American Craft Council Library Salon Series Lecture Objects and Installations: The Work and Residencies of Emily Nachison
Through sculptural objects and installation, artist Emily Nachison investigates the use of story, symbols, and materiality to mythologize natural phenomena, escapism, and the desire for secret knowledge. In the summers of 2014 and 2015, Bullseye Projects invited her to participate in residencies at North Lands Creative Glass in Lybster, Scotland. Working in response to the unique landscape and architecture of Caithness, Scotland, Nachison created a series of projects for the Byre, a new Bullseye Projects exhibition space in Latheronwheel, Scotland. Nachison will discuss her recent residencies and exhibition.
The Library Salon Series is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
Wednesday, May 10, 7:00pm, 2017
1224 Marshall St. NE, Suite 200
Minneapolis, MN 55413
A curated exhibition by the League of Women Designers. Periphery is part of Design Week Portland. Design Week Portland is a week-long, city-wide series of programs exploring the process, craft, and practice of design across all disciplines.
Exhibition Dates: April 27th-30th, 2017
Olympic Mills Building, 107 SE Washington St, Portland, Oregon 97214
Participating Artists and Designers: Laura Allcorn, Leah K.S. Amick, Jennifer Cooke, Taryn Coward, Emi Day, Jennifer Freudenberger, Ali Gradisher, Lauren Hackett, Whitney Jordan, Abbie Miller, Emily Nachison, Marilee Sweeney, Sara Schmidt, Rena Simon, Chelsea Stephen
The American Craft Council is excited to announce the finalists for the 2017 Rare Craft Fellowship Award in association with The Balvenie. For the last three years, the Rare Craft Fellowship Award has recognized and supported artists’ contributions to the maintenance and revival of traditional or rare crafts in America.
From a pool of qualified and talented makers, five artists were selected as finalists for the Rare Craft Fellowship Award by a panel of jurors. The American Craft Council is pleased to present the following artists:
- Abir Ali and Andre Sandifer, furniture makers
- Janice Arnold, textiles
- Amara Hark-Weber, shoemaker
- Sandra and Wence Martinez, painter and weaver
- Emily Nachison, glass and installation
- Anthony Bourdain, author, chef, and raconteur
- Michael Radyk, ACC director of education
- David Stewart, The Balvenie’s malt master
- Jennifer Zwilling, curator of artistic programs, the Clay Studio, Philadelphia
For more information visit: https://craftcouncil.org
Flower Time, a public installation at Lillstreet Art Center Rooftop Project Space.
This series of flags was inspired by Carolus Linnaeus’ horologium florae (floral clock) hypothesis. In 1751, Carolus Linnaeus, a Swedish naturalist, hypothesized that flowers could be used to measure time by planting them in a 12-point radial formation based on when their species opened and closed. Carolus Linnaeus, (1707 – 1778) is often referred to as the Father of Taxonomy. Linnaeus was the first to frame principles for defining natural genera and species of organisms and to create a uniform system for naming them. The flowers pictured on the flags in Flower Time are organized by the time of day in which they open. Flags will be on view November 1 - 30, 2016
Lillstreet Art Center
4401 N. Ravenswood Ave, Chicago, IL 60640
Photography by Nora Renick-Rinehart
Join New Mexico State University for the GEOMAGIC lecture, Mythologizing Natural Phenomena, Scientific History, and New-Age Idealism. The Skype lecture will feature artists Christine Gray and Emily Nachison.
GEOMAGIC: Art, Science and the Zuhl Collection is an interdisciplinary exhibition that creates a visual laboratory and educational space unifying contemporary visual art, geology, and other natural sciences into a hypothetical space. GEOMAGIC creates a platform to explore ontological responses to spirituality, technology, and anthropogenic geological concerns of preservation in relation to the natural environment. GEOMAGIC pairs works from the Zuhl collection, a Wunderkammer-like collection of over 1,800 specimens of petrified wood,fossils and minerals on the campus of New Mexico State University, with contemporary artists, who within their practice, utilize various mediums that resemble, echo, and mimic the geological to explore our ever-evolving scientific and technological landscape.
GEOMAGIC: Mythologizing Natural Phenomena, Scientific History, and New-Age Idealism
Thursday, November 3, 2016 at 6:00pm
New Mexico State University Art Gallery, 1390 E University Ave, Las Cruces, New Mexico
When we have unified enough certain knowledge, we will understand who we are and why we are here. – Edward O. Wilson
GEOMAGIC: Art, Science and the Zuhl Collection is an interdisciplinary exhibition that creates a visual laboratory and educational space unifying contemporary visual art, geology, and other natural sciences into a hypothetical space. GEOMAGIC creates a platform to explore ontological responses to spirituality, technology, and anthropogenic geological concerns of preservation in relation to the natural environment.
GEOMAGIC pairs works from the Zuhl collection, a Wunderkammer-like collection of over 1,800 specimens of petrified wood,fossils and minerals on the campus of New Mexico State University, with contemporary artists, who within their practice, utilize various mediums that resemble, echo, and mimic the geological to explore our ever-evolving scientific and technological landscape.
Like the many cultures that look for wisdom and signs from the physicality of our Earth, the artists included in this exhibition draw on the knowledge and historical significance of natural specimens to inform their practice. The minerals, crystals, fossils, and woods that exist in the Zuhl collection are a form of New Age geomancy or alchemy; and like our earliest master painters who ground up minerals to make their magic on canvasses, our contemporary artists’ cull from multiple mediums referencing forms of nature as the influence for their often speculative science-based creations. The displays and programs associated with GEOMAGIC will act as dialogical intersections for critical learning by all-age community members. Works like “Fossil Necklace,” by the artist Katie Paterson and made in collabor ation with scientists, is comprised of 170 carved fossils, spans geological time, and addresses the implications of human activities and our global impact. From the Zuhl Collection, the selection of petrified wood, fossils, and minerals will help audiences of all ages examine the interpretations of the natural world and provide social and environmental contexts for the artworks.
GEOMAGIC emerges as an investigation into the new heights we might reach if the walls of the disciplines continue to fall and research-based practices converge to reach new solutions to the most complex questions of our anthropocentric times.
Curated by: Marisa Sage and Tiffany Santos
September 8, 2016 – December 21, 2016
Friends Preview: Wednesday, September 7, 6PM
Public Opening: Thursday, September 8, 5-7PM
New Mexico State University Art Gallery
D.W. Williams Hall, University Ave, Las Cruces, New Mexico
A group exhibition in Latheron, Scotland featuring installation work by Karlyn Sutherland (UK), Silvia Leveson (Italy), Michael Rogers (USA), and Emily Nachison (USA)
Exhibition Opening: July 25, 2016
Exhibition Dates: July 25, 2016 - August 5, 2018
Latheronwheel, Scotland – Bullseye Projects presents the inaugural exhibition at The Byre, a new exhibition space located in northern Scotland. Permeable Structure will be available to view by appointment through August 5, 2018.
The buildings we inhabit have complex lives. By peeling back the layers, we reveal histories of use. The sometimes indelible but often fragile clues hint at the stories that moved through and between these spaces. Add to this the world outside that shines in through the windows and grows into the crevices. Our own memories, emotions, and aspirations, which we bring to every space we encounter, create new dimensions. It is through this confluence of meaning – between the buildings, the light, the land, history, and the people - that the rigid structures in which we live become permeable. Permeable Structure brings together the work of Silvia Levenson, Emily Nachison, Michael Rogers, and Karlyn Sutherland. The exhibition draws from the landscape, deep history, and culture of Caithness, the northernmost county in Scotland.
Silvia Lenvson's Strange Little Girl is part of a series of works dealing with the intricate lives of children. “Those years delineate an era where the edge between reality and dreams is very evanescent,” says Levenson. By combining the head of a deer with the body of child, Levenson emphasizes what she calls the “dreamlike and unreal world of children.” Emily Nachison’s multi-part installation pulls the flora, fauna, and mythology of Caithness into the largest chamber of The Byre. Apparition consists of twin horse heads with long horse hair and acrylic manes. Cast in ghost-like clear glass, the heads reference the legendary Kelpie, but also the minister’s horse long buried in the adjacent garden. Similar stories influenced Michael Rogers, who spent ten days in The Byre listening to the workers, the sheep, and the building itself. “After days of taking notes in the barn, slowly the walls began to whisper,” says Rogers. “It is the sense of the unseen and unheard that I wanted to explore and coax into being.” Rogers’ installation of everyday materials and tools, cast in glass, installed as if anticipating another day of work, manifest “an ineffable sense of presentiment…an intuition telling you that there is much more here than meets the eye.” Karlyn Sutherland, an architect and artist, created a site-specific installation studying the light and shadow created by the architecture of the building. Using chalk, Sutherland traced the geometric light patterns cast by the windows and noted the day and time. By dusting flour into the air she was able to see, physically, the light paths penetrating the space. “The five geometric forms…are cross-sections of the paths I tracked,” says Sutherland. “Designed to be fully illuminated for one fleeting moment on one particular day each year, they are slivers of light.”
For more information visit:
Portland Art Museum: Artist Talk Series
Artist Talk: Emily Nachison
May 12, 2016, 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Through sculptural objects and installation, Emily Nachison investigates the use of story and symbols to mythologize natural phenomena. Within her work, mythology, scientific history and New-Age idealism become starting points for an investigation into the creation of meaning and the formation of knowledge. Nachison’s material choices, which include glass and fiber, are governed by each material’s cultural history and its ability to impart meaning.
Emily will be talking about Odilon Redon, Oannes et le Sphinx.
Portland Art Museum
1219 SW Park Avenue
Portland, OR 97205
For more information visit:
An exhibition by Emily Nachison exploring American mysticism
Exhibition Dates: February 11, 2016 - March 11, 2016
Public Lecture: February 11, 2016, 6:30pm
Marlin and Regina Miller Gallery
15200 Kutztown Road
Kutztown University of Pennsylvania
Kutztown, PA 19530-0730
"Across every reason a movement"
Vicki Lynn Wilson, Emily Nachison & Matt Leavitt
Opening Reception: Wednesday, November 4, 5–7 PM
Exhibition Dates: November 4–25, 2015
Portland State University
Smith Memorial Student Union
1825 SW Broadway, Portland, Oregon 97201
A new project exploring salt collection and the North Sea.
More information coming soon.
New Directions in Glass by Sarah Margolis-Pineo
It is no secret that craft is making a comeback. From the 2014 Whitney Biennial to your neighborhood supermarket, the term craft is being used to spur critical discourse as well as fetishize consumable goods. Throughout the previous century, craft existed as a slippery, nebulous thing, lurking on the fringes of industry and Fine Art. But with the 21st century, craft has entered a new era of post-disciplinary, post-object practice, in which social activism, performance, DIY tactics, and new technologies are made tangible, and given new meaning, through materials and processes traditionally associated with craft. Despite this new conceptual underpinning, intense, media-specific training is required for proficiency in any craft.
Of all these distinct mediums, glass has garnered the least attention within the scope of contemporary art. We are accustomed to seeing innovative exhibitions of fiber and ceramics in museums and international art fairs, but surveys of contemporary glass are confined predictably to the work of Chihuly and his Venice-trained contemporaries. Further, jewelry, wood furniture, cloth-goods and clay are staples of the artisan marketplace. Once taken home, they give shape to our lives, becoming intimate acquaintances through daily use.
Glass, however, remains relegated to the pedestal and sideboard. Static and inaccessible, so much of what defines contemporary glass art has been inherited from the object-driven agenda of the studio craft movement. Twentieth-century glass separated itself from the applied arts and the avant garde by perpetuating a mystique of preciousness and aesthetic transcendence. This ideology continues to flourish in the insular institutions of art glass: the media-specific museums, galleries, and residencies that generate much of the discourse around glass-based work. We are taught to perceive glass as the product of a magical process—the perfect meeting of silica and fire, massaged to life by a spritely man in bright trousers and an eye patch. At a time when other craft-based disciplines were crossing-genres to collide with design and contemporary art, the dissemination of glass has remained resolutely apart. And so it has been, until now.
Contemporary glass is witnessing a call to action. The field has become both laboratory and playground to a cohort of emerging artists experimenting with the material and conceptual potential of the medium. There has been a move away from the object. Glassmakers are eschewing the pedestal in favor of installation, video, intervention, and performance. Many are taking on the idea of craft—the history, context, and process of glass itself—as the conceptual foundation of their work. Craft has become a tool to investigate and open up the field. It has the potential to promote alternate ways of perceiving and working with glass, rather than functioning as a discrete classification unto itself. Further, the relationship of glass to everyday life provides artists with a vehicle to look outside traditional disciplinary categories, to explore how other institutional frameworks—industry, environmental biology, physics, urbanism, etc.—can inform their practices. A perceptual shift is underway.
It's an exciting time to be working in glass.
This article features four glass artists based in the Pacific Northwest, who are expanding the boundaries and language of glass art in innovative ways. The first is Matthew Szösz, a recent transplant to Seattle from the Bay Area, whose manipulation of molten glass is poised between control and risk. Szösz's series of Inflatables is perhaps his most recognized body of work. Created by pumping compressed air into fused sheets of hot glass, the forms that emerge are surprising—pillowy tessellations, simultaneously buoyant and fixed.
The Inflatables series speaks to Szösz's interest in experimentation. Much of his work investigates the materiality of glass itself. He explores the medium's unforeseen potential through systematic tests as well as disorderly manipulation. As an artist, Szösz embraces chaos and accident. Failure is never an outcome if the end result of one's work is unknown. His series of Expandables, including the piece Clothesline (2012), proves failure and success to be blurred quantities within a truly experimental methodology. Presented on four-channel video, Clothesline documents Szösz in his studio heating strips of found glass windowpanes to fusing temperature—1600º. As the glass emerges from the kiln, it is hung on a mechanized clothesline to contract and crumble as it solidifies. The shards rain intermittently from the suspended installation, breaking loose and hitting the floor with a distinctive splintering sound.
Szösz is opening up the field of ephemeral glass. Seemingly a contradiction, Szösz's work proves that artists can move beyond the material confines of the media. This summer, he will be in residence at STARworks in North Carolina, and spending one month in Belgium as the recipient of the International Glass Prize. At both sites, Szösz will develop a project that brings together sound and glass, investigating the idea of the musical frequency as material.
Anna Mlasowsky similarly explores the relationship between material and the ephemeral. She is intrigued by invisible frequencies—resonances that are detected occasionally by the ears and skin as they pass through our bodies in waves. Her intent is to capture these invisible forces and, using glass, render it material. To achieve this, she embarks on multi-year research endeavors to develop new ways of incorporating sound into the production of glass. Often, her approach is cross-disciplinary, leveraging digital technology alongside traditional kiln-forming technique.
Sound Visions (2013) was an early piece within this body of work. Mlasowsky began by adding glass powder to water, manipulating it by hand to create a pattern of waves—like sand on an ocean floor. She preserved these vibrations by setting them on glass sheets that were fused in a kiln. What emerged were four white plates that ripple like lunar tide pools—simultaneously natural and extraordinary. Mlasowsky digitized each image using a 3D scanner, and assigned a corresponding sound to each iridescent wave. Ultimately, the glass sculptures were presented with an accompanying soundscape arranged by Thorsten Schepers. In her installation titled Resonance (2013), Mlasowsky took a different approach to exploring the aural potential of glass. After distilling the approximately 200-resonant frequencies within the audible range for a sheet of aluminum, she played each frequency through a speaker that was attached to the aluminum plate. By using glass powder that was later kiln-formed, she was able to create a solid shape—a dark, web-like screen—to embody each sound.
Currently, Mlasowsky is pursuing her MFA at the University of Washington. She recently received a Glass Art Society Technology Advancement Grant to research a new pate de verre technique that uses 3D modeling and rapid prototyping in lieu of traditional molds. This project, which has the potential to mark a huge technological shift in the field of glassmaking, will be featured in an exhibition opening July 1, 2015 at Bullseye Projects (Portland, OR).
Despite the lure of the digital, Andy Paiko is a glass artist who remains entirely enthralled by the technology of centuries past—the mechanical. Paiko is recognized for his flawless glassblowing technique in the tradition of Czech and Venetian artisans. What makes his work decidedly contemporary is not his medium, but the conceptual threads underlying his practice. Working alone in his Portland, Oregon studio, Paiko produces objects so tightly wound, their component parts lock together like the cogs of an intricate machine.
His recent piece, Pumpjack (2014), incorporates wood, brass, and leather into a composition of blown, sculpted, and cut clear glass. A miniature version of the monumental pump-jacks seen in the oil producing regions of the south and west, Paiko's sculpture inhales upward, and deflates back, glimmering with a sense of playfulness—a wholly theatrical thing. Like his earlier Spinning Wheel (2007), Pumpjack draws you in with its mesmerizing motion and keeps you enthralled by the imaginative potential of the medium. The sculptures modulate with routine whirs and thrusts that, like the capacity to work glass, point to human mastery over the natural world. Both real-life referent and sculptural representation signify the transformation of raw material. They operate simultaneously as mechanical mysteries and human-engineered marvels.
In addition to his kinetic instruments, Paiko also creates intricate chandlers, bell jars, and other sculptural works. From 2009-2013, he collaborated with sound artist Ethan Rose on Transference, a room-sized glass harmonica that hummed and sang on mechanized tones. Like the sound emitted by moistened finger on the rim of a wine glass, Paiko was able to generate a range of tones from the contact between a cloth hammer and the side of a rotating glass bowl. The overall affect was transcendent—like music emitting from light itself.
There will always be some sense of magic in the alchemical processes of working with glass. At once scientific and strange, this reconciliation of opposites is at the center of Emily Nachison's artistic practice. Trained in fiber, Nachison now works largely with kiln-formed glass. Her inspiration comes from diverse sources including New Age pseudo-spirituality, metallurgy, fairy tales, and Victorian decorative arts. She interweaves traces of narrative with suggestions of natural form to create large-scale installations that suggest a tangled wildness—a ghostly apparition of nature, rendered in delicate glass.
Nachison's recent exhibition at Bullseye Projects (Portland, OR), "Dark Ecologies," (on view at Bullseye Resource Center in New York, August 25 – November 14, 2015), featured new work integrating objects cast in glass with elemental materials such as leather, horsehair, and stainless steel. Garland (2014), Crystal Cord (2014), and Counting Cord (2014) are a trio of larger-than-life necklaces weighted down with heavy increments of branch-like forms. The translucent fragments are strung together like the beads of an abacus or the bones of a spinal cord—a very intentional appeal to our visceral senses that resonates with an uncanny perceptual shift.
Nachison forces her viewers to become aware of their embodied presence in the gallery—through the tactility of the works themselves, or as a result of one's close proximity to a material emblematic of fragility and preciousness. Her installation Metonic Transfiguration (2014), is comprised of a series of cast glass specimens hanging delicately in mid-air from pressed-glass plates. Through the work's narrative sequence, a crystalline fragment transforms into a branch, which evolves slowly into a mushroom, and then to a murky pool collected on the bottom of the plate. Based on the lifespan of the ink cap mushroom, this installation points to the glassmaking process itself—its alchemy, and its potential to transform raw, elemental earth into something beautiful, entirely unexpected, and a bit magical.
Lecture: "Emily Nachison: Materiality and the Metaphysical"
Sunday, March 29, 4:00pm, Cranbrook Academy of Art
"Materiality and the Metaphysical"
The act of measuring and observing creates meaning: assigning values to specific units and magnitudes enables us to quantify vast distances, establish time, and compare scale. Emily Nachison’s artwork explores measurement as the link between the metaphysical pseudo-sciences of the 17th century, historic mythmaking, and contemporary spirituality. In her talk Nachison will discuss her use of story, symbols, and materiality to mythologize natural phenomena. Within her work, mythology, scientific history, and New-Age idealism become starting points for an investigation into the creation of meaning and the formation of knowledge. Nachison graduated from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2010. She is currently the Fiber Department Chair and a visiting faculty member at the Oregon College of Art and Craft in Portland, Oregon.
Sponsored by the Cranbrook Fiber Department
Additional Lecture information available online at: http://www.cranbrookart.edu/museum/CAMpe1.html
Cranbrook Academy of Art
39221 Woodward Ave, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48303
Little Ghosts of Alchemy and Magic: A Conversation with Emily Nachison
January 21, 2015 by Sarah Margolis-Pineo
Read interview online: www.badatsports.com
As a kid, I felt betrayed by the cheery optimism peddled by Disney. My sisters and I were raised on the stories of Hans Christian Anderson, gleaning magic from the gloom and gore of The Little Match Girl, The Red Shoes, and The Little Mermaid. When Ariel wasn’t turned into sea foam at the end of the 1989 animation, I thought, (in 8-year old terms): What the fuck was that?! I found the idea of pitting one’s desire against excruciating pain thrilling and, indeed, necessary for any sort of moral to resonate. After visualizing little red shoes dancing away on severed legs, anything G-rated will inevitably disappoint.
I never asked during the course of our interview, but I’m guessing that Portland-based artist Emily Nachison had a similar childhood experience. In a recent artist talk, she cited a German folktale, The Seven Ravens, a story about a girl who frees her seven brothers from imprisonment in a glass mountain by cutting off one of her fingers to use the bone as a key. Nachison was drawn to this particular tale, firstly, for its depiction of glass, (her media of choice), as a simultaneously ethereal and earthly substance that combines the allure of a crystalline surface with the weight of a tomb. Secondly, she was inspired by the relationship between body and natural world. Like the girl’s finger, much of Nachison’s work hints at the possibility of portals—keys—leading to realms a bit more magical than the world we currently understand to exist.
Though curious about fairy rings and New Age pseudo-spirituality, Nachison is equally versed in Victorian approaches to nature in decorative arts. Her installations are clean yet luminous, featuring pieces created from kiln-formed glass combined with few elemental materials such as leather, horsehair, and stainless steel. Her work can suggest a tangled wildness—a ghostly apparition of nature rendered in delicate glass. Equally, it can bring to mind an alchemical process developed in a laboratory and exhibited in a museum of natural history. Or, Nachison can draw from craft-based traditions of weaving and metallurgy, creating objects that are best understood when worn on the body or held in hand.
Regardless of scale, Nachison’s process is ultimately the subject at hand. Glass making is at once highly scientific and a bit mysterious. To create her forms, the artist casts specimens collected in nature—mushrooms, crystals, and branches—manipulating the molds by hand to construct an uncanny landscape, increment by increment. Then, she meticulously measures her silica mixture, pouring it into the molds to be fired. The alchemy behind glass production—transforming sand into something of profound value—illustrates humanity’s capacity to master materiality, creating things that are functional and beautiful from raw earth. In the midst of all her scientific calculations, Nachison still manages to question our understanding of the world and how we quantify its forces. Alluding to the history of scientific advancement, her work embraces the unknown, suggesting there are always multiple truths—it’s up to us to remove the finger and surrender to the magic.
I spoke to Emily Nachison last summer in her studio.
Sarah Margolis-Pineo: Has the natural world always played a significant role in your life, and subsequently, in your work? How has your relationship with the natural world changed since relocating from Southern California to the Pacific Northwest, (by way of Baltimore, San Francisco and Detroit)?
Emily Nachison: It’s always been a part of my life, but since moving to Oregon, spending time outdoors has become central to my practice. As a child, I liked to sit and count things in the backyard, and then in undergrad and graduate school, I became interested in folklore and Victorian traditions of categorizing and cultivating nature. I like to consider the ways we organize and think about nature. What does it mean to create a garden? What does it mean to impose order on the natural world? My work started as being about nature and our relationship with the outdoors, but slowly, it’s become more about the ways we quantify it—trying to understand and create meaning from every encounter. Since moving to Oregon, my inquiry became more about my own experiences–about foraging and gathering.
I grew up in Southern California in a pretty New Age environment, and that colored my perspective for a very long time. I’m very interested in science and how we understand the world, but I’m also very interested in the desire to find some sort of magic in nature—even if it doesn’t exist. For me, making work is a way of having another headspace to go into. I go outdoors to seek inspiration, and in the studio, I use that experience to wander in alternative space. This is where nature and magic come together, and that combination of forces is revealed in my work.
SMP: Besides the outdoors, where else do you go for inspiration?
EN: I cite folktales, certainly. The mushroom cycles, Portal (2012) for example, references these portals to other realms called Fairy Rings that are found in folktales. The mushroom cycles in my work are based on an actual type of mushroom called an ink cap. As they die, they release spores and melt into a puddle of ink. Reading about the ink cap mushroom began my interest in transition cycles, and I started exploring the transmutation of mass. From there, I began thinking about concepts around alchemy—transforming one material into another, as well as physics and the conservation of mass.
EN: Doing any sort of research about alchemy on the Internet usually makes me feel like I’m reading Harry Potter fan fiction. It was seeking out a more credible source that led me to the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University. The Beinecke houses a collection of alchemical manuscripts from the 14th to the 17th century. The Beinecke alchemical manuscript collection was founded by Mary Conover Mellon, a follower of Carl Jung who introduced his theories to the U.S. She went around buying manuscripts that he had used for his research into symbols and archetypes that led to his theories of the collective unconscious. I received a research grant to travel there, and I met with curator Kathryn James, who shared incredible works with me including the Voynich manuscript, which has its own cult following. The Voynich is from the 14th century and has all these incredible drawings of plants on vellum. At the time, these plants hadn’t been cataloged or studied to the extent that we know them today, and I found it fascinating that people were drawn to render them in such detail. Plants have a certain magic, and that was made clear looking through the manuscript.
SMP: So much of the evolution of human knowledge really demonstrates how little we do know about the world. Opening up the potential for magic is not only exciting, but it seems a necessary counterpoint to scientific understanding.
EN: People keep coming back to it! We accept that it doesn’t exist, yet it’s a constant theme within every cultural zeitgeist.
SMP: Can we talk about your use of glass? What drew you to it as a material coming from fiber and soft sculpture?
EN: In grad school, I had my world blown apart by a visiting critic who told me that all of my exploration into Carl Jung, the collective unconscious, etc., was all very New Age. I had no idea! At the time I was totally distraught, but it forced me to turn a corner. I began reading about the Victorian Age and the idea of lamenting the loss of nature. The Victorians created fake ruins with fabricated signs of age to solicit a sense nostalgia thus turning the natural world into something decorative. Glass became very popular during that time. It became more affordable. Paxton’s Crystal Palace was opened. Due to my interest in this time period, I became interested in using glass as a material. I wasn’t able to begin working with glass until I came to Oregon, where I first had access to resources and expertise in kiln-formed glass thanks to Bullseye Projects, an affiliate of Bullseye Glass Company.
EN: In my work I’m interested in transformation and how culture shapes our relationship with nature. Glass goes through an amazing chemical transformation when it is created and also has a physical preciousness and a culturally derived value. I’m interested in playing with these aspects of the material. Additionally, glass, for me, has a memorial tone. By casting natural objects, stones, plants, shells, etc., into glass, I transform them into relics. I give material form to something ethereal. Each piece is like a ghost.
SMP: The way you piece elements together to create a whole strikes me as possibly having roots in fiber.
EN: The unification of individual units was definitely part of my fiber education. My first forays into installation as a student consisted of elements, made in the studio, that were then joined in the gallery space. My work in in grad school and directly after moved away from this practice as I developed monumental scaled works where the elements were indistinguishable from the whole. Working in glass, however, brought this way of working back since scale is limited by the size of the kiln. One could argue that this practice is as rooted in glass—stained glass, mosaic, murrine, as much as it has roots in fiber.
SMP: You mentioned that the way you create these forms is very intuitive and, looking at them, I can certainly see more formal sculptural representation infused with the mystical—a combination of material and immaterial. Is it possible to describe how the forms come to be?
EN: The process of casting glass is not an intuitive process—it’s very much about applying correct calculations to produce a specific outcome. One of my favorite steps in glass casting is doing the weight calculations where you fill the cavity of your mold with water, measure the correct amount of water, and then you do a little equation to figure out how much glass that equals before measuring and pouring the glass into the mold to be fired. I like how working with glass forces me to slow down, think, and count. Before I was making very intuitive, somewhat aggressive work. This is a whole different pace.
EN: It’s through the process of creating and casting the wax forms that the intuitive part comes back in. What I do first is create a silicone mold of a natural object and then cast it in wax, I then spend time combining it with other cast wax forms, letting the individual pieces fall away through heating and reforming it. It’s easy to get lost in that.
SMP: There is so much mystery surrounding glass production still. Even in the Pacific Northwest, home of the studio glass movement, where glass production is perhaps more accessible than most places, there is a high-level of skill and access to resources that keeps the craft very shrouded and exclusive.
EN: Because of that, you don’t see glass appear in sculpture that often. When it does appear, it feels really rarified and special. I’ve always wanted to create work that feels like a relic—something captured in time, and glass works well for me in that respect.
SMP: I’d like to discuss the scale of your work. Some pieces have a very Craft-ness to them in that you can imagine the weight of them in hand or the feel of them being worn, whereas others definitely draw from the experience of a Fine Art sculptural installation. Is presenting these two shifts in the embodied relationship with the work crucial for you?
EN: My recent solo exhibition, The Realm of Quantifiable Truths (Bullseye Gallery, Portland, OR, 2014), was the first time I have used such a dramatic scale shift, but in all of my work I want the viewer to become aware of their body as they move through the space and also how they would relate bodily to each work. Combining these two types of relationships in one exhibition heightens the viewers’ awareness.
In addition to embodied installations, which make us conscious of space, I included works that referenced the human skeleton. I created the segmented branches to reference human finger bones. I was thinking about the idea of the finger as a form of measurement—using the human hand as a proto-ruler. The necklace-like pieces definitely speak to really heavy, unwieldy jewelry, but I also intended for the pieces to look like vertebrae. All together, the exhibition resembled a dismembered body that was been put back together again.
SMP: Can you imagine your work existing in a public venue besides a gallery?
EN: I’m not interested in moving existing works into non-gallery spaces, but I am interested in responding to and making work for specific venues. I am currently working on an installation for a three hundred year old barn in northern Scotland. Working in this entirely different space and responding to the environment and folklore of the area is a fantastic challenge. The installation will open in the summer of 2016. I would love to work inside a greenhouse. In particular, the large glass and steel structures that were popular during the Victorian period. These spaces embody many of the ideas that ideas that I explore in my work. Certainly working in a space like this would impact the form and conceptual direction of my work. I have been wanting to make work related to evaporation, but it makes little sense to pursue this in a gallery. A glass house, however, might be the ideal place.
Emily Nachison, born in San Diego, California, received a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2006 and a MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2010. Nachison lives and works in Portland, Oregon and is currently the Fiber Department Chair and a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Oregon College of Art and Craft.
Currently, Nachison’s work is featured in the exhibition, Dark Ecologies, on view at Bullseye Gallery through March 28.
All photography by Dan Kvitka unless credited otherwise.
Sarah Margolis-Pineo is a curator and writer based in Portland, Oregon. She is currently Associate Curator of Museum of Contemporary Craft.
Bad at Sports
Founded in 2005 by Duncan MacKenzie, Richard Holland, and Amanda Browder, Bad at Sports (B@S) now features over 20 principle collaborators and is a weekly podcast, a series of objects, events, and a daily blog produced in Chicago, San Francisco, Detroit and New York City that features artists and art worlders talking about art and the community that makes, reviews and participates in it.
Thursday, September 04, 2014
Today the Portland Art Museum announced the finalists for the 2015 Contemporary Northwest Art Awards, an awards exhibition celebrating contemporary art created in the greater Northwest (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana). The exhibition will open at the Museum in the fall of 2015.
The finalists are:
Gail Grinnell—Seattle, Washington
Jo Hamilton—Portland, Oregon
Annie Han & Daniel Mihalyo—Seattle, Washington
Victoria Haven—Seattle, Washington
Mary Iverson—Seattle, Washington
David Kroll—Vashon, Washington
Ellen Lesperance—Portland, Oregon
Margie Livingston—Seattle, Washington
Dana Lynn Louis—Portland, Oregon
Susan Moldenhauer—Laramie , Wyoming
Emily Nachison—Portland, Oregon
Ellen Ornitz—Manhattan, Montana
Helen O’Toole—Seattle, Washington
Ryan Pierce—Portland, Oregon
Jennifer Pulchinski—Bozeman, Montana
Wendy Red Star—Portland, Oregon
Vanessa Renwick—Portland, Oregon
Jay Schmidt—Bozeman, Montana
Shelby Shadwell—Laramie, Wyoming
Akio Takamori—Seattle, Washington
Phoebe Toland—Vaughn, Washington
Willem Volkersz—Bozeman, Montana
Samantha Wall—Portland, Oregon
Robert Yoder—Seattle, Washington
The Selection Process
Regional arts professionals, including curators, artists, dealer, artists, academics, and critics, were invited to nominate visual artists based on the quality of their work, innovation, relevance to community or global issues in the arts, continuity of vision, commitment to their practice, and level of development in their career. The Museum received more than 200 nominations and invited the nominated artist to submit application materials. Of the nominated artists, 192 submitted materials for review. Bonnie Laing-Malcolmson, The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Northwest Art, and guest curatorial advisor Jessica Hunter Larsen, Curator of Interdisciplinary Experimental Arts, Colorado College, reviewed the nominees’ materials and selected the 24 finalists. Laing-Malcolmson will visit the artists’ studios during the next several months. Before the end of this year, she will present her recommendations to the Museum’s director and chief curator for the final review and the announcement of the four to seven award recipients. These artists will be featured in the 2015 Contemporary Northwest Art Awards exhibition opening in October 2015. “There were exceptional submissions from each of 192 nominated artists, attesting to the strength and conceptual diversity of art in the Northwest region,” said Laing-Malcolmson. “Jessica and I spent many hours reviewing the outstanding entries and struggled to create a manageable list of finalists. I look forward to visiting each of the 24 artists in the near future to determine the award winners.”
About the Contemporary Northwest Art Awards
The program honors artistic merit and potential while providing an in-depth and scholarly presentation of work by promising contemporary artists living and working in the Northwest. The award recipients are honored with an exhibition in the Museum’s special exhibition galleries, a full-color catalogue, exhibition-related programming, and cash awards. One recipient will be further recognized with the Arlene Schnitzer Prize in the amount of $10,000. The finalists announced today will also be recognized in the catalogue. The Contemporary Northwest Art Awards exhibition, organized by the Portland Art Museum, is funded in part by The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Endowments for Northwest Art.
About The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Endowments for Northwest Art
The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Endowments for Northwest Art support the exhibition activities of the Center for Northwest Art, including the APEX series, related publications, the curatorial position, and acquisitions. From the beginning, the Museum’s permanent collection has been shaped by the art and culture of the Northwest. The Schnitzer Center for Northwest Art brings the Museum’s regional collections to the forefront and celebrates a history of art making that extends from the late 19th century to the present in the five-state region of the Northwest. The Center occupies the third and fourth floors of the Museum’s Hoffman Wing and presents the collection in rotation as well as APEX, an ongoing exhibition series dedicated to contemporary art of the
This summer I visited the Yale University Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library to research their Mary Conover Mellon collection of alchemical books and manuscripts. I have included images from the manuscript collection below. This research is part of an ongoing project on material transformation.
This project was made possible by a Regional Arts and Culture Council Artistic Focus Project Grant.
Half Cut Tea is an independent LA film company dedicated to the understanding and exploration of artists through short documentary videos.
Half Cut Tea was created by artists Matt Glass and Jordan Wayne Long.
To learn more about their other projects visit: