Artist Statement 2019 

My paintings communicate visual, sensory, and cognitive phenomena, evoking information  gleaned from the natural world. Color, texture, and marks bend to match my perceptions. I  search for the simplest form that is the essence of what I wish to express. I don’t know what  that looks like; I have to flail around blindly, manipulating paint to find meaning. I push  around this substance in pursuit of something substantial. The resulting pictures transport  the viewer into primordial worlds. They are syntheses of the visual world and my thoughts  and feelings. The places aren’t quite like ours yet ring true. 

I’m an American painter, a descendant of the American landscape painting tradition. We can  step back to consider the American Frontier, something that held promise for a better future.  This paradise was only attainable by combating the natural world and the people who lived  there first. Europe had history while America’s history didn’t yet belong to the settlers.  Colonists appreciated natural beauty and had the virtues of determination, dedication to  personal belief, and individualism that are also present in American art.  

In later years, the Hudson River School painters tried to capture the wildness by painting out  in the elements. The land was so unbelievably vast and perfect. There was a desire to  comprehend, communicate, and own the experience. The painter could capture and sell it  just as native land was captured, parceled, and sold. This statement is not an attempt to  demonize the painter but to place the American landscape painting tradition within the  dominant culture at the time. There was a cultural psychology at play. 

Human emotions could be seen in relationship to landscape and even weather. Some  thought that nature was healing to the soul and doctors sent patients to recover by the sea.  In the nineteenth century, American writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman  celebrated the spiritual aspects of nature. There was something of a Platonic ideal about it  and, just as today, many people thought that nature was from God (America is “one Nation  under God”).  

Mimesis in art was the act of copying nature. The nature of western oil painting is that there  is an illusory picture in a frame, similar to a view out a window. The wild could be safely  contained through the parameters of a window. The viewer is removed from danger, cold,  heat, and insects. The painting was the expression of untarnished hope and belief.  

Americans were always resourceful as they tried to tame the new country and move into the  Industrial Age. American ingenuity combined with lessons learned in Modernism drove the  Abstract Expressionists to make large paintings reflecting the enormity of the world. Nature  informed Mitchell’s enormous, exuberant canvases. Pollock and DeKooning were inspired by  their homes in Long Island; DeKooning’s abstractions reflected his perceptions while biking  there. The work of these artists echoed nature but was its own independent phenomenon. In  this process, the internal is externalized by taking action. The flux of life with its seasonal  changes is acknowledged and celebrated. Improvisation and intellect work hand-in-hand to  organize chaos while still embracing the wild. Nature is not controlled as in an English  garden. Fear and control are superseded by respect, joy, and the need to place oneself in the  world. Nature is a metaphor for the self; we are alive and a part of nature. The Abstract 

Expressionists practiced gesture painting. Gestures are expressive acts that come from us.  Gestural painting comes out of the painter, just as “ex” in “Expressionism” implies. “Ex” also  relates to leaving a place and being free (think “expatriate” and “external”).  

The psychic strain of searching for identity in the world is like being thrown into a kind of  wilderness. The painter resurfaces, triumphant, when the expression is made manifest. The  result is often ineffable. The feeling is fleeing, so it must be painted again. Think of Gauguin’s  1897 painting, Where Did We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? (D’où  Venons Nous? Que Sommes Nous? Où Allons Nous?). The search for meaning is a part of the  human condition. We want to SEE it. We want it to make it tangible, hence the art object.  

So it is for me. My painted vision is the affirmation of my presence because, like everything, I  am ephemeral. Stepping away from American art, I also connect with the French painter,  Pierre Bonnard. Bonnard painted lyrical landscapes throughout World War II as the Germans  occupied Paris. Critics can call his work “escapist” but his carefully orchestrated, colored  worlds affirmed his belief that life is worth living and that joy and beauty are real. He desired  harmony (perhaps idealistic) but also believed in the possibility of attaining it. Painting it  made it exist and proved it could happen, because suddenly it was. 

I can take you further into my particular process. To do this, please imagine all the different  kinds of landscape you’ve experienced. Imagine how your experiences of those places differ  with variations in weather: light, moisture, heat, wind, precipitation. Now imagine ways in  which you’ve traveled through these spaces: walking, biking, driving a car, riding a train,  flying, on a ferris wheel, etc. Think of how the angles of the landscape change. Your  perception of the scale of things changes depending on where you are (are you looking  down at that pond or are you next to it?). Combine all of these memories. Use your  experiences handling the properties of paint (fluidity, density, shiny/dry, bumpy/smooth). Use  your knowledge of color as it pertains to mood and atmosphere. Splice color into nuances  that trigger emotion. Use various gestures at differing speeds to create lines and marks.  Imagine all the art you’ve ever seen and all you’ve ever made. Remember to let it inform you  but don’t let it stop you. This is what I do. My paintings are abstracted from all of these  sources to make a new experience that is kind of like these things but not exactly. The  paintings are places of their own waiting to be experienced. Actively daydream while you  stare at them, as if you’re gazing out a window or sitting outside watching the sun set. Settle  in. 

“I met a seer,  Passing the hues and objects of the world, The fields of art and learning, pleasure, sense, To  glean eidólons*…  Ever the mutable,  Ever materials, changing, crumbling, re-cohering, Ever the ateliers, the factories divine  Issuing eidólons.” 

-Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass 

*eidólons – 1: an unsubstantial image: phantom 2: ideal Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary  “Walt Whitman’s poem by the same name in 1876 used a much broader understanding of the term, expanded and  detailed in the poem. In Whitman’s use of the term we can see the use broaden to include the concept of an  oversoul composed of the individual souls of all life and expanding to include the Earth itself and the hierarchy of the 

planets, Sun, stars and galaxy.” – Wikepedia 

Nicole Maynard-Sahar  Statement: Poetry Drawings 

This series of drawings is created using the iPad Pro, Apple Pencil and Procreate app. The  drawings include hand-written excerpts and sometimes complete poems that are in the  public domain, particularly poems from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. Here I investigate  relationships between poetry and drawing, text and images, collaboration, as well as  technology and what is crafted by hand. Choosing a poem is a creative act similar to  Duchamp’s readymades. Once chosen, I extend the “found object” by responding with my  own artistic sensibility. I mine the poems for words that connect with my internal  processes/experiences/beliefs. I stitch the poetry, collaging it, grafting it into my  drawn/painted worlds. The resulting images are representations of my internal monologue. 

Whitman frequently addresses the poets of the future, asking them to validate his work by  expanding upon it. Many poets, artists, musicians and other creatives continue to be inspired  by Whitman and, in doing so, exemplify the power of one soul to communicate to another  across time through art. I follow Whitman’s directive, “contributing my verse.”