November 14, 2022
This week we recognize Nancy Azara, and her fifty plus year practice as an ecofeminist artist working primarily with trees.
"I make collages, prints, banners, and carved and painted sculptures that record a journey of ideas and memories around the unseen and the unknown, reflecting on time and mortality through facets of my personal history. I juxtapose real tree limbs and vines with arboreal imagery—including renderings of witch hazel and rhubarb leaves—using them as stand-ins for my own presence, and as expressions of the dogged persistence of life." click images for more info
"For several decades I have been making sculpture, carving pieces of wood that are logs or milled lumber, ranging in size from 1 foot to 12 feet or more. The work is often gilded with metal leaf, painted with tempera, encaustic, and oils, stained and sometimes burned or bleached. These formal properties are the psychic outer layer. Within the psychic inner layer is the voice of my heart and what resides within it. The wood, the paint, and layers that make up the sculpture record a journey of memory, images, and ideas." Nancy Azara, Brooklyn Museum, Feminist Art Base
"Conflating natural form and religious iconography, Azara’s aesthetic language is at once universal, highly personal, and deeply resonant. Gleaning from the simplicity of nature’s gifts, she creates experiential encounters for her viewers while expressing her feminist ethos through symbols of creativity, wishes, and prayers—or votives. Through her work, she illuminates a deep sense of what connects us all, our inescapable awareness that we are nature." Excerpt from feature essay by Patricia Watts for the monograph, Votives, published in 2022.
"When I think about the things that have formed my sense of self as an artist, I always return to those lessons from my grandfather’s garden, which delighted me and heightened my sense of observation, awakened my curiosity and made me comfortable with solitude. It opened my eyes to an appreciation of colors and shapes, and brought wonder at its different cycles. Because there were no children my age in the neighborhood, I was often left alone there. Still vivid in my mind is the explosion of colors in the spring, the change of colors in the fall, the brilliance of the sun, the softness of the moon, the shadows cast by the trees, the rhythm and patterns of spacing and thinning, shaping and pruning, of watching things change, of seeing birds and plants mature and die. I remember observing this garden, its everyday activities and the activities of the adults who worked in it. My grandfather and his gardener used such love and caring. As I watched their passion I learned how to bring the same kind of attention that I now bring to my art." Nancy Azara, Veteran Feminists of America
Nancy Azara is an artist and feminist educator best known for her large-scale wood sculptures and mixed media collages. Nancy developed, and continues to work in, a distinct style of sculpture working with found wood, carved, ornamented and mounted. Instinctive chip carving peels off an outer layer of wood, reaching for an essentialized raw experience of the body, of the limbs, exposing flesh and blood. This work explores life cycles, utilizing the metaphor of tree for personhood. Egg tempera, often in reds and pinks, and aluminum, palladium, gold gilding recover these exposed layers, exploring folkloric stories of women’s roles, goddess imagery, ancient symbols, mystic spiritual traditions and affirmation of female self. Nancy continues to make and exhibit work from her studios in Tribeca and Woodstock. She is constantly challenging herself and her community in quarterly intergenerational feminist dialogues, (RE)PRESENT, an outgrowth of NYFAI, The New York Feminist Art Institute, a school she co-founded in 1979. Here, she formalized automatic journal drawing for a class she taught called Visual Diaries, Consciousness Raising Workshop, as a way to access the unconscious. This method quickly became popular as a feminist consciousness-raising technique and was embraced in the nascent feminist art community in New York and with groups like Redstockings. www.nancyazara.com
Featured Images (top to bottom): ©Nancy Azara, Hand/Palm, 2018, carved and painted wood with aluminum leaf, 18 x 17 x 5 inches, Photo: Jude Broughan; The Twins, 2010, carved and painted wood with aluminum leaf, 12 x 3 inches each, Photo: Jude Broughan; Leaf Altar for Anunzia 1913-2004, 2007, carved and painted wood with aluminum leaf, 80 x 53 x 17 inches; Circle with Seven Hands, 1996, carved and painted wood with gold leaf, 5 feet x 40 inches in diameter; Red Twins, 2016, etching plate 13 x 16 inches, paper 21.5 x 22.25 inches, Photo: Courtesy VanDeb Editions; (below) portrait of the artist inside her work Spirit House of the Mother, 1994, carved and painted wood with gold leaf, 11 x 6 x 7 inches, photographed by Jamie McEwen.
Nancy Azara: Votives, Sculptures, monograph published 2022 (download here)
click on image to purchase