Nancy Scheinman is one of the most gifted artists working with collage in the United States. When one usually thinks of collage, one visions images retrieved from other sources, mostly on paper with a scattering of other rather flat found objects. Scheinman had developed a unique voice in this genre. She creates mixed media paintings consisting of small and large pieces of various materials interwoven, layered and delicately tacked onto a wood backing which acts as her canvas. The materials used are mostly of her own making. The pieces of painted canvas are from her art works. The embossed copper may be collected from an old building or created by the artist. The use of very small tack nails makes a unifying surface pattern reminiscent of quilts. “The geometric arrangement of the compositional elements of my work is similar to quilts women have pieced together as part of a universal spiritual and domestic experience” says Scheinman. Quilt making began in America as a domestic utilitarian art form. Scraps of worn clothing were recycled to make warm bed coverings for the family and to bring beauty into an otherwise drab existence. Over time quilts began to tell the life story of the creator. Early quilts also relayed urgent messages that carried secret political incantations. These become a visual diary of images. Scheinman brings these historic origins into a contemporary statement both in concept and in materials.
The show title, “SOLITUDE OF CENTURIES,” is connected with the source of inspiration for Scheinman. She employs what she calls “productive daydreaming.” She further explains, “I have sought to suggest a place where universal themes from the past, present and future merge, a desire to make everlasting present time. I believe that the idea of making present time last can only exist in our dreams and in art. The repetitive nailing as I work keeps me focused - grounded, linking me to the spiritual aspects of ‘women’s work.’ Mystery and secrets, the fantastical and the mundane are woven with paint and tacks into layers slowly revealed to the viewer.”
Scheinman says of her paintings in “SOLITUDE OF CENTURIES,” “This work is very much a reaction to all of the negativity in the world currently. It is a personal statement about desire, the nature of beauty and the beauty of nature, a longing I have for the pleasure of sensual beauty that feeds one’s soul, in a world where we are constantly fed negative images and ideas. I consciously choose beauty as a subject for my work, as I grapple with the complexity of the times we live in, and the controversial images we are bombarded with.” An example of this imagined vision is PIERCED SOLITUDE –
NIGHT CIRCUS. The protagonistswings from a trapeze-like hoop high over a celestial landscape filled with a harvest of lush fruit. A winding river flanked by marshes, vegetation and trees, ambles into the background. “In this work, I offer up an aura of beauty with the freedom of the woman swinging in the night sky, and a contradictory encountering of escape in an inescapable world. The curtain on the left peels back, inviting the viewer to escape with me into a sublime world, where fear of height is outweighed by delight in freedom and pleasure.”
SHADOW VEIL – PHILOSOPHY AND GAME is Scheinman’s comment on the common practice of game playing which can be interpreted on many levels. She states, “The idea of game playing has always fascinated me, as games seem so inconsequential and yet there is proof that they have been around since ancient times. Some games require a special setting, as does the game portrayed in this painting, and it seems the red hoop has to be positioned just so, in order for the incoming sphere to pass through it. Are games childish diversions or serious ways of understanding magic and chance? Shall the sphere simply pass or is it as large as it should be contemplated as risk? This image is my visual musing about fear, risk and how war and sport relate.” As in many of Scheinman’s works, there is indication of a curtain opening to reveal the scene as if the interior was a stage that invites the viewer to observe or partake of the activity. In this painting the suggested curtain is a horizontal web of flowers flowing across the top. The red in the flowers immediately take your eye to the important red hoop.
This body of work has a brighter palette than in the past. The colors are familiar but the hues are stronger and in most cases more saturated. “I have sought to use a dream-like cadence of color to suggest where the past, present and futures merge. Ceremonial dreams of nature … the invisible made visible”. The images are more precise and the layers are more dense and in greater numbers. It seems as if there is a greater complexity of thought processes, one leading quickly to another. CRIMSON MORNING – MYSTERY OF HEART conveys a sense of the glow of morning sky through the intensity of color, the new employment of gold leaf and a built up surface to give texture and pattern. A drape hangs in the sky above, rising to reveal the morning light. Standing in what appears to be a pond or river is a woman in a peacock feather dress. Nearby is a whirlpool that Scheinman says “suggests the passage of deep time, and the internal sense of self, as we constantly remake our lives from the evanescent energy that impacts and swirls around us.” As in all of Scheinman’s paintings, the central figures are surrounding by flowers, leaves, birds and other associations of romance and pleasure.
The meanings of Scheinman’s paintings are not always easy to find and some remain a mystery. That is the beauty of Scheinman’s work. Many scenes contain a hauntingly beautiful weirdness that always attracts curiosity. Stepping into a Scheinman painting is like wandering inside a dream without a map. There is a sense of otherness. This show is not one that can be zipped through but requires solitude and reflexion on the part of the viewer.