Saturday, December 6, 2008

Nancy’s solo show opens!

I drove to Raleigh last night to attend the opening reception for my friend Nancy G. Cook’s solo show at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. Her latest work is exhibited from Dec. 5 through the end of January in the Nature Art Gallery, located in a loft area above the museum’s gift shop.

It is a lovely, intimate space. In the photo above, you can see the area where Nancy's work is hung, and in the foreground, a display of ceramics. To the right of the wooden railing, you can see the gift shop below.

The area was very nicely lit with track lighting to show off Nancy’s nine newest pieces, which all feature trees from this part of the country, including beech, magnolia, sweet gum and dogwood. Nancy worked from specimens, many found in her own yard, while creating these pieces.

One of Nancy's older works, “Pelton's Rose Gentian,” (50x45") hangs in the stairwell down to the Museum's Gift Shop. Nancy made this piece after reading about a new species of gentian discovered by John Pelton, an amateur botanist in his seventies.

I got there at about 6:40 p.m. and stayed until 8; there was a steady stream of people eager to look at Nancy’s work and talk with her about her inspiration and techniques. The woman on the left is examining works from Nancy's winter series: “Reclamation,” “Winter Confection I” and “Winter Confection II.”

Three of Nancy's pieces from the past few years draw visitors upstairs. (From left:) “Fall Confection,” “Sourwood Festoons” and “Mimosa Dancing.”

Until fairly recently, Nancy's work was primarily pieced. The series of nine tree pieces that are the focus of this exhibit show her going in a new direction. She starts with hand-dyed cotton sateens from German artist Heide Stoll-Weber, then inks in areas to emphasize. The backgrounds are then heavily quilted with lines that make the whole piece seem to vibrate with energy. Light filters through and radiates from the pieces in this series. The colors are magical and the surfaces luminuous, due in part to the cotton sateen.

“Spring Rhapsody” (28x37") shows the delicate seeds of the maple dancing in the breeze.

Detail from “Spring Rhapsody”

“Winter Fruit” (28x38") features chilly persimmons.

“Renewal” (38x29") has leaves and ruby seeds of the dogwood.

Detail from “Renewal”

“Southern Hospitality" (38x28") captures the beauty of the seed pod of the southern magnolia just before the scarlet seeds appear and the dusty rose pod begins to turn hard and brown.

All the pieces have some delicate hand stitching. Here, the neck of the magnolia’s seed pod is flecked with hand stitches to emphasize its amazing texture.

The title of this piece, “Ankle Twister,” (28x36") made several people laugh out loud last night. The reference is to the beautiful spiky seeds of the Sweet Gum tree, which drive homeowners crazy when they cover lawns in the fall. The cool colors in this piece are spectacular.

Detail from "Ankle Twister" shows more hand embroidery.

The subject of “Parallels” (27x35") is delicate beech leaves and seed pods.

I love the insect-eaten holes in the beech leaves of “Summer Split,” (27x35") showing the pods just about to split open and drop their seeds.

Detail from “Summer Split”