Sunday, April 7, 2013

Artist Interview with Nancy Crasco

This week's featured artist is Nancy Crasco, a fiber artist with a ridiculously extensive history of exhibitions and teaching experience. I discovered Ms. Crasco's work while I was Googling all of the artists with whom I will be participating in SAQA's exhibition, "Deux," later this year, and I immediately fell in love with her work for its elegance, graceful color choices and excellent craftsmanship.

Are there any particular patterns or motifs that creep into your work when you're not paying attention (as opposed to the motifs you've consciously chosen to work with), and have you given any thought to where they might come from?
Many  of my early works were inspired by the direct observation and interpretation of nature and landscape, but I gradually progressed to a more critical point of view during the 1990's with a series of "soft protests"; visual commentaries on air and water pollution.  My current series of larger works pinpoints what is happening in the oceans and other bodies of water as a result of climate change.

I keep returning to watery themes.  I grew up in New Jersey and experienced the ocean, lakes and rivers from an early age.  Swimming is my favorite exercise and I frequent the neighborhood YMCA, where I swim two or three times a week. I still love the beach and other coastal areas, particularly salt marshes and estuaries, and enjoy drawing at these sites.

Water flows in my works, both consciously, as in the the ocean series or unbidden, like "Salt Marsh Spring" (2006) in a series about the seasons, or "Sailing off the Grid" (2009) in a series of twelve works entitled "Off the Grid."  "Swimming Against the Tide" is part of an ongoing series that interprets climate/weather adages.  Both pieces in DEUX are part of that series.

"Sailing Off the Grid," by Nancy Crasco

Are you a stickler about your particular medium, or are you happy to cheat, borrow and steal from other disciplines whenever it seems like a good idea?
I often use newspaper articles and photographs for inspiration.  When I need an image of a specific organism, animal or plant for my work, I research and use photos from the Internet for reference, but I am very careful not to violate any copyright laws. For example, in my recent piece "Diatoms"' I needed to know what diatoms actually looked like.  So I did some research on the Internet and found that I could represent them by using a collection of old doilies, and printed with them on mulberry paper.  Then I arranged  and sewed them between layers of silk.  I print images on paper or silk using a gelatin plate, and also use linoleum prints in my work.

"Diatoms," by Nancy Crasco
I have a degree in art from the Rhode Island School  of Design, and visit art museums and galleries and attend other art events quite regularly.  I sometimes see something in the works of other artists that generates an idea. I occasionally take classes, and have attended summer sessions at The Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, ME.  Several of these sessions have added techniques to my craft vocabulary, and have had a significimpact on my work.

I do not believe that artists create in a vacuum sealed environment.  They are affected by all that happens around them and it is how they process this sensory information that results in artistic products, which are new ways of looking and describing what they know and feel.

Describe your sketchbook (or other Vital Idea Capturing Apparatus). Do you work in such a way that there is a great distance between sketches and finished projects, or are you more likely to incorporate your sketches directly into your final work?
I maintain several types of sketchbooks.  I try to carry a small one when I visit art venues as I often like to sketch or note something I have seen to research in more detail later: the name of an artist, a technique with which I am unfamiliar, or a quote or a construction detail I want to remember.  I have a second collection of drawing sketchbooks that I have filled with land and cityscapes when I travel or vacation.  The third type of sketchbook I keep is a record of visual references and thought processes for most of my works.  I also keep a running log of work hours, expenses and income.

Pages from Nancy's working sketchbook. These were sketches for her piece "Tip of the Iceberg" which is shown below.
Are there people in your life who always come through with excellent input that continually helps you improve your work?  What is it that these people see that makes them so helpful?
I am very fortunate to belong to a critique group of seven fiber artists which meets monthly to share current work or work in progress with an open exchange of ideas and constructive criticism.  We all work in fiber but have very different voices. We have been meeting for more than twenty years and can be very honest and open with each other about our work without the risk of personal affront.  We listen to each other as critiques are rendered, but we feel no obligation to carry out what is suggested.  The suggestions sometimes lead the artist to another, satisfactory solution altogether.

I also have a best friend that I have known since we were students at RISD together, and we talk to each other frequently and more recently this includes showing each other our work using FaceTime on our iPads.  Another RISD classmate lives close by and is a printmaker.  We attend a lot of art exhibits and museums together, and share our works in progress as well.

Nancy's sketches of Batiquitos Lagoon
"Salt Marsh Spring," by Nancy Crasco

You live in Massachusetts - what opportunities exist locally for fiber artists?  What about the character of your city do you find particularly inspirational? Are there any local organizations or groups you'd like to mention so they can get more exposure?
Boston is a great city for art and is very welcoming to fiber artists.  Most of the local arts organizations like The Cambridge Art Association and Arsenal Center for the Arts in Watertown, accept fiber entries in their shows equally with the "fine arts", and  the myriad of quilt guilds in the Greater Boston Area guarantees that there are quilt exhibits year round.  We have the New England Quilt Museum and the American Textile Museum, both just 45 minutes away in Lowell.  Boston and many other towns and cities in the area have local art centers with galleries, studios for artists and thriving educational programs.  In the fall and again in the spring there are many Open Studio events which gives one the opportunity to visit with many different artists and to purchase work directly from the artists.  Boston is home to too many great museums to single out, and they all show fiber, but the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem are especially good.

"Tip of the Iceberg," by Nancy Crasco

Do you have any extremely talented artist friends whose work you'd like to plug here on the blog?  They don't have to be fiber artists, just super cool folks who could use a little blog love.
The co friends that I mentioned in your earlier question are:
Judy Becker
Linda Behar
Elizabeth Busch
Sandy Donabed
Sylvia Einstein
Carol Anne Grotrian
Jude Larzelere
Adrienne Sloane
Patricia White

"Swimming Against the Tide," by Nancy Crasco

Thanks so much to Nancy Crasco for an excellent interview - I cannot believe the number of wonderful sounding museums that will await me when I finally arrange a trip up to the Boston area.  This is at least a week's worth of entertainment in a single paragraph! Also, I feel truly inspired by the idea of developing such close artistic friendships over the course of more than twenty years - that's a wonderful goal for an artist!

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