Nancy Childs, Artist

Artist Statement

Each of my monoprints is one of a kind. Each piece of paper is individually hand made. I use cotton linter #29 because it’s made from a short cotton fiber, pulled from close to the seed. This makes a soft, thick, flexible sheet of paper, as opposed to the thinner, stronger paper that is made from the long cotton fiber–cotton rag.

I am not a traditional printmaker. It’s more accurate to say that I paint with color and texture using a combination of printing plates. The majority of my plates are cut linoleum. I find deep pleasure in the process of cutting the plate because each cut mark is revealed in the finished print as it pops forward. I use relief plates on hand made paper and run them through an etching press, so that I get the transfer of the inked image. Each cut mark is deeply embossed.

I will use almost anything to create a printing plate. I will draw on mahogany plywood with a power wood router. I will use duct tape on sheets of acrylic. Heavy paper on textured mat board. A wood-burning tool on sheets of PVC plastic. Anything.

I build up layers of color and texture to create a sense of complexity that mirrors the many facets of a person’s personality. I push the process until a sense of harmony emerges from the disparate textures. The layers also reference personal history. Because the paper holds the memory of each layer (which is called “palimpsest”) the textured layers and shapes reflect a life of multiple experiences. Each experience marks our soul and creates our personhood.

Detail of a Closed Book

For instance, if you look at a detail of the Closed Book, "Journal of a Man Who Hates Women" you can see how hand made paper, printing and found objects carry meaning. The experience of a failed romantic relationship is bound into a book of hand made paper with a rich burgundy cover. The book is forcibbly closed with rusty barbed wire wrapped and diguised by the finery of masculine fabrics. Each strand of barbed wire is anchored by fish hooks piercing the background matte board. He told me he wouldn't let any woman get her hooks into him.

Transitions. Serendipitous encounters. Intersecting consequences.

In the past my work has been about relationships – specifically the echo that links the past to the present. Planned and unplanned encounters present new realities. Change begets change. A class with Deb Oden exposed me to some new techniques. Different from my original set of processes, but a viable venue for exploring the intersection of accident and intent.

My work is a visual record of the questions, processes and parameters I am working with at this point in time. Ideas, cut or etched, printed in multiple interactions. Same plate – different states. Intimate encounters between formal elements creating quirky relationships. Puzzles created by sets of decisions hopefully brought to a state of resolution. Not the end of an inquiry, just a look at where I am in the present.

In the beginning, I was making fans, shields and breastplates – items we use to separate or protect ourselves from the world. As I learned about making paper and printmaking, I began to explore how our personal histories impact our current thinking and decision-making. In 1990, I made a series of prints called “Closed Books and Tabernacles” that dealt with spirituality and secrets. Those works were exhibited at the Lux Center as part of my Nebraska Young Artist of the Year award. Through the years I have widened my field of reference. Now I use mixed media to deal with women’s issues, religion, addiction and politics.

I believe that each work of art an artist produces is generally a self-portrait – a reflection of choices made from personal experience.