Studio 53 is honored to present more than 50 exquisite collages by Nancy Wilkoff. Her work ranges from atmospheric paper abstractions to finely crafted found object shadow boxes, to painted wood constructions with a restrained subtle aesthetic to intricate and lively 2-dimensional puzzles of painstakingly painted and cut paper shapes. She made collage paper from scratch. Art materials supplier Daniel Smith featured her three times for her use of materials. Her craftsmanship is solid and precise.
The singular formative event in Nancy Wilkoff’s career was her participation, while in her 20s, in a group called “The Questers.” Supervised circa 1950’s, by the indomitable Margaret Evens (Emmie), retired chair of Youngstown State University’s art department, Nancy dove into making and critiquing abstract art, art that was in step with what was going on in New York at the time. No holds barred.
Local newspapers took The Questers seriously as they relentlessly forged art careers from out of this country’s hinterlands. Until 1970 Nancy pursued every opportunity in the Midwest, and after that her base operations was Arizona. She exhibited regionally and later nationally, getting acclaim from increasingly astute jurists like Ivan Karp and Marisol. At least one jurist, William Martin Dean of the Cleveland Art Institute purchased work she submitted. Nancy never had a job outside of doing her art. She was able to pursue all the skills it required.
In 1992 art writer Charlotte Lowe wrote, “They’re small personal tributes - done in a manner half scientific display and half natural treasure pried out of a child’s hand as nearly perfectly executed as can be imagined.”
In conjunction with a 1996 show, Saugatuk Gallery wrote, “Nancy Wilkoff first exhibited with DeGraaf Forsythe Galleries in Ann Arbor (about 1976). We knew at the time that there was special integrity and commitment to her work that was not dependent on the marketplace. We purchased several pieces for the family collection and they have proved their sense of timelessness.”
Nancy began each piece by sifting through collections of papers and objects, seen many timed before, until suddenly one thing presented itself as a starting point. From there the work progressed with additions and subtractions until the final design uniquely satisfied the space.
Starting in earnest with #252 in 1979, Nancy numbered her work chronologically. Production substantially stopped in 2006, except for one last entry, #596 in 2009 entitled, “No Bone Left Unturned.” Nancy suffered health setbacks, which landed her in an assisted care facility, mind sharp, but body unable to execute her equally sharp craftsmanship. Nancy’s daughter, Pam Riml of Boothbay Harbor, brought Nancy’s artwork home with her. Pam’s neighbor, painter Tony van Hasselt A.W.S., gave Studio 53 a tip regarding her work and it has been loved by the community ever since.
Nancy gets daily phone updates about her ongoing career at Studio 53 from Pam. Here’s the latest update: the Nancy Wilkoff Retrospective opens Thursday, May 23 and will run through June 30.
The public is invited to the opening reception, from 5-8 p.m., will be on Saturday, May 25. Musician/composer Aaron Robinson will alternately play harpsichord and piano during the event. Studio 53 is at 53 Townsend Avenue in Boothbay Harbor. And, for those who’d like to write to Nancy about her work and the show, send your comments to Nancy Wilkoff, 8989 Mayberry Drive, Tuscon, AZ 85730 - she’d love to hear from you.
For more information on this show and the gallery, visit www.studio53fineart.com, or call 633-2755.