By Sonia Cosco
Translated from Italian into English by Carol Wasserman
February 28, 2013
Nancy Azara, Rhododendron with citrus leaves (2012)
Like the knots in wood which gather ancient complexities, the art of sculptor Nancy Azara draws inspiration for her carvings from both present and past, nature and spirit, her Italian roots and her New York present.
Looking at her work, we imagine Nancy Azara as a woodland spirit with a feather-light touch which arrests time and enchants the spectator with instruments that incise, carve, color, blend. On exhibition in Florence at the SACI Gallery until March 10 with Of Leaves and Vines, the artist brings to Italy her works, often made of carved and painted wood, or mixed technique collages (from mylar to paper, from paint to splinters of wood).
Elegant wood inlay sculptures and collages with gold and silver laminate. Where does your art originate and what does it want to say?
My art is inspired by my need to speak another language, in addition to those requiring the use of words. Painting and sculpture have their own specific types of language, different from spoken and written languages. Often it is simpler to make contact with a spiritual dimension through visual forms. In fact, my works attempt to explore another dimension of my (or our) life. I make use of metallic laminates because their qualities recall both the light of the sun and the light of the moon, two elements of life which I like to portray, in addition to other more worldly aspects. I am the author of a book called Spirit Taking Form: Making a Spiritual Practice of Making Art.
Please describe for us the itinerary of your solo show, inaugurated last February 14th at the SACI Gallery?
I exhibited my works at the SACI for the first time in 1999. So, when I was invited to work at the Macina di San Cresci in Greve I contacted the school, and they invited me to prepare a new solo show. Naomi Muirhead did a splendid job of setting up the exhibit.
How does one learn to combine various materials to reach such refined results?
As an artist I use my intuition when I have to choose the elements to associate in a piece. In this way, I use leaves as a metaphor of myself, as I do trees and wood. I like to contrast colors, luminous or opaque, strong or mild: because life too presents these contrasts. Carving wood allows me to impress my personal touch on the work, the ‘artist’s hand’ which touches the work, leaving signs and brush strokes impressed upon it in the course of time.
Nancy Azara, Jacket from the Silk Road (2012)
In 2007 you joined the Italian-American Visual Artists’ Network (IAVANET), founded in New York and consisting of artists of Italian-American origins and culture who resolve to promote the Italian-American cultural heritage though the language of art. Would you like to talk to us about this initiative?
I have been part of IVANET for some time, and take great pleasure in showing my works in New York beside those of other Italian-American artists. This network offers the intriguing opportunity to share our likenesses and differences. I am also part of a woman’s group called the Malia Collective, in which we share ideas and recognition. Lastly, I frequent the Calandra Institute in New York, which often organizes events for Italian-Americans.
In the context of IAVANET, you proposed Tree Spirit, a work which emphasizes your fascination with the folk and religious traditions of southern Italy. Does this confirm a bond with our country? And if yes, what is the creative imagery that you obtain from Italy?
Although I was born in the United States, I was brought up according to many of the folk and religious traditions of Southern Italy. Furthermore, I feel a creative bond to Italy, its countryside, its people and its art. After all, my ancestors lived there for thousands of years, and I feel this history still within myself. So, I am greatly influenced by the country of my ancestors, and I believe that my art expresses this bond. Some of the works in this show were created in Umbertide in 2010, and they constantly use references to vine leaves.
Nancy Azara, Secret Script One (2012)
Nancy Azara. Of Leaves and Vines
Until March 10
Florence SACI Gallery
via Sant’Antonio 11
Nancy Azara, Third Moon (2011)