Painter Nancy Evans’ terrestrial abstractions reference the elusive qualities of time and other phenomenological sensations—geological, celestial, psychical, botanical—creating elusive images with hefty physical presence. In directed pours and gently directed poolings, Evans both allows her materials to find their own ultimate form and texture, white also infusing their evolutions on the canvas with a mixture of memory and meaning. Her perennial interest in the alchemical qualities of the California landscape stretches from its ancestral and agricultural potencies, to its relationship to the elements and the planets, to its holding of her own memories. And like memories, Evans’ images are built from accumulations, accelerations, accidents of physics, and intentions to cultivate. Her work is featured as part of the Hammer Museum’s Made in L.A.: Acts of Living, where it speaks to the biennial’s investigation of deep materiality and expression of place—specifically this California place—with a view of the present that includes its most ancient histories.
L.A. WEEKLY: What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
NANCY EVANS: Short answer, I make moody works inspired by landscape. Right now I bounce between vaguely figurative sculptures and atmospheric paintings indebted to early modernist painters like Arthur Dove. Longer answer, my working process is complicated. I sort of circle a subject using different media to present different ways of thinking about the content. This process allows me to surprise myself.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
I went to UC Berkeley because I was interested in science as well as art. Ultimately I did graduate with a BA in sculpture, which led me to a community of intersectional artists practicing performance art, new music, sculpture & installation, etc… Additionally because I was in a university setting I was able to spend my junior year in Madrid, Spain which was beyond mind expanding.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
As a native of Central California we always thought Los Angeles was overcrowded and superficial, which is why I stayed in the Bay Area for ten years after graduating from UC Berkeley. Ultimately I was lured down to Los Angeles by High Performance Magazine and what seemed like a very vibrate art scene, and frankly I fell in love with the place. I moved to East Hollywood in a building with other artists, including Mike Kelley and Mitchell Syrop, and got the equivalent to a MFA without the huge expense. Megan Williams, who was then the performance curator at LACE, got me a job painting animation cels so I was able to make a living. I worked in VFX on and off from 1982-2006. Which is one “shout out” for Los Angeles I want to make, the film industry does support a huge variety of professionals and creative people.
When did you first know you were an artist?
When I was thirteen I took watercolor classes from my friend’s mother. We’d go out in the fields to paint barns and oak trees. I think that experience has had a lifelong influence on my color choices. I used to work in the attic of our house so even as a teenager I had a studio of sorts and I could spend hours alone working on projects. I did a lot of silk screening, a process that I use in my paintings even now. So this is really a part of the circling I do as a way to propel new ideas and imagery.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project?
I’m one of the 39 artists in Made in L.A.: Acts of Living which is up until December 31 at the Hammer Museum. It has been a really rewarding experience. My most recent gallery show was at Gallery RAM in Bakersfield. To my surprise Bakersfield has a very active art community which just goes to show that there are interesting things happening outside the major centers, especially for young artists just starting their careers.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show or work with?
I hope the show of Edvard Munch landscapes comes to the West Coast because I would love to see that work. Mimi Lauter exhibited some work at Tif Sigfrids’ small gallery in Hollywood that sent me on an exploration of complex composition in my own paintings. And, after many years of dialogue, I would love to show along with New York painter and writer Mary Jones.
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