The flow has taken artist
Nancy Kureth on a creative ride
and the ebb has brought her right
back with a new language
The last time I spoke with Maine artist Nancy Kureth about her life and her art, she was saying goodbye to her (now) famous Biddeford gallery & studio on Alfred Street. She threw a couple epic gallery shows in anticipation of having to say goodbye to the 600 square feet of studio space and a whole community of people. Many of the artists she had shown there over the course of a decade started along side with her as emerging and have now fully developed into mid-career powerhouse Maine artists. This change was certainly a full circle of her efforts in what was a former cultural void when she landed there over a decade ago, her ability to identify and grow arriving art should not go unnoticed in this rocky terrain that is the Maine art scene.
I asked her at the start of 2016 what was next...
Nancy stated (matter-of-factly) "Go with the flow."
Apparently what "Go with the flow" really meant was "Sell a home and gallery, buy a vintage truck and some land, write a performance piece, live in a tent surrounded by hummingbirds during warm months and commute from an island in the cold ones, paint over a hundred paintings, go on a complete and total media blackout, run a business, visit Detroit Michigan, ski, swim, hike, love, practice activism, scavenge for home building supplies and build assemblage art pieces, contemplate, reflect, read, write, ski and swim some more because I am going to live the shit out of this one life."
As last winter approached, she also said goodbye to her beloved long time Dodge truck, "Dreamboy"…(You must understand just HOW important this vehicle was to this woman from Detroit, she has said that every time she drove Dreamboy that it was like a piece of home surrounding her in steel) ...and then she moved to Peaks Island. She lived on Peak's with her friend and artist Daniele Madore, the owner of Black Hen Tattoo and commuted to the mainland on the ferry twice a day to run her own business.
"One of the most uncomfortable things an artist can do is pack up their existing studio for an indefinite period, it was awful at first, but, creativity is a state of being, not a product."
In June 2016 after the long winter on Peak's Island, Nancy Kureth moved onto her Southern Maine property and absorbed all things wonderful about a Maine summer and began the long work of building a new home on an artist's budget. She lived in a rather well appointed tent, and assured me this was not a suffer for her, that she had her carpets and a comfortable bed, she even vacuumed and dusted regularly while collecting the needed materials to build her house. She said, "This was a calculated choice, and to get up everyday at dawn and enjoy a breakfast surrounded by hummingbirds and eat granola under trumpet vines in the evening with my cat was in fact, truly amazing."
She was only planning on a few weeks in the tent and it quickly turned into a three month stay to finish writing, gather materials for the upcoming house build, clearing debris to lay a foundation, working and yet more inspiration and creativity…including walking down a path each morning for a swim in the lake.
"Waking up in a tent in the summer was impossibly hot, so my routine became to walk the path to the water for a swim everyday, come back to my cat greeting me joyfully at the edge of the property ready to start the day."
Kureth has never really walked any path in a straight line, the meandering is clearly part of the process, part of who she is at the core. We discussed "shrugging off conventional ideas" and deciding that as artists, orthodox almost never works for us anyway, that sometimes, you have to cut your own path through the forest. The entire beat she is taking here is both one of inspiration as well as chosen discomfort. It's almost a conscripted inspiration, the embracing of difficulty in order to identify and showcase the beauty and many shades that life has to offer, you couldn't see the ying without experiencing the yang.
Kureth's latest artistic work, the 100 paintings and the play, are truly reflective of her full experience over 2016, they are little glimpses of joy, of awareness, of stories and feelings…just like little snap shots in time…she nailed it by calling it "Vignette's" ...because that's exactly what she is sharing with us, the snippets of how life was for her over 2016, exactly how she is living, moment to moment and full of appreciation of what little joys she will find around her amidst chaos.
The paintings will also be available to view during her performance of Vignette's Saturday April 8th and 15th at Mechanics Hall, the show starts just after 7pm and tickets are only $10 (tickets can be purchased at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2889836
She told me that Vignette's, the play, has some comedy, some drama and is written as fiction, but as with any artistic voice, real experiences have crept their way in.
The media blackout, big moves and decontruction/construction actions have all assisted her in creating l'art pour l'art (art for art's sake), she is creating work for herself.
I imagine, that allowing life to creep into your work is an impossible side-effect to avoid when you are living your art, rather than just creating a product for a marketplace. Even her discarded home materials have been given a new life, and this is the gift that this artist is offering us. She's throwing off convention like a woman throws off a bra at the end of the day…. I can't wait to see what's next for Nancy Kureth.
written by: Erin Thomas
Director: John Bryson
Narrated by: Todd Perry
Actress: Carrie Vinette
Written & Produced by: Nancy Kureth
APRIL 8th and APRIL 15th at 7pm
519 Congress Street Portland MAINE
Tickets for Vignette's at: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2889836
"A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament. Its beauty comes from the fact that the author is what he is. It has nothing to do with the fact that other people want what they want. Indeed, the moment that an artist takes notice of what other people want, and tries to supply the demand, he ceases to be an artist, and becomes a dull or an amusing craftsman, an honest or dishonest tradesman. He has no further claim to be considered as an artist."
- Oscar Wilde
Art, Culture, Unity and Soul