How did you first get involved in art?
Every child who has access to materials like crayons, watercolors, paper, coloring books, or the nearest bare wall, will make some type of art, and I was no different. But it was a Scholastic Gold Key Award I received in first grade that made my parents think that I had promising talent. By the time I was in fifth grade, I had a set of oil paints and was taking adult lessons from a local artist.
Do you have any art-training?
I took as many art courses as I could in high school. I also got to design and construct stage sets and do costumes and makeup for our dance squad. I then went to Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana for one year, 1973 - 1974. After that my education became quite circuitous in that I had to navigate around obligations like full time work, being a mother, and a wife. When I could, I took classes at IUPUI, the Indianapolis Art Center, and John Herron Art Institute. It wasn’t until my daughter graduated from college that I considered graduate school for myself. A fellow artist told me of a Master of Arts program at the University of Indianapolis in painting. At that time, there were no MFA programs in Indianapolis and I could not relocate to another area or state to attend a school because I was taking care of my elderly parents. I was able to graduate in 2013 with a M.A. in painting.
I also like to add the invaluable experience of traveling to different art museums around the world. I feel there is nothing better to reinforce art history than viewing the works first hand. This was a beautiful legacy given to me by my parents.
What have been some of your favorite art museums you have visited on your travels?
That's a tough one for me to answer because I appreciate certain museums for their strengths in having unique collections. For example, my go-to is the Art Institute of Chicago for the study of French Impressionism and Neo-Impressionism. If I am craving western art, I go to the Eiteljorg in Indianapolis. Overseas, the Louvre is the "Grande Dame" of museums but it is a cavernous complex of connecting buildings and you have to carefully plan ahead of time which works of art you want to see, and then it is still a lot of walking. I recently visited the National Museum in Oslo, Norway. It is a walk-able museum, so you have plenty of time to contemplate the paintings. They have "The Scream" by Edvard Munch, a highlight of my visit. But my personal favorite is the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. It was there that I saw Dali's monumental paintings done later in his life. I also think the building's architecture nicely complements the collection.
Where & from whom do you draw inspiration?
I draw inspiration from my life and the people around me. My painting professor once told me to paint subjects that I truly understood. Thus, my paintings are about family members, places and everyday events that occurred while living in the Midwest. I attribute my color palette to Matisse and the Fauves.
I have never forgotten the first time I saw a painting by Matisse at the Art Institute of Chicago. I was awestruck by his exquisite handling of color. Years later in art history class, I studied about his life and painting techniques. I became impressed with his use of strong colors during his association with an artists’ group in Paris known as Les Fauves (the wild beasts). Much later in his life, Matisse created his equally vibrant biomorphic “cutouts.” But I felt that the painterly brushstrokes and expressive styles of the Fauves were too gestural for my taste and Matisse’s “cutouts” too decorative and flat. I knew that I wanted to incorporate their outrageous colors into my paintings, but not the exuberant brushstrokes that also defined their works. In direct opposition to the expressionistic style of the Fauves, I turned to painting more controlled and detailed scenes, an influence from the realists. Hence, my paintings contained recognizable subject matter taken from my family photos of everyday scenes that touched upon my life. Depending on the narrative that I wanted to present to the viewer, I would combine parts from two or more photos to form a seemingly coherent composition. What resulted was a body of work that purposely manipulated the visual reality to convey a personal story of life influenced by family and places. The deliberate use of bold saturated colors became a way to emphasize the significance of these personal stories and to provoke an emotional response to otherwise commonplace events that occur in all our daily lives. It was important to render precise representations of these contrived scenes through sharp lines, recognizable subject matter and careful drawing techniques. I felt that my story should be loud and clear and not muddled by perfunctory painting and conventional color theory. Thus, through my paintings, I have combined provocative colors and realists’ techniques to create and emphasize the relevance of these new narratives about ordinary lives and common events.
What is your connection with the Foundry Art Centre? How did you discover it?
Actually, my daughter came across the call out for Arbitrary Color through Café. She brought it to my attention and said it was a theme that fit my style of painting. I am so glad to have been chosen as an award winner for this exhibit. This is the first time that I have shipped paintings out of state and it is exhilarating to go beyond one’s boundaries. I look forward to entering other exhibits across the country.
What are you currently working on?
I am experimenting with different media, which is such a departure for me since I have been painting in oils for years. My new work is influenced by Pop Art and I am incorporating comics into specific areas of the painting. I am using acrylic paint, glitter, 24K foil and clear car paint. Yes, car paint! I have an auto body repair shop apply the clear coat. Using symbolism and objects associated with female gender, I am exploring the social relationships between men and women.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not creating art?
I love doing yoga. It gets the kinks out and relaxes my mind. I also am inseparable from my schnauzer and I like to take her for walks in our local parks.
How do you connect with people through your art? Why do you create art?
I create art because there is something inside of me, a kind of invisible drive, that must be made visible to myself and the world around me. It is a creative angst that just keeps pushing to get out. Even if I never receive recognition for my artwork, I would never stop creating because it is the only way I know how to deal with the blessing - or some may feel the burden - of being creative.
View two of Nancy Kruse's paintings in Arbitrary Color, including her award-winning piece "The Candy Man", on view in Gallery I & II through March 6, 2017.
Contact Nancy and see more of her portfolio on her website, www.nlkruse.com.
Article by Jillian Schoettle.