If I Gave Up Concerns About Permanence (And Ego), Could I Still Make Art? Nicolle Donnelly

[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.

: 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.


bailey said...

Thanks for sharing! Nicole's work and words are lovely.

the greens said...

loved reading these and having another opportunity to take a peak at nicole's beautiful work!