Archive for kimberly nichols

Inspirations and Influences: Van Gogh’s Blues

Posted in Inspirations and Influences with tags , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2014 by Kimberly Cooper Nichols

 

Van Gogh Night Cafe

  The Night Cafe in the Place Lamartine in Arles, by Vincent Van Gogh. Oil on canvas. 70 x 89cm.  Painted in Arles, September, 1888. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery.  It is thought that this painting was created and offered as a rent payment by
Van Gogh to the owner of this cafe.

 

Neither of us like being amongst throngs of people, which is why we arrive at LACMA at ten a.m. on a Saturday for the Van Gogh to Kandinsky exhibition. First in line and groggy from the pool-playing marathon the night before, we are scrolling through my iPhone looking for my second favorite Van Gogh of all time. I spent a summer in New Haven in my late 20s with a boyfriend who was as an adjunct architecture professor at Yale. Many of my days were spent roaming the streets with my ten-year-old daughter looking for a good slice of white clam pizza, books from the secondhand stores and New Englander wool and tweed cast off skirts from the thrift shops. Not a day passed without my post-lunch visit to the University Art Gallery to steal a glimpse of The Night Café in Place Lamartine in Arles. The billiard table sliding down a wood slat floor, the yellow schizoid reverberations off the lamps, and that signature variation on teal blue green that creamily swathed the ceiling presented me with a surreal sense of calm during a summer I was miles from home.

 

Van-Gogh-Self-Portrait

 Van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait,” 1889, on Loan from the National Gallery of Art, Washington » Norton Simon Museum

 


My first favorite Van Gogh was spotted two Christmases ago when the Norton Simon museum imported it for the holidays. In person, the eerie strips and dashes of blue on the face reminded me of the underpinnings of things—cold veins in a vampire’s skin, the dry astringency of nervous disorders, arteries striving to burst out of a coolly, composed societal façade. The fact that the piece was a self-portrait of the artist made all of these associations seem ever more poignant.

 

poplars

  The Poplars at Saint-Rémy (Les peupliers sur la Colline), Vincent van Gogh, 1889, Oil on fabric.
The Cleveland Museum of Art, Bequest of Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. (1958.32). Photo © The Cleveland Museum of Art

 

Another perk of not liking to be around lots of people and getting to museums early, right when they open, is that we are able to beat the masses squeezing into to look at once towards four square feet of wall at a time. When we enter the LACMA exhibition we are first with only a few others around us. So when we come to what is now my third favorite Van Gogh of all time, The Poplars at Saint-Remy and we both take in a simultaneous and audible rush of breath as if we we’ve both been punched in the gut and accidentally say the word “Fuck” – it’s okay because there is no one around to hear us. We agree that it is perfect with its lush olive greens and chalk whites and indigo shadows and the house squeezed between the trees as if melting into the landscape that no one else would have been able to pull off. I am overwhelmed by the growing bubble of yellow bliss inside my belly that blooms and threatens to inflate, internally pop and lift the top of my head right off.

I have come to realize how much of my love of Van Gogh lies in his resonating blues, both literal and emotionally metaphorical; his fragmented perspective of reality that by slashing it into brushstroke sized pieces actually reveals the fact that we are all cut from the same molecular matter; and his all inclusive planes that expose the inherent connection of all.

 

 

 

Hermit Brotherhood of Artists

Posted in On Being an Artist with tags , , , , , , , , on November 29, 2013 by Kimberly Cooper Nichols

TheHermaphroditeForrest Bess, The Hermaphrodite, Oil on Canvas

I fell in love with the Forrest Bess show at The Hammer Museum recently and so I wrote about it for the progressive Italian art magazine Droste. I was at the Hammer for their annual gala and while most of the guests were staring at Jody Foster (at the adjacent table to me), Will Ferrell, Rita Wilson and Maria Bello, I was obsessing over the exhibition of Bess’ work that I had just seen during the cocktail portion of the event. Weird little paintings reflecting a rich inner world untainted by socializing in modern society in the ’60s and ’70s – paintings born from a self-inflicted hermitude and consistent interaction with the soul and the images that take place behind the eyelids that are completely clear to those who strive to seek them out. Images born in the purity of silence where the ego gets accustomed to turning off because it doesn’t think anyone is looking or listening. It brought up connections to other sisters and brothers who have eschewed polite modernity for the internal caverns of their artistry like JD Salinger, stunted from the horrors of war and his beliefs that adults were all unbearably tainted, or Richard Tuttle in the desert with his nail, hammer, wood and string. In my fortieth year, this way of life has become highly appealing to me: being alone with my paper and pencil, my keyboard and prose, my scroll saw and wood block, and a handful of friends and family I can count on two hands. Creating my own world and seeing things like the corner potato tree rather than integrating with the current world and being seen has slowly over the course of this past year taken over me. My love for humanity is still there yet my lust for material and creation has usurped my faith that I can ever, or even want to, change people – instead I articulate my hope through my work. which is the only thing that has ever continuously sustained me.

Naked in Front of Strangers #4

Posted in Published Works with tags , , on May 20, 2013 by Kimberly Cooper Nichols

Now published at 3 AM MAGAZINE.

Small World

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 30, 2013 by Kimberly Cooper Nichols

Small World

My world used to be big and large and contained hardly enough space for me. Today it is honed like a smartly sharp pinpoint where specks dance from things only accessed by deep looking. Like when wood is rent by bench saw to reveal the marvelous last supper of termites within. Material bleached white by the intrusion of predators – the shock noticeable on the skin carrying fantastic new whorls. Disease to one begets the evolution that occurs from dis-ease to another. What was once a fence post now delivers a pattern to an artist – a juxtaposition of young and golden thriving beauty next to a ransacked body – poignant and flayed for new truthful undertakings and a second life as something strikingly beautiful.

Those Who Profoundly Touch

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 22, 2013 by Kimberly Cooper Nichols

ayad_alkadhi_personal_image

In the very early 2000s while I was struggling with my own identity as an artist I met a man who deeply touched my soul. My struggles were based on the fact that most of my work up until that point had been directly autobiographical – a process that was largely cathartic but that had propelled me to a new place of healing where I no longer needed to so deeply examine my individual experience. In this healing space, I became largely haunted by the disconnection of human beings from each other in the world, separated by divergent politics and ideologies with no readily accessible platform for conscious dialogue and debate with each other under the auspices of leadership, administration and the media. I was longing for emotional connection with my peers in other countries, convinced that the majority of them felt the same.

I met Ayad Alkadhi through a gallery we both showed our work at and learned he was originally from Iraq. His paintings at the time were large textural articulations with Arabic markings revealing an ancient poetic past that the artist still longed for beneath his home country’s explosive contemporary identity. We bonded over our common hunger for expression and I spent a few enjoyable afternoons in his small apartment that doubled as a studio while we discussed our global dynamics over bran muffins and tea.

alkadhi_untitled1_invitro

Over the course of the next decade, I watched with glee as his career exploded and took him back to New York City where he remains today, perpetually evolving his creative process. He continues to create amazingly poignant work in a world where the constant flux of political, economic and social change continues to inspire his profoundly personal yet universal paintings.

Read my interview with Ayad in this month’s Newtopia Magazine.

Postcards from the Past, Present and Future

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on February 20, 2013 by Kimberly Cooper Nichols

IMG_4892

I was 14 the first time I left a random note in an airplane seat; this time for the elegant forty-year-old blonde who had vacated it for the restroom. I had been eying her the entire ride so far as she was so different than I who had been visiting my father in the humid Midwest and was now returning home to the hot desert for another molasses slow school year that I could not wait to escape from. I wished to be like the blonde – older, free and dressed in the same kind of beige on beige clothes that were made out of linen and hemp and so popular that year. I wrote a simple sentence to her about how classy she was and how much I wished I could be like her someday without any inky clue as to who I, the writer, might be. I didn’t watch as she came back to sit down but I knew she had to have seen it and it gave me a little sense of joy back then to know I had possibly put a smile on someone’s face that day.

This trait of wanting to randomly reach out and touch people has continued throughout my life. It has exponentially increased as my aging has coincided with the technological revolutions of the text message, email missive and Internet social networking machine. It’s so easy to take rich and whimsical communication for granted these days as we flitter on the periphery of dialogue and depth abetted by new tools, which allow us to blurt out one liners at any time in any medium we wish. The pensive musing, poetic note, and hand mailed letter have all but become obsolete – old-fashioned pieces of nostalgia and yellowing lined paper.  This coupled with the fact that I am a little perturbed that our memories of each other in person are being supplemented a million pixels a minute by the Facebook photo stream and Instagram hand to hand documentary weapon has inspired me to start a new project.

PP1BrianU

My daughter bought me a box of postcards a few Christmases back filled with every Vintage book cover ever published by Penguin Books. I discovered them in a dusty box recently and was overjoyed to realize that every one I chose almost automatically reminded me of someone I knew the instant I looked at the title and illustration. So I have embarked upon another project in which I get to surprise others – one in which I draw an image or write a snippet of a poem that represents a memory I have with another person inspired by the particular book cover on the postcard and then I send it to them without signing my name.  It doesn’t matter if they never realize who mailed them this card. It doesn’t matter if they even recall the moment I am alluding to with my markings. All that matters is that a piece of them has been jogged from my stony brain’s bank and that my re-introduction of this piece of them to themselves on an otherwise ordinary afternoon will hopefully delight them on their jaunt back inside from the mailbox.

An Artist’s Eyes Are Her Own

Posted in On Being an Artist with tags , , , , , on January 2, 2013 by Kimberly Cooper Nichols

Image

In progress, “Unto” (Kimberly Nichols)

It was a very intense year for me in 2012. Life as I knew it pretty much turned upside down by my own intentional hands. It started out scary but with perseverance turned out blissful; bringing me into the space of my authentic self in ways that I could have never imagined without taking the journey. One thing that froze was my art output but there was a reason for that.

I had changed considerably and I wanted to cut myself off from the impetus of just “making” from the trajectory from which I had come and simply give myself time to simmer in the present and ponder my identity as an artist. Doing this caused me to lose a lot of things such as a bevy of instant fans who loved what I appeared to be more than knowing who I really was; my old persona in my artwork that stemmed from my traumatic childhood and the workings towards figuring out who I was as a woman; and a lot of friends and connections who only really wanted to be around what I represented to them in their mirror projections rather than the gritty, primal person I slowly, over a 12-month period in a new and strange land, was nurtured into becoming.

Image

Van Gogh’s “Self Portrait” on loan at the Norton Simon Museum

I also was struggling with the age-old artist’s insecurities of whether or not my work was good enough, something that plagues us all constantly. I started my new project nonetheless, only because it was impossible not to (nothing makes me feel more alive and full of meaning than laying out a row of color tubes and cleaning off the brushes in anticipation of what’s to come upon the blank cardboard), and the other day after visiting the Norton Simon exhibition to see an “on loan” Van Gogh portrait, I had a revelatory experience that has since set me back on my road to just doing the work and turning off the critical brain.

As I looked at the intense master’s brushstrokes and the weirdly blue skin tinges on his brow and the scattered way he viewed everything in his gaze, I realized that he was doing nothing more than laying down colors and shapes and impressions precisely as he saw them, and that is exactly where the magic occurs. When we show the world what we see, in the exact way that we see it, no one else can ever do the same and in that specific fact lay the genius of the art piece. I began to look at each painting in the museum’s great classic hall from the Degas to Lautrec and knew that each of them claimed the same thing. It didn’t matter that Picasso was making weird marks on paper and cubing up faces and torsos into odd juxtapositions because he wasn’t thinking that while he was concocting, he was simply translating his eye sight into his handiwork. I realized, that we as artists, are all just trying desperately to do the same and that instead of being so freaked out that I don’t fit into any mold with my art work, I should instead focus on continuing to represent the visions in my head exactly as they are because in that lies the beauty rather than in the end product.

Image

Channeling Monet (Kimberly Nichols)

I walked up to the glass door that separated me in the Norton Simon’s Sam Francis room and channeled Monet. Instead of looking outside into the grassy gardens and seeing what everyone else saw, I decided to chunk the landscape up into color and landscape, noticed the way the yellow bush boldly threw its reflection across a tiny lake. I realized that seeing is our biggest advantage as artists and that articulating our sight is the only responsibility we carry – the pure thing that occurs once we actually bear evidence is the gold that carries the most weight.

I was able to go home afterwards and strike up the brushes with glee, no longer looking at my own creation as an outsider wondering where in the hell my work fits into the larger aesthetic scheme of things and thrown back into the beautifully raw basics of just wanting to put marks on cardboard and educe the emergence of what it is I was trying to relate from my particular brain outward into the world. And that is all that really matters at the heart of things.

So in this vulnerable fashion The Fool piece begins – first work an awkward and gawky, semi-translucent human, willing to work hard to acquire her own wings. Ruddy cardboard, the palette of traditional tarot cards, the notion that a person is ready to roam into finding when their heart is on fire, and the metaphor of love is all I have as I begin to walk along my very own and very long way …