Every so often, while browsing around Etsy, I find a piece that speaks to me. No, not one that says "Buy me, I would look fabulous right there!" (although I find many of those!), but one that I relate to on such a deeply personal level that it is almost unquantifiable. Something so essentially true to my own experiences and sense of self that I feel like I should point to it and tell people, "See that? That's me."
One such piece is what drew me into Nina's shop. The strong, bold lines, and distinct voice that I found there left me awed. There are many different ways to create art. Some create impulsively--working from instinct, building a piece the way you ride a bicycle, by feel and practice. Others analytically plan every line, every dash of color. In Nina's work you find the levels of meaning and consistency of "voice" that often comes from meticulous planning. And, in the same pieces, you find the fluidity of line that often comes from unfettered impulse. This careful balance is a distinctive characteristic in all the work in the shop.
The first image below is the piece that brought me to Nina's shop-- "Confidence". Now, generally speaking, I'm not a huge fan of labeling art. In most instances, I believe that pieces should speak for themselves and not need the crutches of artist's statements or titles that wink and nudge the viewer towards understanding. However, this piece is a brilliant example of using titling as an integral part of the piece. The name is not a descriptor, nor is it an attempt to salvage meaning in a poor piece. Here, the title is a key and transformative element of the piece; just as much a part of the art as the ink and paper.
The image shows a small house, solidly placed on a bit of ground, about to be overwhelmed and (at first glance) washed away. But seeing the title, you have faith in that little house. It's just a bit of water and whether it goes over, around, or through, when it has passed the house will still be there, just as solidly as ever.
Technically, the use of collaged paper rather than ink gives the sky a light, airy feeling. And the pattern selected is just right for giving the impression of clouds and atmosphere to support the print in the foreground without competing with or distracting from it.
The second image shown uses the same technique of combining lino printing with collaged papers and bears an equally transformative title-- "Everything is Fine". The piece depicts a woman standing with one hand on her hip and the other clenched in a fist. We can't see her eyes, but her mouth reveals a smile. Her dress is covered with twisting, climbing shapes that appear to be climbing up her form. The possible meanings are limitless. But one thing is certain. Her cool confidence and self assurance-- revealed by the small smile.
The red background is not only gorgeous, but fully loaded with all of red's varied meanings-- passion, anger, hatred, love, energy, action, blood, life. Contrasting with and playing off of the depth of the red is the very still, very composed figure. Introductory art classes reveal some basic techniques--diagonal lines create motion; horizontal ones, calm; and vertical lines, strength. Most artists tend to pair "line" meanings with color meanings--pieces that rely on lots of horizontal lines, for instance, might also be rich in blues. Given those "classic" pairings, Nina's choice to pair an energetic red with a stalwart straight figure is especially refreshing and challenging. It creates a source of tension in the piece that does not allow the viewer to simply glance at the work and move on. You are forced to engage--all without being allowed to make eye contact with the subject.
Nina's work shows a brilliant understanding of the technical aspects of her art. Each piece is precisely planned and beautifully executed. However, her technical skills do not define her art, for it is her deeply meaningful subject matter that makes her pieces so accesible and yet so worthy of reflection. Her pieces would make wonderful gifts for anyone who appreciates the technical details of art. But more than that, these are artworks that you can give to people (including yourself) who are at crossroads in their life. People who are struggling, and surviving, and fighting to understand themselves. For those are the same emotions she portrays so richly.