Interview: Nancy Gifford
Luca Curci talks with Nancy Gifford during ANIMA MUNDI FESTIVAL 2019 – RITUALS at Palazzo Ca’Zanardi and THE ROOM Contemporary Art Space.
Nancy Gifford left Kent State University after the shootings. Modeling was her ticket off the Ohio farm sending her to Europe where she explored all the great museums and galleries, changing her life and focus. Meeting renowned film-makers, musicians, artists and writers pointed her to a new direction for a life in the arts.
She began her art career in the early 80’s in Los Angeles, California. She exhibited widely in numerous exhibitions and credits much of her early exposure to the late Henry Hopkins who was a big supporter and champion. She won many emerging artist awards and was shown in a variety of museums nationwide such as: LACMA Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Carnegie Art Museum, Riverside Art Museum, Bowers Museum, Museum of New Mexico, Museum of the Hudson Highlands, Boca Raton Museum of Art, Gibbs Museum of Art, Naples Art Museum and Westmont Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art SB, and the UCSB Library Installation.
In the mid 90’s Nancy moved to London and spent the next ten years between England, France and Florida. A member of the Royal Academy of Arts, London and Charter Member of the National Museum of Women, Washington DC. She sat on the Patron Board of MOCA Miami and was a founding member of Wynwood Art District in Miami.
In 2008 Nancy moved to Montecito, California and continues to exhibit her art internationally. In 2015 in “Requiem for the Bibliophile” at the Museum of Contemporary Art SB. The 32 foot installation LAMENT was showcased in the new library wing at UCSB Library in January 2016. Her exhibition in 2017 was titled: Crazy Times. 2015 – 2016 she won nine international film festival awards, for Best Experimental Short, for her art video, Imaginary Novels which toured to over 25 festivals worldwide and screened during the Venice Biennale 2019. Her latest honor was the 2018 publication by two art publishers of her collection “Mincing Words” bound for collectors only.
Her art is primarily narrative. The narrative informs the medium to a great extent and derives from her own history, literature, poetry and the world at large. Her Series can span many decades and often reemerge.
As far as influences, Eva Hesse showed she didn’t have to always use paint, Jenny Holzer’s influence brought text into the work, Marcel Duchamp allowed the humor, Anselm Kiefer the scope and scale, Joseph Beuys the pathos, Ann Hamilton the grace and Julian Schnabel said “just keep swimming”…
“I paint because I cannot sing, painting is the refuge of the failed poet.” Nancy Gifford
Luca Curci – What is art for you?
Nancy Gifford – Art allows me to live a life on my own terms filled with exploration, experimentation and freedom of expression.
LC – What are you currently working on?
NG – I work in series and usually have several going at once. Right now my concerns are expressed by the titles of the Series. CRAZY TIMES, MINCING WORDS, HEAPS of TROUBLE and FRAGMENTS & REMNANTS.
LC – Which is the role the artist plays in the society? And the contemporary art?
NG – Hopefully artists can elevate the discourse of society by abstracting or depicting the world around us. Art can be a window into or through our individual realities. Let’s face it, all our lives are unique to ourselves. At best, it can open a door for the viewer to walk through and come back out changed in some way.
LC – What is the most challenging part about creating your artworks?
NG – My work is very labor intensive so requires large amounts of time and physical energy. Also I cannot keep up with all the ideas which crowd my mind and vie to be manifested. So choosing is always a bit stressful.
LC – Are your artworks focused on a specific theme?
NG – If only it were that simple… but no. It is ever changing or I lose interest.
LC – We were attracted by your last artistic production, has the artwork presented been created for the festival or as a part of preexisting works?
NG – You chose a short art film “Imaginary Novels” which I created for a larger installation for a museum show in 2014 titled “Requiem for a Bibliophile”, which was about the death of books and the future of libraries. Part One of the installation was LAMENT, a huge piece 32 feet long made from 2000 antique book covers depicting the past.
Part Two which was the film, “Imaginary Novels” serves to depict how books may be short circuited in the future, condensed into visual story telling. The hope was to use the film to inspire people to read the books chosen. They were all books which were influential to me in the 70’s. It went on to win many awards worldwide much to my surprise and delight. It was thrilling to have it screened during the Venice Biennale 2019 through ITS LIGUID GROUP.
LC – In which way the artwork presented in our exhibition is connected with the festival’s theme?
NG – In your prospectus, you say “We invite artists to show their reflections about the various ways in which the ANIMA MUNDI expresses the relationships among all the existing entities and the natural and cultural systems, and to represent by their artistic works the processes of the evolution of the world in which we all live.”
I have done many works about the environment in the past but you chose a film about the decline of books and reading. I feel literature is a unifying force on the planet through translations and ideas can travel around the globe unifying humanity through ideas and beliefs. Thought can only be expressed and EVOLVE through words and images and my film uses both.
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
NG – I found it to be a wonderful opportunity to be a part of the Venice Biennale 2019. I have had several friends and colleagues report they viewed my film when they visited. It has offered me an international audience.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
NG – I found everyone involved professional, courteous and earnest.