Featured Artist: Nina Earley

March 17, 2015 by Jess

-written by Jack Hile

Like an x-ray, Nina Earley’s homemade photograph in The Umbrella Gallery sliced through my line of sight.  My mind raced as I tried to decipher the code of bright streaks covering the rich, ebony canvas.  The piece reminded me of a thunderstorm, marked with symbols forming a secret language I longed to understand.   At this very instant, with her dog Watson by her side, Nina walked into the gallery:

“It’s like sparks or electricity,” I offered in regard to the piece.

“It’s a map; a walk,” She fluidly responded.

Suddenly, as my mind’s tectonic plates shifted into a new formation, the mysterious language became clearer.  I had grazed the tip of the iceberg and now needed to delve deeper into what inspired these walks. 

Making our way into Nina’s studio, my eyes darted from one piece to another.  A massive window shed light on myriad postcards adorning the walls, while a sewing machine delicately placed on a work station sat, ready to tap out another piece – and, looming in the background of it all, I could almost smell the iron of an industrial collage of nuts, bolts and gears.  Nina’s studio, even with creative energy flowing from every corner, elicited a sense of calm – it all just felt right.  Watson perused the floor, gnawing at my sweater sleeve, the blinds rested halfway down the window, allowing just enough glare from the setting sun off the snowy rooftops.  With so much to learn, I was left with little to ask but where to begin.

The Umbrella Community Arta Center’s most recent spotlight artist, Nina Earley, has been walking her whole life.  From Basel, Switzerland to Boston, Massachusetts Nina derives inspiration from her surroundings, and more specifically the pathways she explores throughout each new landscape.  Her most recent pieces, her Cyanotypes, are all created based on walks she has taken with friends, or, of course, Watson.  Venues such as Walden pond, are observed from a bird’s-eye view on her canvases. Loops, twists and turns abound, sometimes barely noticeable, sometimes jumping off the wall, the white paths through each cyanotype are fittingly, “exposed by the sun,” she explained, providing a wispy flow to each piece.  The lines appear ghostly, traces of the past, alluding to a common thread in Nina’s pieces, “the fear of forgetting”, as she describes.  Nina never wants to forget, and never neglects to pay homage to her past. 

As such, some pathways Nina creates cannot be found on maps.  The pathways through a bright red spool of yarn hanging next to a snow-white gown beside Nina’s studio door are linked to memory.  Knit by her grandmother, the gown will soon turn into one of Nina’s most personal pieces, as she plans to weave threads of her family into her art.  “Tactility has always been important to me”, she explained.  Both avid knitters, Nina has taken a page out of her grandmother’s book, to include thread and fabric in her art.  The physical aspect of Nina’s art has manifested in many ways.  The texture of Nina’s cyanotypes was recently put on display in an exhibit where each piece hung from the ceiling, allowing viewers to walk among the ocean of blue, fully immersing themselves in a three dimensional, artistic space.  Like her, Nina’s art is constantly traveling wherever her imagination may take her, and the Umbrella Arts Center has had the pleasure of highlighting her creativity.

Since September, Nina has been creating art at The Umbrella, but her career as an artist has been flourishing well before her time in Concord.  Nina originally attended college in Canada, studying Art and International relations.  Driven by her passion for travel, Nina has been across the country, and all over the Northeast – all the while finding time to receive her M.F.A from The Art Institute of Boston (now Lesley University College of Art and Design) .  Even after achieving her masters, Nina has continued to emphasize the importance of her learning.  She continues to stay in touch with teachers and mentors from different places she has been and is now looking to embark on a massive collaborative project.  Nina hopes to spearhead a written piece with several other artists at Umbrella – something entirely different than she has ever done before.  Although I shouldn’t give away too much about it, as Nina told me, “I don’t want to give the viewer any hints”.  This undertaking is one that seems commonplace for Nina, however, whose walks appear far from over.

Meet Nina at The Umbrella's next ArtTalk on March 19th at 3:00.

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