Jo Q. Nelson, an artist from New York, will host a talk at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 27, in Room 130 of the Fine and Performing Arts Center at Western Carolina University.
Nelson’s talk is free and open to everyone. It will cover her personal biography, influences, theory and slides of her work. Her two-day visit, funded by the Office of the Provost as part of the School of Art and Design’s visiting artists program, will include classroom sessions and student critiques.
Nelson works as a freelance artist and interior designer while she pursues her master of fine arts degree at Hunter College. She studied metalsmithing and jewelry-making for her undergraduate degree in art and art history at the University of Michigan. Her interests include the social aspects of architecture, and she is part of an effort under way to renovate a building in Queens.
“I am always working in the three-dimensional world,” said Nelson, who categorizes herself as a sculptor. “I am interested in changing people’s perceptions about a space, and in using humor to bring to the forefront things people normally tune out.”
Recent work includes “fantasy machines,” hand-cranked wooden sculptures that animate existing photographs of iconic New York sites. The fantasy machine at above right, for instance, uses carved gears (not shown) to send the silhouetted forms of an immigrant family toward a model of the Statue of Liberty. Nelson then photographs the sculpture to complete the effect.
While earning her master’s degree in art at Kent State University, Nelson created a series of stereograms based on photographs of the artist Robert Smithson’s “Buried Woodshed” sculpture on the school’s campus. The late Smithson produced large-scale earthworks, or land art, that employed natural or existing materials in outdoor spaces. For her project, Nelson used toys and paper dolls to create miniature sets based on photographs of the 1970 construction of Smithson’s piece, which, no longer standing, covered one end of a woodshed with 20 truckloads of dirt. When viewed through special lenses, photographs of Nelson’s sets appear three-dimensional, a playful contribution to the conversation and documentation of Smithson’s sculpture.
Nelson’s solo and group exhibitions include galleries in Cleveland, Houston, Chicago, Michigan and Nevada. Cleveland’s Sculpture Center commented that Nelson’s work “reveals the societal norms and the environmental activities that often operate invisibly, yet govern and inform daily life.”
WCU visiting art history professor Chrystine Keener said Nelson’s incorporation of craft, fine art, interior design and architecture make her a “perfect fit” with the School of Art and Design’s focus on craft and interior design. And as a young artist with a good work ethic who is garnering positive reviews, Nelson, 30, has something to teach students about the effort required to establish themselves as artists, Keener said.
“You don’t just roll out of bed a success,” she said.