Sandoval Signpost
An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Featured Artist
 

Signpost Featured Artist Nancy Wood Taber

Nancy Wood Taber

Jump—Bull Terriers, by Nancy Wood Taber

Chain Maille, jewelry, by Nancy Wood Taber

Key To Opportunity, by Nancy Wood Taber

Layering & listening: the art of Nancy Wood Taber

~Oli Robbins

For many artists, the selection of a subject is based upon the depicter’s personal interests, attractions, and connections. This is particularly true of Nancy Wood Taber, this year’s featured artist of the Placitas Holiday Sale, best known for her lifelike, incredibly detailed colored pencil drawings of wildlife and domestic animals. But it’s much more than Nancy’s technical virtuosity that has earned her various awards and landed her work in permanent and private collections worldwide. Her trained eye is the result of hundreds of rich communication sessions with her subjects over the past forty-plus years.

Following her graduation from Albuquerque’s Sandia High School, Nancy went to Europe on an educational teen trip. Says Nancy, “The biggest thrill was in Florence, where I saw the statue of David. I looked up and said, ‘Oh my God—that was done with human hands!’ Almost at that moment, I knew I wanted to be an artist.”

Nancy then received her BFA, with a focus on jewelry, and began a job at a jewelry factory as a designer and model maker. Soon, however, she found herself enjoying drawing jewelry more than making it. Following her instinct, she left the jewelry business to focus on drawing.

Says Nancy, “At first, the process of drawing in colored pencil seems so simple since most everyone has used them at some time in their life… Over the 25 years I have worked in colored pencil, I have discovered that the very nature of the layering process required has a meditative quality for me. The wonders and limitations of the medium have led me to a deeper understanding that the lure of simplicity is often an illusion; that there are in actuality limitless layers to explore both in the medium, nature, and in life itself. The very fact that the medium can be quite time consuming allows me to contemplate and appreciate the true nature of my subjects more deeply.”

When exiting her meditative space to step away from and observe her work, Nancy is often surprised, feeling as if she didn’t in fact make the drawing, but rather was an active participant in its creation.

Whether depicting wildlife or pets, Nancy turns to her own photographs for reference. Taken in nature, national parks, wildlife rehabilitation places, or someone’s home, her photographs call to mind her one-on-one experiences with her subjects. The photographs help her access the energy of her subjects—paramount to her process—and Nancy maintains that such energy flows through her as she creates.

Nancy’s strong connection with animals eventually led to an apprenticeship in animal communication, a modality that Nancy now uses almost daily. Says Nancy, “The process of creating my images begins as a dance of sorts, where I listen and open myself to receive information from the spirits of my subjects. When a particular subject presents itself to me, usually an animal, and I am inspired to incorporate it into a drawing, I feel that the individual has come to me to give me information on a spiritual level that is appropriate for me at that time in my life.”

Since 1977, Nancy has been a member of the Great Pyrenees Club of America. For four decades, she has shown her dogs at conformation, obedience, and drafting competitions. Such experiences deepened her understanding of animal behaviors and energies and also ushered in an extensive training in animal proportions and skeletal structure. But participating annually in the Great Pyrenees Club of America National Specialty can be a costly tradition, so Nancy tried to offset the cost of her travels by selling artwork at a vendor’s space during the event. She found great success selling Pyrenees-themed jewelry, and later, colored pencil drawings. She would bring two originals, limited editions and note cards to the yearly event. In a short time, Nancy found herself with a loyal following; her patrons were eager to see what she would offer each year, sometimes reserving print numbers well before the event commenced. These annual events were made even more rewarding by showing her late Great Pyrenees Ailo, a Grand Champion and one of her dearest life companions.

Nancy has recently returned to jewelry making, using the skills she learned much earlier in life to create wildlife, Pyrenees, and Chain Maille jewelry. Her “Chain Maille” jewelry is comprised of hundreds of individual, interwoven jump rings. The technique dates back to ancient times, when it was used to create protective garments worn under armor. Nancy finds the process similar to that of drawing in that it’s both time intensive and involves a layering of sorts: each circular ring must combine with another to make something greater. Says Nancy, “it’s another thing that’s so simple. You can look at a pencil and go, ‘oh, it has lead and a wooden ring.’ Or look at a jump ring and say, ‘it’s just a circle.’ But you can take those two simple objects and make something so incredible out of them.”

Nancy lives with her husband Cliff in the Manzano Mountains, where they built their home over thirty years ago. For years, they lived without running water, electricity, or phones, heating their home with a wood-burning stove. Says Nancy, “My choice of art techniques and mediums reflect my preference for a simpler way of life, away from the city lights and traffic. I do appreciate modern comforts and conveniences but find a peace in living closer to nature in my mountain home. Living for a number of years without the conveniences often taken for granted stoked the creative flames within me to figure out unique ways to solve problems both in my life and in my art.”

You can find Nancy and her work in the Anasazi Fields Winery during the Holiday Sale. In the meantime, visit her website at nancywoodtaber.com for a peek at her mesmerizing drawings and jewelry.

 

 

 
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