Margaret Sheffield statement
Nancy Azara’s sculptures, carved out of different woods, are powerful fusions of tree and human, each metamorphosing into the other, often within the same work. These works have the unmistakable poetry and passion of that ancient counterpoint between art and nature.
Her newest carved wooden piece, TIME PATH, exhibited June 2007 in Woodstock New York, in beautiful forest-estate is 12 feet tall monumental work. It both returns to and departs from earlier wood sculptures.
Azara recently wrote “For as long as I can remember, I have had an affinity with trees, and I have been carving them in my sculpture of many years. I think of them less as a “using” of nature and more of a “celebration“ of nature. I see trees as a profound stand in for the human, a metaphor for myself."
TIME PATH is both made of trees, and symbolically sited among trees. Com posed of 12 foot tall elements of cedar, TIME PATH stands in a grove in a forest in Woodstock. It compellingly reminds us of the religious and symbolic function of trees in communities and individuals. TIME PATH is architectural, like a huge portal or altar. It asks us to admire it, and also invites us to encircle and surround it, to be part of its space and its power.
The artist often chooses her sites because of the presence of certain trees, or groupings of trees. As quoted above, the tree has long belonged to the artist’s vision as an emblem for growth and integration of the self in nature. But increasingly she has chosen more varied miliu to exhibit her work in and sought after sites like ancient groves in Greece and Italy had a healing, meditative aura of their own. In nature, the artist finds places within which the work can be “born”. LIGHT PATH, like HAND/LILY of the year before, finds in its new site, a new identity; this identity is both rooted in the specific place in the natural world while simultaneously part of the artist’s creative self.
In another monumental sculpture MAXI’s WALL, inspired by the birth of her granddaughter, Maxi, the artist has constructed a vast cedar wall of vertical elements in which she universalizes images of birth and growth in her personal world as well as the rhythms of nature. In its columnar elements Azara invites the viewer to experience the work in spatial increments, as if we were invited to “read” the wall as a frieze-like book, as she wishes to affirm a primitive connection to wood, and the earth. Here, as in TIME PATH, Azara’s groupings of tree-like wooden elements, strongly evokes the tree worship of ancient civilizations. In MAXI’s WALL the artist has carved hands, of different scale to represent children’s as well as adult hands.
Birth is not a new subject to Azara who did an astonishingly beautiful sculpture in maple, in 1967, entitled BIRTH. Made of powerfully carved spirals of maple, the work prefigures much of the artist’s later themes.
In Azara’s carving, she contrasts rough, rawly carved elements with smoothly sanded areas. This opposition of textures and materials coheres into unities, but the wood is deliberarely never perfectly “polished” but left raw so that the viewer experiences the energies within the wood.
Azara was one of the founding sculptor members of the Feminist movementy in New York.
In these new sculptures she affirms her theme of growth in nature in a new yet ancient context , the identification of the female and the tree The result is work of startling beauty.
Oriented to the tree. Powerful fusion of tree, human and animal body, each metamorphosing into the other. Often within the same work.