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Natasha Nicholson: The Artist in Her Museum
Natasha Nicholson: The Artist in Her Museum
Exhibition on view August 22 through November 8
Opening Reception, August 21, 6 to 9 pm
MADISON, WI—The work and world of Natasha Nicholson will be on view in Natasha Nicholson: The Artist in Her Museum at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, August 22 through November 8. Nicholson is known for her assemblages and involvement in the contemporary resurgence of Cabinets of Curiosities. This exhibition is a rare opportunity for visitors to view the work of an artist who, by her own admission, never leaves the role of artist, collector, and observer. Perhaps best stated by Linda James in Thinking Natasha, an essay in the accompanying exhibition catalog, “Her art is her studio is her home is her art.”
“In this rare occurrence, the spaces that Natasha inhabits are themselves an artwork, forever changing, yet in its overall artistic impact, forever the same,” states Stephen Fleischman, MMoCA director. “It is this quality that we plan to capture and recreate for museum visitors.”
Soon to be reinstalled in the museum’s State Street Gallery are the four rooms that comprise her studio. Occupying these spaces are a series of seductive sculptures and collections of common yet mysterious objects conversing with one another. The rooms include the Thinking Room, where all work begins; Strata, her sculpture studio and gallery; the Studiolo, showcasing her Cabinet of Curiosities; and the Bead Room, where the artist creates necklaces and exhibits her extensive collection of beads and ethnic jewelry.
The Thinking Room is where all of Nicholson’s acquisitions live until they are either used in a work of art or have found their place in the collections of the Studiolo or the Bead Room. This is the most intimate of her studios where she writes about art, her working process, and the relationships she creates between objects. As Nicholson says, “It is a place of refuge, a room of one’s own, and a haven from the realities that so easily pull one away from the discipline and isolation that art demands.”
Strata is Nicholson’s workshop and gallery for sculpture, assemblages, photographs inspired by 17th century Dutch still lifes, and a new series of work she calls Burn Paintings. Her poetic and subtly autobiographical works use familiar objects to expand and skew the viewer’s definition of the object. In reference to her process, Nicholson explains that the “inner workings must disappear for the magic to emerge; therein lies their power.”
The Studiolo, Nicholson’s Cabinet of Curiosities, evolved from her discovery of the book, Finders, Keepers: Eight Collectors, by Stephen Jay Gould and Rosamond Wolff Purcell. It describes scientists, amateurs, madmen, and monarchs who were driven to collect, no matter the cost. She states, “the book profoundly affected my work, giving me an historical legitimacy for how I wanted to work and live. Slowly, I became more comfortable with the idea that my work as an artist, my past, and my collecting were inextricably connected.” As in her assemblages, Nicholson stays true to her passion by transforming the peculiar and mundane into things of beauty and joining seemingly disparate objects to invoke mystery and wonder.
The Bead Room, suffused with a collection of beads, necklaces, oddities, fabrics, and all manner of ethnic adornment, is an extension of Nicholson’s workroom used to create jewelry for her personal use. In 2001, she began accepting commissions, eventually setting up a proper workshop to present her work to a wider audience. Anchoring the room is a Victorian secretary, yet another cabinet filled with intimate still lifes comprised, like much of Nicholson’s work, of small, precisely arranged treasures.
In her work of the past two decades, Nicholson has powerfully merged dwelling space with creative space. These rooms mix art and social exchange in an unending salon where ideas are challenged and debated, art and books are shared, and dinners last far into the night. Her desire to surround herself with beauty starts in the studios and extends to all aspects of her life. These rooms are in truth a series of archives where viewers are invited to participate in the many aspects of an artist’s life well lived.
A beautifully illustrated, 120-page catalog accompanies Natasha Nicholson: The Artist in Her Museum. Featuring contributions from Thomas E.A. Dale, Eric Ferguson, Stephen Fleischman, Thomas H. Garver, Joseph R. Goldyne, Linda R. James, Natasha Nicholson, and Mike Rebholz, the catalog illuminates Natasha Nicholson’s artistic practice and provides an art historical context for her work. The catalog will be available through the Museum Store in late August.
The exhibition and publication were made possible by generous funding from: the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation; Judy Pyle and Wayne Pitluck; anonymous; J.H. Findorff & Son Inc.; the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation; Julia B. Sheehan and Errol Morris; Arlene Dahl and Marc Rosen; Diane Seder and Bruce Rosen; John and Cheryl Seder; Tom Neujahr; Louise Newquist; a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts; and MMoCA Volunteers.
MMoCA Nights, Exhibition Opening
August 21, 6-9 pm
Come to MMoCA on the evening of Friday, August 21 for the opening of Natasha Nicholson: The Artist in Her Museum. This exhibition reveals Nicholson’s creative process while providing a glimpse into the interconnectedness between her personal and artistic lives. Her four studios, reconstructed here, include the Thinking Room, where all work begins; Strata, her sculpture studio and gallery; Studiolo, the Italian term for Cabinet of Curiosities; and the Bead Room, where the artist creates necklaces and exhibits her extensive collection of beads and ethnic jewelry.
MMoCA Nights, Exhibition Reception
Saturday, October 10, 6–9 pm
Explore the exhibition Natasha Nicholson: The Artist in Her Museum and enjoy a stimulating evening at MMoCA. A Lussier Family Lecture, Unforeseen Possibilities: The Art of Natasha Nicholson, will featureLinda R. James, Thomas E.A. Dale, and Joseph R. Goldyne in a conversation with Natasha Nicholson and MMoCA director Stephen Fleischman about Nicholson’s approach to finding and creating beauty in the unexpected.
Joseph R. Goldyne is an artist and art historian who has written extensively on artists from Adolph Menzel and J.M.W. Turner to Richard Diebenkorn. Thomas E.A. Dale is professor of art history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Linda R. James is an artist and assistant professor emerita in art history at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Each of these individuals have contributed essays to the exhibition catalog.
Talks and Discussions
Thursday, September 24, 1–1:45 pm • Lecture hall
From There to Here: A Brief History of the Art of Natasha Nicholson
Linda R. James will trace the development of Natasha Nicholson’s artistic career from its beginnings in California in the 1960s to the present day. Audience members are welcome to join James and Nicholson in the State Street Gallery for informal conversation after the talk.
Linda R. James is an artist, critic, and art historian. She is assistant professor emerita, University of Wisconsin-Platteville, where she was recognized for outstanding teaching and service in 2012. Her artwork has been featured in numerous exhibitions and her writing has been published internationally.
Tuesdays, 1–2 pm and Fridays, 6–8 pm, September 29 through November 6, excluding October 2 and 23 • State Street Gallery
Artist Talks: Natasha Nicholson on The Artist in Her Museum
Natasha Nicholson will provide informal discussions on her work and collections on a drop-in basis on selected Tuesday afternoons and Friday evenings.
Friday, October 2, 6:30–7:15 pm • State Street Gallery
Gallery Conversation: The Artist in Her Museum
Thomas Garver and Natasha Nicholson will talk about their lives as collectors and the influences their individual collections have had on each other
Thomas H. Garver is an art historian and Natasha Nicholson’s husband. A former curator and art museum director, Garver has most recently served as the organizing curator of the O. Winston Link Museum in Roanoke, Virginia, and has written books on the paintings of George Tooker and the photographs of O. Winston Link, among other publications.
Saturday, October 10, 6:30–7:30 pm • Lecture hall
A Lussier Family Lecture
Unforeseen Possibilities: The Art of Natasha Nicholson
Linda R. James, Thomas E.A. Dale, and Joseph R. Goldyne—all catalog essayists for The Artist in Her Museum—join Natasha Nicholson and MMoCA director Stephen Fleischman in a discussion of Nicholson’s passion in both her art and way of life.
Joseph R. Goldyne is an artist and art historian who has written extensively on artists from Adolph Menzel and J.M.W. Turner to Richard Diebenkorn. Thomas E.A. Dale is professor of art history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Linda R. James is an artist and assistant professor emerita in art history at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.
Thursday, October 15, 1–1:30 pm • State Street Gallery
Gallery Conversation: Memory and Recollection in the Art of Natasha Nicholson
Natasha Nicholson and Thomas E.A. Dale explore how the artist's work relates to the medieval European traditions of acquiring and displaying Christian relics.
Thomas E.A. Dale is professor of art history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has published two books, Relics, Prayer and Politics in Medieval Venetia: Romanesque Mural Painting in the Crypt of Aquileia Cathedral and, with John Mitchell, Shaping Sacred Space and Institutional Identity in Romanesque Mural Painting. His research and teaching interests include early Christian, Medieval, and Byzantine art, religious experience and the senses in Romanesque art, and cultural appropriation and hybridity.
Friday, October 23, 6:30–7 pm • State Street Gallery
Gallery Talk: Cabinets of Curiosities
Shira Brisman will discuss cabinets of curiosities—their history and early modern form—within the context of Natasha Nicholson: The Artist in Her Museum. The talk is presented in conjunction with the Wisconsin Science Festival.
Shira Brisman is assistant professor of art history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches courses on the history of science and technology, the relationship of art history to language and literature, and Northern European art, among other subjects.
Saturdays, 1 pm
Drop by MMoCA for lively and informal discussions of current exhibitions. Led by MMoCA’s docents, these free, 30-minute guided tours provide you with the tools to consider artists’ creative decisions and construct meaningful interpretations of their work. Meet in the museum lobby.
Discuss the creative process as expressed in Natasha Nicholson: The Artist in Her Museum.
Free Family Resources
Sunday, October 25, 1–2:30 pm
Kids’ Art Adventure
Join Natasha Nicholson as she talks with seven-year-old Francesco Dale about his collection, which he keeps in a cabinet of curiosities made for him by the artist because of his early fascination with her work. Afterward, make a small cabinet of curiosities to start your own collection that includes objects brought in by the artist.
Kids’ Art Adventures invite families to make art together in MMoCA’s classroom following guided discussion of art on view in the museum’s exhibitions. Six- to ten-year-olds and their families should meet promptly at 1 pm in MMoCA’s lobby; children must be accompanied by an adult. Space at Kids’ Art Adventures is limited to thirty children; pre-registration is required for this Kids’ Art Adventure, which is organized in conjunction with the Wisconsin Science Festival.
Stop by the museum’s lobby welcome desk and ask for the MMoCAkids ArtPack, the museum’s hands-on discovery kit for exploring art. Inside, find a special art activity designed for The Artist in Her Museum and use it to make a sculpture that will hold something extraordinary.
American Family Insurance is the Presenting Sponsor of MMoCA’s Free Family Resources.
Housed in a soaring, Cesar Pelli designed building, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art provides free exhibitions and education programs that engage people in modern and contemporary art. The galleries offer changing exhibitions that feature established and emerging artists. The Rooftop Sculpture Garden provides an urban oasis with an incredible view. The museum is open: Tuesday–Thursday: noon – 5pm; Friday: noon – 8pm; Saturday: 10am – 8pm; Sunday: noon – 5pm; and is closed on Mondays.
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