Vernita Nemec AKA Vernita N'Cognita's first installation artworks were the fragments and detritus of her artmaking, transferred from the walls of her studio to the gallery. She continues creating installations both as site-specific works and as backdrops for performance artworks aswell as mixed -media collages & photographs.
A sense of autobiography has permeated all of Nemec’s art since her first feminist performance when she swept a street corner in Soho where she still lives and works. Her first performance was at the Guggenheim Museum in Meredith' Monk's "Juice". Since, she has performed her own work at the Women's Building in Los Angeles, La Mama, Franklin Furnace and other venues including Guerrilla Performances at the Pompidou Museum in Paris.
Always a collagist, the artist’s "Endless Junkmail Scroll” is about creatively “recycling” all that junkmail inducing us to borrow & charge. Initially inspired by her artistic mother whose choice for drawing, as well as for grocery lists, was used envelopes, the artist adds fragments of paint, words, drawings & photographs to the surface of the collaged security envelopes that serve as the basic structure of the scroll. Begun nearly a decade ago conceptually, the “Endless Junkmail Scroll” is now over 200 feet in length and growing still. Exhibited sometimes as a scroll and sometimes as framed sections, the collaged scroll serves as a constant reminder of all that we discard senselessly.
The artist added "N’Cognita" to her name to honor all unknown artists and has been active as a visual/performance artist/curator when she co-curated “X-12”, one of the first feminist art shows of the period, and worked with Artworkers Coalition (AWC), Women Artists in Revolution (WAR), and Artists Meeting for Cultural Change
In the 90’s, Nemec served as Director of Artists Talk On Art, interviewing art world luminaries, and as independent curator at Henry Street Settlement for the Arts. Until 2006, she was the Director of Viridian Artists, a contemporary art gallery in Chelsea. She has serving on the Board of Directors of Soho 20, a feminist gallery also in Chelsea and since the mid-nineties she has been curating independently, primarily exhibits of art from recycled materials.
The artist completed her BFA cum laude at Ohio University, receiving an NDEA Grant to finish her Master’s degree at New York University and grants since from the Jerome Foundation, Artists Space, Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance Art, The Puffin Foundation & others. Nemec has presented her visual and performance art in the U.S., Mexico, Hungary, Germany, Japan, Ireland and France.
“My artmaking is a way of translating my thoughts, fears and fantasies into installations, performances, photographs, collages and poetry. With paper, torn edges, found objects and images, I create a visual autobiography. Addressing issues of relationship, loss and self-actualization (AKA Feminism) my fragmented imagery, though seemingly disconnected, is imbued with complexities and nuances that I feel reflect our 21st century lives.
In 1997 I wrote: "My art is about anger, pain, pleasure, hopes, regrets, mistakes, love, hate, freedom, recycling, adolescence, childhood, dolls, aging, happiness, fantasies, dread, fear, beauty, nature, politics, power, destruction, distraction, sexuality, sexism, feminism, spirituality, illness, healing, drugs, envy, science, art, history, memories, dreams, nightmares, hopelessness, confusion, play, daddy, mommy, secrets, lies, life, death, detritus, innuendo, art making and chance." My art is about all that still, regardless of what media I use.
Before that, I tackled adolescent memories and wanting better love; feminism, artmaking and the conflicts therein. In the nineties I struggled with issues of identity and purpose and now in the twenty-first century, I have added the dilemma of aging.
A would-be dancer, singer and actor, I put all that, along with my poetic ambitions, into my performance art. My visual artworks, have included series of Haiku Collages, Body Prints, Dick Drawings & The Endless Junkmail Scroll to name a few. I save everything, in case I can later turn it into art. My studio, where I have lived & worked since 1972, is filled with the detritus of my life, both frustrating & inspiring me.
Autobiography & what it is to be a female is a constant thread, whether I am performing a word & movement piece (aka performance art) or creating a physical artwork.”