A conversation with artist Nancy Gruskin: Her Path, Her Painting

• Saturday, January 27, 2018 •

Norma:  You have a very unusual route that led you to your current vocation of being a full-time painter. As a young girl, you attended museum art classes for youth, your college years steered you to a Ph.D. in art history, then you followed a familial trail to becoming a lawyer. Can you talk about how these intersections on your path have, and are, informing your current work?

Nancy:  Painting has always been in the background, since I was a kid.  It wasn’t until about four or five years ago that I decided it was time to move it to the foreground.  I think it was one of those mid-life moments where you stop and think, what is it that I truly love to do?  I also think that the twisted path I took getting to that moment shaped me as a painter.  As an art historian, I developed a pretty good eye for color and composition and my life experience definitely affected my choice of subject matter.  I’m not sure what I would have chosen to paint as a twenty-something, but having a family—and the joys and the mundane responsibilities that come with it—is a treasure trove for me as an artist.    

Norma:  Since you have a Ph.D. in art history I am certain you have a few “heroes on your shelf” -  those that you honor and whom you feel you are in conversation with when you approach your painting. I have some suspicions, but would love to know your premier influences – those you revere and whose aesthetics you honor in your own painting.

Nancy:   It’s a long list!  From a subject matter perspective, I’m definitely drawn to painters whose work tends to be autobiographical—painters like Pierre Bonnard, Fairfield Porter, Joan Brown, and Alex Katz.  Bonnard’s compositions and Porter’s palette floor me every time.  Matisse, for his color sense, love of decorative pattern, and the seeming effortlessness of his work.  I also love the work of Richard Diebenkorn, Elizabeth Blackadder and Janice Biala.  I could go on and on!   

Norma:  I love the direct, decisive brush work in your painting, combined with very intriguing compositions. Your subjects may be pushed almost out of the picture plane. I am also pulled into your world when I see common objects – the take out Chinese food box, the kitchen table strewn with the cereal box and empty bowl, your son nearby tying his shoe, part of what appears to be your husband reading the paper, and the black dog splayed out on the floor – It makes me want to be on the couch in the living room reading a book while this warm everyday drama in your home plays out. How did this autobiographic way of working come about for you?

Nancy:  I think it’s a little like when people tell writers to write what they know—this is my life and it’s what I know best.  It also has a lot to do with the fact that my studio is in my house.  I’m often dragging my easel around different rooms.

Norma:  I know you have taught on many levels – classes, workshop, university, etc. You will be teaching a 3-dayworkshop with Cullowhee Arts in Snow Hill, Maryland, starting with your slide talk the night before the workshop begins -  March 8 – 11. What can students expect to take away from their time with you?

Nancy:  I think they can expect to take away some very concrete tools—for example, how to simplify, abstract and edit form and how to mix a wide range of colors with a limited palette.  Conceptually, we’ll be exploring how to combine direct observation with painting from memory and invention.  There is a take-away for me too—my love of painting is reinvigorated by the ideas and practices of my fellow artists.  Painting can be such a solitary activity.  Being in a studio for a few days with other people who share your passion is a win-win! I think it’s going to be a really energizing weekend! 

The Workshop:

March 8 - 11, 2018
Medium:  Drawing, Painting
Tuition:  $575  | Lab Fee: $75 (includes model fee)

Nancy Gruskin lives and works in Concord, MA.  She holds B.A. in Art History and Studio Art from Connecticut College and a Ph.D. in Art History from Boston University, where she was the recipient of the Angela J. and James J. Rallis Memorial Scholarship.  After teaching art and architectural history at Harvard University, Tufts University and Connecticut College, she now devotes herself to painting full-time.  Her work is in private collections in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, and has been exhibited in numerous galleries, including Galatea Fine Art in Boston and Prince Street Gallery in New York City.  She teaches painting at the Concord Center for the Visual Arts.

Come cool off at the Lake - 3 "cool" retreats - August, September, October

• Monday, July 27, 2015 •

The First Retreat, August 21 - 25:  The perfect chance to join other artists and writers fot an extended weekend retreat. An affordable artist & writer getaway, the structure of this retreat does not include workshops. It instead provides a time to discover the beauty of Lake Logan’s nearly 300 acres or pristine beauty and embrace a personal retreat with options for doing your artwork or creative writing.

Whether plein air painting, mixed media in the studio or creative writing in one of lodges or cabins, this time allows you to refresh the body, soul and spirit. Each day begins and ends with Yoga sessions led by Christopher Baxter, available for any who wish to be guided into yoga and breath-work used to unlock creativity. In addition to Yoga, CMA is also hosting Artist-in-residence painter Karen Weihs and Writer-in-Residence Poet Pat Riviere-Seel who will be available to engage, direct and facilitate artists and writers during the retreat. Evenings will be open for discussion groups and demonstrations led by Karen Weihs and Pat Riviere-Seel. Explore your creativity in a supportive environment. The total cost: $750; 5 days, 4 nights, all inclusive: Studio space, private room and bath in shared cottage, 3 meals with all day - beverage service, optional yoga sessions, guided work sessions and as much time as you need in quiet personal space. Canoeing and swimming are also available during the retreat. To register, follow this link.

The September & October Retreats  
Combining the essentials for a meaningful retreat with high level workshops

Leave the details of living behind and give yourself a creative retreat. Supported by the majesty of unspoiled nature you will be given the time and serenity to refill your creative well.  The intention for each retreat is to create an environment for reflection and space to assimilate what you are learning and taking in; allow a step-back from the classical workshop environment of intense focus and output. Instead, workshop time is combined with moments set aside for mindfulness, nature walks, yoga sessions, or sitting quietly in an inspired spot – all opportunities to re-fill the creative well. The Retreats + Workshops, 
lodging, dining, movement and mindfulness sessions, bonfires, and other activities all take place at the pristine Lake Logan Retreat Center in Canton, NC, approximately 40 miles west of Asheville, NC.  During your stay you will also have opportunities to enjoy quiet outdoor spaces,
wildlife walks, lake views, canoeing, and swimming.  

The September 11 – 16, 6-day, 5-night Retreat workshops taught by: 
instructor-artist Rebecca Crowell and author-poet-instructor Roger Housden
Spaces are still available. The all-inclusive price is $1549 - Follow this link for all the details.

The October 19 – 25, 7-day, 6-night Retreat workshops taught by: 
instructor-artist Lisa Pressman and author-instructor Laura Hendrie
Spaces are still available. The all-inclusive price is $1679 - Follow this link for all the details.

October=The Arts!

• Monday, October 06, 2014 •

“NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 2014 as National Arts and Humanities Month.  I call upon the people of the United States to join together in observing this month with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs to celebrate the arts and the humanities in America”. (Read Entire Proclamation)

At Cullowhee Mountain ARTS we take time out during this important month to look back on the great events we hosted and take stock of those we are serving as a non-profit Arts Organization. It is also the time we invite the Arts community to join our “Arts Party” and become a member.