Nancy Shaver

Nancy Shaver

Fellow: Awarded 2010

Field of Study: Fine Arts

Competition: US & Canada

Like Walker Evans, her teacher and friend, Nancy Shaver is a collector. Her keen eye for the aesthetic qualities of ordinary objects and her ability to make others see them in a new light allows her to take found objects and transform them into art, with paint or fabric or simply by their juxtaposition with other objects or their placement within an installation. In fact, she asserts that “this idea of visual democracy in art has motivated [her] for forty years.” She is known for her embellishment of found boxes, collages, and sculptures created from such unlikely materials as egg crates and cardboard boxes.

After earning a B.F.A. (1964) at the Pratt Institute, she spent the next five years as a photographer. Her photographs won top honors in a contest in 1972, resulting in her first one-person show, at the Pratt Manhattan Center. Gradually she began using her photographs as bases for collage. During these early years, residencies at the McDowell Colony (1972, 1973) and Yaddo (1974) provided her with important support and encouragement.

Her art continued to metamorphosize, as (again influenced by Weston and his insistence on the importance of literature) she sought to create a “visual novel” through her photographs, with a “vocabulary” she developed over the course of a decade. She showcased these works in several one-person shows at Curt Marcus Gallery in New York City and in group shows there, elsewhere in New York, and in the early 1990s in Lyon, France, at La Galerie Volée à Une Muse and Espace Lyonnais d’Art Contemporain.

Since 1998 Ms. Shaver has run Henry, variously described as a curiosity or antiques shop, but which she terms her “visual laboratory.” Part art studio, part supply source for other artists, and part retail store for home décor, Henry also provided the inspiration and materials for her installation at the gallery Feature in 2007. Very much like Henry itself, the installation featured objects for sale, display stands that were both structurally and artistically integral to the installation (“not quite sculptures,” as she decribed them), all playing out against the white “box” of the gallery space. Henry also gave rise to the group project Incident Report created with artists Max Goldfarb and Allyson Strafella. Located next door to Henry, Incident Report provides a display space visible to passersby where local and international artists can share their work with the Hudson, New York, community, and, through its website, with viewers everywhere. In 2010, Soberscove Press published Henry at Home, another outgrowth of Ms. Shaver’s idiosyncratic studio-store.

In November 2011 Feature Inc. is mounting a solo show of her recent work entitled Three Sisters, Four Beauties and a Workhorse; a book of the same title, with an essay by Jean-Philippe Antoine, will accompany the show.

In addition her Guggenheim Fellowship and the honors already listed, Nancy Shaver received a Pollack-Krasner Foundation grant in 1993, and, in 2008, an Anonymous Was a Woman award.