Sunday, November 6, 2011

Catherine Nash: Tucson, Arizona


Catherine Nash, Artist
Please share a little about yourself. Where did you grow up and what were any early influences on your work?
I still claim my New England roots even though I have lived in Tucson since 1983 with several years in it “once a New Englander always a...”? I am one of those fortunate artists who not only decided early on to be an artist but found mentors through my early years into college.

Eclipsis Lunar
Mixed media assemblage, encaustic painting in an antique box,
wax pencil and chalk drawing of a ca. 1552 lunar eclipse diagram
on an old school slate;antique copper compact,
mica, branches, handmade paper with walnut ink and encaustic.
17.5”h X 25”w (open) X 10”d

Did you receive any formal art training?
I have a BFA in Drawing and Printmaking from the University of New Hampshire, and an MFA in Mixed Media from the U of Arizona. I’ve created lots of international opportunities for myself as well, especially in Europe and Japan.

Geometry Lesson
Encaustic painting in an antique drawer;
wax pencil and chalk on old school slate; page from
a vintage Japanese math book; cross-section
of a nautilus shell; antique calipers;
photo of Galaxy 51, oil stick. 17.5”h X 32” w

At what point in your life did you become interested in making art and was there a certain point when you decided you were primarily an artist?
There is a family story that at 5, I declared emphatically that I was going to be an artist when I grow up. Ironically, my kindergarten report card says, “Cathy does very well in every subject, but in art, when her paint drips, she has a complete tantrum.” 

Sky Nest
Cast gampi and abaca paper fibers into a
lashed armature of creosote branches, encased in encaustic, oil stick,
white line transfer. 26"h X 40"w X 10"d

detail of Sky Nest

What is your media?

Totally mixed media, but I gravitate first to paper and encaustic, sometimes incorporating wood and clay. I have given myself freedom to create in varied ways: making books, paintings, sculpture and installations. I feel that if my content is consistently expressed, then the media/formatting can shift. Basically idea dictates my choices.

encaustic painting, oil stick 21”h x 34”w

What is your current work about? 

Earth and landscape is foremost in my soul... Mesmerized by the expansiveness of space, I am always pondering on my place in the universe and the enigma of consciousness and existence.

In my recent artworks, images of skies are seen juxtaposed with geometrical diagrams or sacred geometry. How varied cultures through history have striven to explain this mystery through mathematics and the sciences is just fascinating to me. The ancients observed the spiral unfolding of nature: geometry within the sprouting of a seed, a radiating flower center, the proportions of the human form, the relationship of the Earth to the solar system, the turn of a galaxy. The spiral, for instance, is a profound image of the movement of time and space. Miranda Lundy writes, "Sacred geometry charts the unfolding of number in space."

I don’t always know where the image is heading when I am working, although I do plan to some degree, perhaps due to my beginning as a printmaker. But I’ve learned to not question the internal juxtaposition of imagery, to listen and let the work lead me: a conversation with paper, wax, branches, brush, pen, saw and twine.

Front door to the studio I share with artist and husband Robert Renfrow 
(with welded sculpture by Kitty Wales to bottom left)

As you walk in, my area on the left, behind me in this photo is the
 teaching area of our studio and my inspiration desk:
(Rob's studio is around the photos of it.)

What is your workspace like? If you have photos of where you work that would be of interest.
My husband, artist Robert Renfrow, and I built a new large studio on the lot next door two years ago...having such a space had been a life long dream. I’ve designed my space on centers, one for inspiration, another for assemblage and books, a large area devoted to encaustic work with a separate table to do encaustic monoprinting and molten painting on paper. I have a separate soundproofed room for my Hollander beater (studio sized paper mill, effectively) that houses boxes and boxes of plant fibers and half stuff pulps. All my papermaking equipment is stored in there on wheels, and when in production, gets rolled out and the studio gets transformed.

A huge space with six folding tables is kept open to work and where we offer workshops of varied media: our studio seconds as a teaching space for both Rob and I. We are supposed to have it divided up equally and tidily, but I admit, I’ve gone over the invisible line more than once. OK, a lot more than once.

My inspiration area with special items I've gathered on my travels,
sculptural forms I've made, all my sketchbooks,
special branches and elements from nature.

Are you involved with any arts groups or communities? If yes, what do you gain from that affiliation and what do you contribute to it?

I am an active member of the International Association of Hand Papermakers and Paper Artists (IAPMA), The Friends of Dard Hunter, an international organization of artists who work in paper/books and paper historians, and a member of the International Encaustic Artists.  One might not recognize the Yahoo Papermaking group as an official organization, but it is a superb “place” to connect, with unlimited sharing and generosity amongst members.

Having been an active artist in a relatively isolated community (Tucson is an island in the desert) and long before the gifts that the internet has brought us, I have always cherished my colleagues and appreciated the generous sharing.

I have written and published my “findings” consistently in varied journals and newsletters for about 25 years. I get extremely curious about a subject, whether it be an aspect of media relative to science, or technique or more lately forays into projects have seemed to grow in scope. In 2009, after 2+ years of research, I published Beater Finesse for the Artist, an in-depth report into how international artists were manipulating their Hollander beaters to create varied pulps for varied papers. So esoteric, as my husband referred to it, but information that truly hadn’t been recorded or compiled since papermaking as an art form experienced its renaissance in the 70s and early 80s.

My current project, Contemporary Paper and Encaustic is about building a bridge between dynamic communities: those of encaustic, paper and artist books. My project will culminate in an e-publication that presents inspiring international artists who integrate the two media in innovative and compelling ways, focusing on how media corroborates with the expression of their ideas and content. I am seeking funding to help me travel across the United States to conduct studio visits and create one-on-one taped interviews with twenty seven artists, which will be embedded into their portfolio pages within the second half of my e-book.
Learn more about this project and how you can help Catherine make this happen.

I am impassioned about the opportunity to meet these international artists and I’ll be sharing what I learn and experience of their poetic thoughts, expressive ideas, and particular vision and how it emanates through their art within my e-book. Please take a look at a showcase of their artwork I’ve compiled on the USA Artists site which can be viewed here. I’d be so grateful for your contribution towards bringing this project to fruition.

New Growth
Kozo paper cast into a lashed armature
of willow branches and encased in white
and amber beeswax, dead tree with
root ball and dried mulch found in
the Rillito River, “grafted” found branch
with waxed green gampi paper leaves.
80”h X 33” diam.

detail of New Growth

Do you ever get stuck with your work and how do you remedy this?

I write. I make lists. I scan my decades of journal sketchbooks for glimmers of new inspiration or the new configuring of an idea. From there, I start to sketch without pre- thought and let images emerge.

Do you have particular habits that you think support your art practice?

I hate to say it but I work well with deadlines. Being self employed as an educator, I tend to follow a fiscal year pattern-of-living. The summers for me are as of old. For example, when school is out, it is daily creative focus and in-depth studio concentration. But I chose to be an artist-in-resident rather than an art teacher in the schools to maintain freedom of scheduling. I can take months off at a time to create with a show or commission in mind or to travel abroad in the name of art...and I do!

Night to Day to Night
Coptic bound artist book: handmade sheets of abaca,
torch ginger grass and black cotton rag paper,
gradated in the vat by slowly changing fibers.
In slip case covered with handmade
paper with white ink marks.
3.5”h X 2.25”w X 7.5”d slipcase size. 7” radius open book.

Do you have jobs other than making art?
I’ve run a second, very successful business, since 1983, dealing antique and vintage clothing and jewelry. Without a store front or a web site so the public can’t find me, I deal strictly to the film and TV industry and a few select stores. I search for specific period wardrobe for costume designers as they prep for period film. Incredibly fun, I’ve grown through\has enabled an art career. 
I just shipped 1960s glamour evening-wear to a major production yesterday. My business of selling period wardrobe has helped enable an art career.

on left: 1860s wrapper paisley calico with red trim
on right: 1960s 3 pc brown leather outfit w/ helmet hat,
waistcoat and skirt

Where would you like to be in 5 years as far as your artmaking?
I used to think I would want to be a full time studio artist...that is what everyone works towards, isn’t it? Painting every day. Yes, of course I want more time to dream, to ponder and to be creative. Right now I do the internal while I commute to work or whenever. I never stop thinking about my work. But I have grown to recognize that perhaps my life as it is designed right this very moment has a perfection to it that I am appreciating so much.
In 5 years, I will be creating meaningful imagery that delves deeper into my psyche and experience and inner poetry.

Encaustic painting on wood,
gossamer thin Japanese kozo paper
monoprinted with cerulean blue encaustic,
oil stick filled sgraffito marks. 15”h X 30”w

Do you have any upcoming shows that you'd like to mention?

Yes, here they are:

"International Book Exhibit", October 19 - November 6, 2011

69 Smith St. Gallery, Melbourne, Australia

"WOW: Women and Wax", October 28 - December 31, 2011 
 Art Center Sarasota, Sarasota, FL

"9th International Book Art Festival" November 2011
(traveling for 3 years through Poland)

Muzeum Książki Artystycznej, Lodz, Poland

Solo Exhibition, September 2012
Bowersock Gallery, Provincetown, MA.
I am truly honored about my solo show: I won 1st place in the Bowersock Gallery’s June 2011 show “Wax in Motion” held in Provincetown, MA. Not only will they give me a solo exhibition, but they have just signed me for representation.

You can see more of Catherine's work on her website.

Read more about Catherine and see more about her studio on her blog.

Thank-you Catherine!


Roberta said...

Great interview. Really interesting artist and work.

Kimberly said...

Thank you so much, Lynette and Catherine. Wonderful!

Lynette Haggard said...

Thanks for reading Kim and Roberta!
Catherine is truly an amazing person and artist.

Diane McGregor said...

Wonderful interview! I particularly love "Sky Nest." As the wife of a professional astronomer, I've spent a lot of time staring at the stars and looking through telescopes, and listening to the science about what I am seeing. "Sky Nest" resonates with the poetic fact of the beauty and truth of the Universe, the mystery and the intimate connection we all have with the vastness of space. Thank you Catherine and Lynette!