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Nancy Shaver Text

Excerpts from a text by Ann Lauterbach

We, Nancy and I, share a love of necessary objects; objects that were made of necessity, in need.

With a purpose in mind.
With, sometimes, limited material means.

We believe, also, that art is necessary.

The necessity of art is somehow implicated in the relationship between materials and purpose.

There is a fine line between purpose and use.
Nancy and I share a pleasure in these fine lines.
Worn objects are the material equivalent of wise. This thought has been with me since the first flea market.

It has nothing to do with the frippery of antiques, nothing to do with the advancement of investment, nothing to do with Roadshow inheritance.
Well if nothing else, art has given me a way to live, she said one day as I was leaving Henry's inventory of foundlings.
A Minimalist instruction: material and process revelatory of each other. Making as content.
A tender, humorous delight in things as they are.
Nancy as alchemist of this inception.

The new as/is insight.

Text by Lucy Raven

A brand on my brain, shaped like a sock

If your subject has no limits, how do you put a rectangle around it and make it into something to sell?

Last fall, a wall text at the Met read: “Henri Matisse could not stop thinking about this painting (Paul Cézanne, Three Bathers, 1879–82) after seeing it at Vollard’s gallery in 1899. Despite his limited means, he returned to the rue Laffitte and purchased it, along with Rodin’s plaster bust of the politician and author Henri Rochefort. Thirty-seven years later, long after he himself had become famous, Matisse acknowledged that Three Bathers ‘has sustained me morally in the critical moments of my venture as an artist; I have drawn from it my faith and my perseverance.’”

The transition from past to present perfect tense here, and from third to first person, occurs after the painting is purchased by Matisse. The tense shifts when the object changes hands. And around that very moment hovers a peculiar quality of the present that hits us now, years later: that it might be the first instant of keeping something in mind. The initial encounter with the thing you can’t stop thinking about—a thing that earlierwas made, and later has been found, and now won’t go away.

Close up, a collection of such instants might look like pieces of amber, or furniture meant to be moved. Of human size and snug proportions, touching with each preposition: over, around, between. Like Polaroids made of wood and cloth. On wheels. Arranged to be encountered and held in the mind. Displayed to be exchanged or sorted through like snapshots. For sale, to be taken away to make room for something else, because no one can hold more than her memory’s girth.

Meanwhile, if these instants are still around—

Objects to fall asleep thinking about: silver x’s; patchwork squares; a craft cross fashioned from popsicle sticks; price tags attached by string to a rod like a giant pinecone; painted blocks stacked on shelves.

Things to wake up with: painted blocks stacked on the floor; men’s ties wrapped taut around a cinderblock; candle-flame light bulbs lined up at different heights like musical notes; silk turbans.

In the in-between: black electrical cord; two storefront windows; the good night you sold the rug.

Text by Taylor Davis

Dear Nancy,

I'm at Mother's house for the first time since her memorial and I thought of you and Henry when I was alone sorting a kitchen drawer: push pins, rubber bands, used wine corks, too many plastic yogurt containers, all proclaiming presence/absence in the purest way. No self-consciousness or declaration of beauty; instead the most modest of objects pointing both to the past and the future: large blue metallic twist ties that came wrapped around broccoli, upholstery tacks from the new leather seat on the old kitchen chair, etc. The heartbreak of a junk drawer.



ps. I'm glad for the demise of the black dress.

Text by Jane Ayers

Nancy’s Radiator

The aubergine radiator. Scrumptious, battered, shimmering, with a soft patina like the nap on an old velvet coat. And big, really big. Actually, more tall than big. Perhaps from a tractor, a truck, or maybe an industrial refrigerator. Where did she find it? The color is truly exquisite. Perfect on a well-lit, white wall. In a stairwell, perhaps.

Like our stairwell.

This is how it happens at Henry.

A skilled displayer of great subtlety and cunning, Nancy has assembled a place of treasures. Unsung, modest, overlooked objects, practical things that have been used for years. Weathered, modified, decorated, worn-out things that are chosen by her for their particularity, for the magic she sees in them that I see only after she has pointed it out.

“Isn’t it thrilling?”

Not that she has to say anything. Enough is said with that simple act of choice and placement. Stories unfold. Discoveries are made. We are seduced.


How are your color choices and combinations inspired?
I look at my paint supply and choose colors that are a strong equal to the boxes. My decisions are intuitive. The boxes themselves are powerful, and for me the best thing is to oppose the boxes rather than to try to imitate them. 

Are humor and delight a guide in your composition decisions?
These boxes, and found objects in general, inherently have a visual liveliness that captures imagination. That’s why people pick them up and handle them. My choices are sometimes intuitive and other times intellectual decisions. 

Why house paint?
House paint is beautiful and flat and cheap. It’s working class, working stuff, not elitist or esoteric. Rather like the boxes, it’s accessible and inexpensive. I think of the boxes as perfect and me being imperfect. Which is why I choose to work with them. 

What do you love about enamel paint over cruddy surfaces?
I love the bubble-gum-ness of surface that covers a pure form. 

Do these recent works imply an interest in architecture?
Yes, I do think using boxes implies architectural space, and over the past few years I have become more interested in looking at architecture as a source for inspiration. My attraction is to architecture’s abstraction of shapes and how they interact. 

Boxes, packing and arranging: is this interior decorating?
It is visual fussing—like moving furniture about.


Why not use new materials?
From an early age, 4-5-6, I experienced the desire and disappointment of the "new." The doll dressed in Kleenex and string transcended its material - to beauty and grace, visual, sensual. Used candy papers became wealth. The pleasure of the something/ nothing contradiction of art drives me.

Would you comment on your long standing interest to compound abstraction and meaning with decoration?
In one corner of my mind I long to be a minimalist - BUT my love of complications - and sense of overlap, space between things, a visual avidity, a visual equality - everything plus the kitchen sink is my process and my product.

Have you set up your art making against a number of frowned upon ideas -like surface painted abstract sculpture, the used, decorativeness, small ... ?
Yes. Both consciously and unconsciously, and as a practical, personal use of art history.

Are you purposefully slyly feminist?
No. I am working from an acceptance of the feminine - more like the independence and dependence of the farmer on his land. I am quietly, independently feminist.

How was Walker Evans a big influence on your work? Will you point to a few other artists you find inspiring?
Walker Evans gave me the permission to go after and root out the beauty and comfort in the ordinary. Hiroshige, Atget, Jane Austen, William Carlos Williams, Gerhard Richter

04.12.01 From an April 2001 group exhibition where all the artists were asked the same questions

Working in a series, are there moments when certain works seem conceptually or stylistically too close together, or too far apart? What do you do about that? How do you know when to stop a series? Do you sometimes feel or think that the many becomes one work?

I worry when they're too close together and I work harder when they're further apart.

When I feel balanced.


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