“I’m still truly interested in the overlooked, the ephemeral, and all that grows unmanaged in the physical world.” – Elise Nicol
Elise Nicol speaks for The Interview Series, May 8, 2020.
-How did you become an artist?
As a six-year-old, I was fascinated by the “art test” that ran in the back of my brother’s comic books. The test featured monthly cash prizes for those who could draw a pirate, among other characters. I didn’t care about the money. I wanted the “free, professional evaluation” promised to all entrants. I wanted to know if I was good enough to be an artist. So I drew the pirate, badgered my mother to send it in, then waited for a response. Months went by until my mother could no longer stand my daily disappointment that the mail brought nothing for me. “They wrote to say you are too young,” she said, and that was that. My first rejection. I was an artist
-Was there a particular piece / body of work / experience that inspired you?
My first camera was an Argus 126 cartridge camera my mother purchased with S&H Green Stamps. It was made of off-white plastic and featured a leafy gold filigree pattern on the front and the model name, Lady Carefree, printed large and in script at the top near the viewfinder. It was embarrassing, but it got me started.
-What images or things do you keep in your studio that influence your work?
I built a bird feeder and attached it to a window covered with privacy film. My cat sits at that window, watching the birds and occasionally lunging at the window in an ill-fated attempt to catch a finch or two. I don’t know how inspiring it is, but it’s certainly entertaining.
-What positive outcome do you hope will occur due to the pandemic experience?
I’m hoping we see a different occupant in the White House.
My first camera was an Argus 126 cartridge camera my mother purchased with S&H Green Stamps. It was made of off-white plastic and featured a leafy gold filigree pattern on the front and the model name, Lady Carefree, printed large and in script at the top near the viewfinder. It was embarrassing. Still, I carried that camera everywhere, pointing it at tree branches, blades of grass, and bits of debris. I was looking for secrets, I think, or buried treasure, maybe, that would show me something outside my small hometown, if only for a moment or two.
All that’s left of that Argus is my affection for it and my gratitude for the lifetime of image-making it helped begin. These days, I carry a slightly more sophisticated camera, and I work in a variety of photo-based print media. But my imagery hasn’t really changed.
I’m still truly interested in the overlooked, the ephemeral, and all that grows unmanaged in the physical world. These things still free me in a way, giving me what I need to explore what’s both abstract and representational, meditative and ominous, extremely complex and, sometimes, simply and clearly black and white.
Elise Nicol a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. Her prints and photographs have been shown in exhibitions hosted by The Print Center, Philadelphia, PA; Buddy Holly Fine Art Center, Lubbock, TX; Center for Maine Contemporary Art, Rockport, ME; Springfield Art Museum, Springfield, MO; Janet Turner Print Museum at California State University, Chico, CA; and Soho Photo, New York, NY, among other venues. Her work is in the collections of The Library of Congress, Washington, DC; Boise Art Museum, Boise, ID; Mesa Arts Center, Mesa, AZ; Photomedia Center, Erie, PA; Graphic Chemical and Ink Company, Villa Park, IL; and more.