[Another smart direction pointing a la Hailey Higdon, the art of Nicole Donnelly. She was pleasant enough to answer a few questions. Some tremendous spatial, textural things going on here. I particularly like the fossil duplicates.]
WOLF: This morning I was out talking a jog in the park and saw a couple of boys dragging around large pine tree branches. Hmm, I thought. Is there a corner of human nature that compels us to rearrange our surroundings? And does this have to do with being an artist?
ND: I do think restructuring our environment is part of human nature -- if only looking at the instinctual impulse to build shelter of some sort. Visual art, of course, bears a resemblance to and is perhaps an extension of this practice, and there are more and less invasive/disruptive/destructive ways of rearranging our surroundings. In my art, my approach can be described as minimalist at times, but I like to think of it as making minimal impact on the environment for a maximum effect. When I am creating an installation or building a sculpture, I try to use only the most essential materials - those which can be found native to the area -- and using as few as possible "man-made" supplies. This stems not only from an environmental concern about conservation, but also comes as a response to the commodification of the art object, ie. selling artwork for money. I asked myself a question a year and a half ago: If I could no longer purchase materials or take anything with me, if I gave up concerns about permanence (and ego), could I still make art? The answer is resoundingly yes.
WOLF: Do you experience something like moments of awe while you paint? What are those moments about?
ND: My background as an artist is in making paintings (and I still make paintings despite my recent installations and public sculpture). While in the act of painting, or the act of drawing, I don't know that I would classify what I feel as "moments of awe," per se. At its best, painting and drawing are an active meditation, and I am a conduit filtering the visual information I feel compelled to render. This involves daydreaming or imagination to an extent, but it's also a physical response to the materials I am working with: paints and brushes responding to canvas, or charcoal and pencil responding to paper. It's a physical response to texture, pressure, and the resistence or ease of the materials themselves. Sometimes my mind is transported far away from everything, sometimes I am focused on the physicality of the material, and sometimes I am sifting through memories and trivialities of the everyday. The moments of awe seem to come afterwards, when I stand back and see what I've made with new eyes. The kinds of imagery that spring from me are sometimes strange, sometimes beautiful, sometimes frightening, but I try to welcome all of it.
WOLF: I have always struggled with sleep. Do you sleep well?
ND: I like sleep well enough now, although I struggled with it from an early age (I had to train myself to sleep and learn to calm my brain). But often when I can't sleep or am just dozing, I will see the most beautiful images for a painting or sculpture, and I'll grab a pad and pencil to jot it down - take notes about color or draw out the forms, try to memorize where it is the most tenuous.