91 Franklin Street NYC 10013
Phone: 917.572.7461
home sculptures collages writings reviews events bio

Click here to download a resume in .pdf format
Requires Acrobat Reader Plug-in



Nancy Azara paints, carves, traces, cuts and moves around her materials in a way that negotiates raw instinct with thoughtful deliberation with a very specific and intricate thinking. The work embodies serious play. Surface is super rough yet delicate. There is a definite sense of knowing the materials yet the forms and imagery continue to unravel into the unknown. Zahar Vaks, Curator, "On Knowing Unknowing: A Material Narrative," 2016 Ortega y Gasset Projects, Brooklyn, NY

Nancy Azara interviewed by Ronnie Eldridge on Eldridge & Co, CUNY TV

Nancy Azara in Methods of Art (MOA)
- Archive of Artists Interviews

Methods of Art (MOA) - Archive of Artists Interviews was developed by Johannes Hedinger and Torsten Meyer, produced by the University of Cologne with Konstanze Schuetze. VIEW HERE
Please note: The "Next Question" pull-down on the lower right of the video contains a discussion of 10 different categories.




Feminist artist Nancy Azara interviewed by the International Foundation for Women Artists from IFWArtists on Vimeo.





When I first saw Nancy's bright red pastel leaf outlines on what looked to be humble tracing paper, hanging in the studio at San Cresci, I didn't quite 'get' them. I saw something pleasingly Matisse-like in the dancing lines and bold, almost naive, cut-out effect, but I couldn't fully imagine how these rather understated ingredients would become something worthy of gracing the walls of a gallery. Little did I know what richly textured tapestries they would become . . .

I watched them grow denser with each visit I paid to the studio. Calling the process 'organic' seems fitting rather than hackneyed in this case, because, as the pieces developed more and more complexity with the layers of wood-cut rubbings Nancy added under and around the leaves, it became clear that these were portraits of life itself, becoming. The orphaned leaves grew their contexts, sometimes as warm, natural extensions of a bustling, fluid density, soemtimes as stark, bloody punctuation. And - whether intentionally or not - these moods lyrically mirrored the Tuscan spring bursting to life outside our door.

Nancy eventually explained to me that her choice of paper (actually a very robust Mylar drafting paper) was inspired by the paper scrolls carried by travelling Buddhist monks. And even without this added spiritual association, the effect of the finished pieces are for me like ripples in a lake: deceptively simple, reverberating almost endlessly, born from lines rough as stone.


Nancy Azara’s poetic Third Moon is the most recent edition to what might
be called a trilogy, at least so far, more might be coming. It is visually and
conceptually related to two earlier works, Dawn/Light and Leaf Altar for Nunzia
(1913-2004). The latter two are memorials, as is this one, although each in its
own way. When Azara made Third Moon, she was thinking of Plato’s Allegory
of the Cave, an interrogation of the nature of illusion and reality, of shadows
mistaken for substance.

Enveloped by a soft nocturnal radiance created by applying white paint over
aluminum leaf in combination with encaustic and a touch of color, the nearly
monochromatic silver and rose of Third Moon—the same as Dawn/Light and Leaf
Altar—is a further instance of what has lately become her palette of choice. The
support, a seven-foot square panel, is of wood and slightly larger than life but not
intimidatingly so, the surface delicately carved with images of leaves, branches
and pods to create an all-over pattern.

Parts of it are more deeply incised than others, resulting in a flickered effect as
light plays across the surface. To this low relief, lopped sections of different kinds
of tree branches, arranged vertically, are attached for contrast. Together they
present a dialectical meditation in which negative contends with positive form,
fragments with the whole, reality with ghost images, reflections, memories, and
dreams, and the past intersects the present.


Nancy Azara's distinctive wood sculptures are hand-made, touched and re-touched as she shapes her work into existence, carving directly, ardently into the material, coating it with encaustic and color, her practice both pragmatic and ritualized. A feminist and spiritualist whose production is a testament to memories and desires, to landscapes of the mind and soul with reference to nature and the architectural, Azara seems to transfer her own passionate convictions, her own breath of life into her constructs like a latter-day Pygmalion. The sculptures vary in scale from the modest to the more monumental and are usually reliefs meant to be viewed frontally, consisting of multiple components, their lexicon of often repeated images - leaves, hands, spirals, hearts and so forth - conjuring a timeless, pictographic language that is both intensely personal and universal. They also suggest a collection of beloved, even fetishized objects that are both sophisticated and crude, contemporary and archaic, excerpted from a cross-cultural folk tradition that contributes to their mystical, hybridized allure.

Azara is an assured colorist and her sculptures are vivid; reds, roses and purples– her favorite hues–dominate her palette, balanced by the sheen of gold, silver, and in her most recent work, aluminum leaf. The rich encaustic of the surfaces seems burnished to a soft glow and have the look of things that have been intently looked at, visually and literally caressed. Two of the larger works in the exhibition are Leaf Altar for Nunzia 1913-2004 (2008) and Dawn/Light (2009), scaled to the human but enhanced. Each resembles an altarpiece of sorts and both display her signature color scheme of silver with a few wine red leaves and metallic rose whorls. They function, in some ways, as a pair. The former is a memorial to her mother, its luminous surface incised with a pattern of leaves pointing heliotropically upward, as if searching for the light. A ledge is attached across it for offerings, perhaps, and placed before it are three tree trunks that double as stools, as if her mother is also still offering sustenance and love to her children - and they to her. The latter is a memorial to herself, marking a shift from one stage of life into another. Ten feet high, it is both steel and portal, its imagery of leaves, rippled lines of stylized water, spiraled ovals and so forth are all symbols of flux and metamorphoses, topped by a series of signs that invokes ancient writing or a secret code. The composition is both representational and notational, the surface mostly monochromatic, a lovely indeterminate color that is more light than color, as if the solid object were in the process of dissolution, its mode more interrogatory, a proposal rather than a statement. Azara said that gold leaf had figured prominently in her work for many years in monumental installations such as the stunning Maxi's Wall (2006) and Heart Wall (1999), shown recently in New York, both important pieces in her oeuvre, cousins at a remove to those of James Lee Byars. These aluminum leaf sculptures are the next phase of that, quieter, softer for the time being, heralding a period of reflection and re-assessment.

Like Queen of Spades (2009), another vertical work, its surface interrupted by a cascade of pink that suggests the folds of a gown and an attachment that mimics the ruff worn by queens of old, this abstract, ambiguous Queen, as part of the Tart deck, as surrogate for the artist, has something to say about instinct, chance and destiny.


Maxi's Wall Intensely spiritual in a transhistorical and transcultural way, this assemblage of vertical forms reads like a call to celebration. Composed of various shapes and sizes, its colors and images have long been associated with the artist. The reaching hands and the gold are hallmarks. There are also shades of red and purple and an occasional heart. These contemporary spirit poles evoke thoughts of tribal rites and universal prayer.


Nancy Azara, like Magdalena Abakanowicz and Louise Bourgeois, typically groups her forms together: while we read these works as unities, they are usually composed of 10 or 20 parts. Besides the theme of extension and growth, Maxi’s Wall also explored themes of protecting, sheltering, confronting, and mothering”


Nancy's collages are "mixed media collage drawings seamlessly combining a contemporary printmaker’s aesthetic with organic mark making."


My sculpture is carved and painted wood, often with gold and silver/aluminum leaf and encaustic. My Collage/Scrolls include large rubbings, tracings and painted cutouts on Mylar scrolls. The wood, the paint, the layers that make up the sculpture and collage/scrolls record a journey of images and ideas from within memory, often using leaves, hand prints and tracings and rubbings as a metaphor.

I have been carving sculpture in wood for a long time. It has felt like a good “fit” for me as I have always admired trees and I often even as a child felt that they held a metaphor for my experience of life. Most recently my work has been about the cycle of time, about the death of my mother, about the birth of my granddaughter, (See Maxi’s Wall, and Leaf Altar for Nunzia) and my own aging.

I have recently exhibited my work in one person exhibitions such as: Tuscon Spring: Rubbings, Scrolls, and Other Works, curated by Harry Weil at A.I.R. Gallery in Dumbo (2016), the exhibition I am the Vine, You are the Branches at St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church, Brooklyn Heights, NY was held during the Lenten celebration, Of leaves and vines . . . A shifting braid of lines at SACI Gallery in Florence, Italy was in 2015. Group exhibitions includeSo Much, So Little, All at Once, organized by Yevgeniya Baras was at Regina Rex Gallery; Allegory of Leaves at New Jersey State University; Allegory of Leaves at New Jersey State University; Atwater Art Gallery in Rhinebeck, NY; Pseudo Empire, Brooklyn, NY; Gallery Sensei, NYC; Scripps College in Claremont, CA and at the Asya Geisberg Gallery in Chelsea, NY. Earlier one woman exhibitions: Donahue/Sosinski Art, the Andre Zarre and A.I.R. Galleries in New York City, the Froelick Gallery, Portland, Oregon, the Tweed Museum in Duluth, Minnesota, Rudolph E. Lee Gallery in Clemson, N.C., the Gwinnett Fine Arts Center in Duluth, Georgia and group shows such as the traveling Rutger’s University exhibition, How American Women Artists Invented Post-Modernism. I was the featured sculptor at the SANYI Museum, NANCY AZARA in Taiwan in 2008.

I have written an article for The Brooklyn Rail "The Language of Art is Still Defined By Men". My book, Spirit Taking Form: Making a Spiritual Practice of Making Art (Red Wheel/ Weisers) explores issues of art and spirituality. I have an essay, “In Pursuit of the Divine” for The Kensington and Winchester Papers: Painting, Sculpture and the Spiritual Dimension, (Onerios Books).

I was a founder of the New York Feminist Art Institute (NYFAI) in 1979, where I was on the board and taught a workshop called “Consciousness Raising, Visual Diaries, Art Making” for many years. I have had residencies in both the United States and Canada, in Europe and India, most recently at the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, Umbertide, Italy; Bogliasco Foundation, Genoa, Italy; Chikraneketan in South India (state of Kerala); La Macina di San Cresci, Greve, Italy; and I am on the board of the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild, Woodstock, NY and Soho20 Gallery in Chelsea, NY.

Video © 2013 Candy Mar

Video © 2011 Candy Mar

Video © 2009 Candy Mar

Read about Nancy's work on Joanne Mattera's Art Blog, March 2010