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Art & Content 101 Course: Louise Nevelson Reflection

Louise Nevelson (1899-1988) is considered to me as a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, she is no longer with us but from my research and the interviews I saw of her, gave me further indication that she was a strong-willed woman that knew what she wanted to a certain extent. In other words, I write it vaguely that she knew what she wanted to a certain extent because like other people, it is to figure out who we are as the primary mission. She made her mission worthwhile in contribution to the art world and in society. 

  Further, I think her confidence and sense of authority to whom she was greatly contributed and reflected as an advantage to her artistry. To note, in society, most people would describe someone that is also a woman who is strong-willed to be dominating, complex, or difficult to get along with. In this case, it was for a good reason that Nevelson has barged her way into the art world to make her stamp on the world, and to be subtle about it will not get one to where they need to be.

Certainly being subtle about your talent as an artist will hinder you from opportunities if you don’t take action. With this in mind, Nevelson shared her ideology that a person has to be engaged in the present to understand and maintain the energy they possess for greatness. For the most part, in the art world, artists that aim for success must be confident about their work. It is a challenging journey to pursue your dream, but there is no limit if one believes in themselves. 

In correlation, I watched a film titled Nevelson in Process which gave further insight into her perspective. The film also provides information about her upbringing, career, and artistry. Equally important, in the film, she expressed that her upbringing shaped her into who she was.

First, she described her upbringing, and how her father moved to the United States in the early 20th century. The family followed him three years afterward. To note, she informed that foreigners who spoke no English were labeled as a ‘greenhorn’ like her family was. She vowed to not be confined as a statistic or to be handicapped from opportunities. To clarify, she did not want to be treated poorly as if she had nothing to contribute to this world. This said, her legacy substantially translates to her vow.

In addition, she stated something meaningful in the film. She said, “the only reality that I recognize is my reality as seen through the work.” This statement is meaningful to me. It is about finding your voice and creating a reality that is healthy and beneficial to you. Of course, a situation and experiences in life are not perfect, and there will be mistakes and challenges. With this said, Nevelson’s life story and art is a prime example of beating against the odds.

I admire how honest Nevelson was about her challenges. For instance, one of her challenges was pursuing her career as an artist. She had to prioritize other important factors of her life to become one. To explain, growing up into early adulthood, it was required of her to marry and have kids. That is how it was back then with traditional marrying into a rich family, and so she did.

Unfortunately, it was no doubt the hardest life experience to prioritize being a wife and mother while pursuing a career. With attention to this point, she expressed that she intended to never abandon or give up the connection to her son, just because her marriage did not sustain. Still, she had to make sacrifices like letting family members raise her son for her to provide, and fulfill her great urge to be an artist.

Moreover,  moving the discussion from her personal life, another point that intrigues me about Nevelson would be her artistic range. Since 9 years old, she had an early introduction to the arts. During high school, she studied drawing and painting watercolor interiors, and graduating in 1918, she further studied painting, singing, acting, and dancing at the Art Students League of New York in 1920.

Eventually, she became pregnant in 1922, and it was expected of her to be a socialite or trophy wife having to relocate to Mount Vernon, New York in 1924, away from the city life and her artistic movement. Unfortunately, she separated from her husband between 1932-33 and finalized the divorce in 1941. This point is important because it shows insight into her early life from her high school years into adulthood while covering the following years of her artistic production. From a student first then a professional.

Correspondingly, in the decades of 1930s – 40s, I found the other artistic mediums she explored to be impressive. Not only did she practice drawing, and painting, but she also experimented with lithography, etching, terra-cotta semi-abstract animals, oil paintings, and sculpture. To note, her style was versatile; figurative abstracts inspired by cubism, surrealism, and collage-influenced paintings and sculptures.

What I like about the descriptions of Nevelson’s work is that she claimed to be “the original recycler”. I found that phrase to be cool because she did construct assemblages from found objects most of her entire career. Also, she cites Pablo Picasso and Hans Hoffman as influences. Especially Hoffman taught her to work with a limited palette to only use black and white so she could discipline herself. 

I researched her work and these are the pieces that I took an interest in. The artworks are Clown tightrope walker (1942), Atmosphere and Environment XII, and Night tree 1971.

Image 1. Clown tightrope walker,1942. Period (Abstract Expressionism). Gerne Kinetic art. Copyright 📸 Schiff, John D.
Image 2. The atmosphere and Environment XII,1970. Medium Cor-Ten steel, on granite. Sculpture. ©Lousie Nevelson. Fair use.
Image 3. Night tree,1971. Period (Abstract Expressionism). Gerne Kinetic art. From the Dictionnaire Universel des créatrices
© 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions

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