally,I seem to have (had)several bodies of work on-going for as long as 18 years. Conceptually and formatively, they actually go back 40 years to when I studied anthropology and folklore (as well as art.) This is a new realization (discovered recently) by looking back. Beverly Rippel

Nancy Natale said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone. Looking back but not retreating is a meaningful exercise and it can provide a different view of a life's work. It's probably worth doing every so often just to see where you are really headed by looking in the rearview mirror. said...

I LOVE seeing your earlier work, filling in for me all the years before I knew you. I can see that all the work you have done up to now--really good work--has led to this fabulous new body of work.
Thanks for this great post.

Wendy Rodrigue Magnus said...

This was so interesting, Nancy. Your Girl Scout pieces especially are brilliant and inspired ---- but you MUST know that! Thank you for sharing-

lisa said...

So interesting to see your post as I am going through all my old work and works on paper today. For me,there are a couple of clunkers(ok... more than a couple), a few winners, few surprises and always the personal vocabulary that still is being articulated.

Here is my question to you-what are we supposed to do with all this work? I have thrown some out, used some in newer works, given a few away, tried to sell them cheap and yet here they are in my rack.

MAybe an artist trade party?

Loved the post and loved seeing the new work and the "old" work.