Saturday, March 10, 2012


Nancy Wisely
How long have you been a member of the GCWS and why did you join?
I joined the GCWS in 2007 (or 08). I was taking painting classes with Mary Lou DeMar and she introduced the class to this group where members could see quality monthly demos and attend mini-workshops for a mere $10. Having recently retired and being new to the area, this opportunity was a real gift.

This is a portrait of me painted in 1990 while I was researching and writing my dissertation on
“The Sociology of Portrait Painting” at the University of Minnesota. Wayne Howell, a portraitist
that I interviewed, eventually painted four portraits of me. Observing the interactive process
between artist and sitter from within is a form of research known as “participant observation”.
 Have you held any positions with the GCWS; if so, what positions?
I am currently finishing up two years as GCWS Program Chair. I love meeting artists and this job certainly widened my circle of artist-friends – both the guest speakers and club members. I also feel that joining any group involves giving as well as taking. As far as the time involved, I organized the duties to my own schedule. And working with artists to produce stimulating programs was fun!

I painted this in a class from a set up that was primarily a vase of sunflowers. Because I derive much
 more pleasure from personal interpretation of a subject than replicating it, I merely used the set
 up as an inspiration and jumping off point for personal expression. The shapes have broken
free from the literal subject and are not anchored. They float heavenward.
Lots of sunny yellow indicates the joyfulness I was feeling.
What are some of your artistic achievements?
Achievements? You’ve got to be kidding. I consider myself a beginner. It’s an achievement just to put something on paper for viewing. I do have a PhD in the Sociology of Art. Prior to my retirement from university teaching, I fooled around with hobby painting and took a short class every six years or so. But starting five years ago, I got hooked and began painting somewhat compulsively. I found such spiritual pleasure and satisfaction in it, perhaps partly because I have so much to learn. Prior to this moment, I have had no intention of selling my work. But the works are beginning to pile up and I am considering that possibility. I do want my work to be seen and am always pleased if someone happens to like it. This year I was asked by my framers, “Frame Design”, to exhibit two works in show of selected artist-clients.

Reflecting on holidays, most have a religious element. Even Thanksgiving is sober and spiritual in the
 gathering of the clan and expressing gratitude. But modern Halloween is for kids and for fun. That idea
 and a set up that featured a large pumpkin triggered this painting. Also, I have been studying the work
of Sean Sculley and have become interested in experimenting with grids. These influences and
thoughts came together in this piece that I hope serves to celebrate life.
Describe your usual procedures for creating a painting.
Usual procedures. Hmmmm. The whole idea of “usual” runs against my reasons for painting. Having the opportunity to view paintings at the Louvre and other great museums, from a fairly young age, I grasped the larger possibilities of what art could be. For example, why stop with a picture of a landscape? Perhaps I could go farther in, take another path and explore what might be there in reality or in my imagination, or simply in my heart. So I don’t do a great deal of advance planning and rarely do a preliminary sketch. I read about art and artists all the time, and acquire ideas about what makes an interesting, or challenging, or expressive painting. Sometimes I am attracted by a painting in “Art News” or “Palette Magazine” or an art history book. My husband thinks I haunt museums – returning to see a show a 2nd or 3rd time. I like to create my personal interpretation of others’ works. Most often, I express my feelings – joy, fear, anxiety, contentment, sadness, loneliness and paint spontaneously. I am far more concerned with the meanings of a work than with technique. Creativity, authenticity and originality come from within. I am constantly experimenting on how to express contrasts, what values can do, the power of color, how to use rhythm and pattern and such. I try to be mindful of the elements as I work, but when I am in the zone, the painting pretty much takes over and I am just an instrument. I like to paint to music and sometimes dance around flailing the paintbrush in the air. I guess it’s a kind of madness.

This is really an abstract piece, but most see a woods. Whereas a dense woods tends to be
dark, this one  is light-infused from the flowing rosy golds where the verticals (tree trunks?)
 are planted to the hazy ethereal upper section of the painting. I love the outdoors and often
feel connected to the larger forces of nature there – one and at peace with the universe.
How long have you been painting.
I have been painting five years.
I painted this from a set up at a workshop with Nancy Neville. I just wanted to show that even when
 painting a set up, I like to alter, personalize and stylize the subject – huge blossoms on skinny,
spindle stems, for example. From studying Japanese art and how Degas used it, I have come to
prefer off-center subjects that run off the page.
In what medium, other than watercolor or acrylic, do you work?
My main medium is acrylics. Through the encouragement of Barb Smucker, local artist-teacher, I now work in watercolor, gouache, ink, collage, oil pastel and mixed media. I’ll try anything. I avoid oils and pastels only because of the toxins.

I painted this after receiving disturbing news about my physical state. I tried to convey
danger and fear in the jagged edges, cliff-like sections and areas of turbulence. Yet the color is calm,
even harmonious, as I try to cope by taking each day as a gift deserving of gratitude and not without hope.
Where do you get your inspiration for paintings? I covered inspiration in the procedures section pretty well. I will say that I am constantly inspired by the artists around me from the smallest unknown beginner to the giants – Rrothko, Klee, Sean Sculley, Lawrence Harris, Kandinsky, Mondrian – that whole Blaue Reiter group and the Bauhaus. That period in Woody Allen’s film “Midnight in Paris” I would have loved to know them.

This is a mixed media work, collage.  It began with the small print of a Paul Klee painting in the lower right hand corner and some spotted colored tissue.  Klee's squares recall the "sections" or the way the acreage is divided in central Illinois.  The earth tones feel rural to me and the patterned areas recall the print dresses of the farm women, the quilting scraps and the floral-printed feed bags.  I also tucked in a glimpse of the nearby small town of Sibley.  It is extremely personal and biographical.  Many happy memories.  I have another memory painting of the home farm exterior.  Perhaps I should develope a series on this theme. 
Are you a teacher? Not a teacher . . . except sociology of art, of course.
I painted this as Barb Smucker was teaching her class how to “draw” with an ink dropper.
It’s mixed media, of course combining the ink with gouache and watercolor. I love the personality of the
 subject (actually a small basket) as conveyed by the shaky ink lines to produce a whimsical little still life.
This technique works very well for handmade greeting cards.
Where do you see yourself in the future? (i.e., is painting a hobby; will you enter shows; do you see yourself teaching?)
I do not see myself as teaching - been there, done that. I really see myself as a learner, a student, an experimenter and explorer.
I do not have a website or a blog at this point. Painting is very personal to me.
I painted this from memories (plus imagination) of the Lake Superior harbors at Grand Marais, MN and
 Bayfield, WI where I like to spend summers. I was interested in playing with shapes and complementary
 color, capturing some of the spirit of these places, and I hope it depicts the joyfulness and contentment
of summer days there.
Is there anything else you would like for us to know about you and your art?
I hope I have made it clear that, to me, making art is different than making an objective picture. At his Maryland workshop last year, Skip Lawrence said (and I paraphrase): the techniques and elements of painting are the language of art, but what’s the story? How much more interesting to paint how I feel about this tree, or rock, or person, than to simply paint a tree, or rock or a person. Following Hans Hoffman, in recent years, I have been trying to paint the wind. I find this both thrilling and challenging.

1 comment:

RH Carpenter said...

I am enjoying learning more about our members - so often you just chat before or after a meeting but you don't get to know the person's background and what or how they paint. These artist features really give me a sense of my fellow members :)