COMMENTS about MARY NASH

“Mary Nash, who lives in Vienna, Virginia, has developed an outsider-like vocabulary of skull-like images which are repeated with numerous variations in large-scale symmetrical drawings.  Nash’s art is also concerned with altering her environment, as she constantly surrounds herself with everyday objects that have been transformed into complex assemblages by being wrapped or covered in Christmas lights, doll’s heads and other found detritus.”

DAN CAMERON, Guest Curator, 1995 New Orleans Triennial, New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA

“Something that I have noticed about Nash’s images here are that they are unforgettable.  The more that I have thought them, the more I have realized that I can’t get them out of my mind.  They are truly unforgettable.”

DAN CAMERON, Guest Curator, 1995 New Orleans Triennial, New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA

“I think that each of your recent drawings are striking in that they contain numerous surrounding icons related to each portrait that invites the viewer to linger and return to discover the whole tale.  A single image containing the whole story.

FRANCIS HO, Professor Emeritus, Fine Arts Department, Washington State University, WA

“Mary Nash is an artist living in Vienna, Virginia.  Her paintings, photographs and artists’ books have been widely shown and major museums and collectors have acquired them.  Her recurring themes of mythology and symbolic representation are well-capsuled in Skulls Are Forever, a book which deserves wider  opportunity…”                                                                                                                    

STEPHEN FLINN YOUNG, Editor, The Southern Quarterly and Regional Editor for Art Papers

“I bet most of you want to know what’s going on in her “Center of the Universe” at left.  Meet Mary Nash, self-described visionary artist.  Nash represents a new hybrid of artist – an educated, outsider folk artist.  That’s artspeak for “suburban genius.”  Mary Nash’s Center of the Universe-her living room-certainly updates the period rooms at the DAR.  Her inventive assemblages of dolls and doll parts, Christmas lights and bottle caps (Three Trees and a Serpent has 12,000 bottle caps), tinfoil and painted household appliances and high-heeled shoes shake up your brain cells.  Clues to Nash’s personal mythology are evident in the eyes, skulls and Bible stories.  Powerful drawings.  Deceptively naive paintings.  Check out Nash’s work at the Emerson Gallery in McLean, Va., before she’s discovered by People magazine.”

SARAH GRUSIN, Art Critic, Washington Flyer magazine, Washington, DC

“Although a fair number of contemporary trained artists have been nourished by folk art, none to my knowledge can claim the reason that you have–family exposure to a self-taught artist…Although, it is often easy to accept the categorization of others, I do not find your work eccentric.  That is not a negative judgment, but instead intended as an encouraging statement, since I think the art world continues to use such words as a convenient out when confronted with some things that appear not to fit a moment, style, or expectation.  Your work is certainly expressionistic in orientation, and shares certain grapic tabloid qualities with the Chicago Imagists, once rebels against the mainstream but now certainly folded in the canon of contemporary art’s accomplishment.”

LYNDA ROSCOE HARTIGAN, Associate Curator, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

“Mary Nash’s work stood out in this otherwise ho-hum show.  Her Saint Pickett is a naive and simple portrait of the saint as a gaping, obsessed individual, wide-eyed and wearing glasses.  The plywood ground is cut in the shape of the figure, reinforcing the primitive references.  The image is stark, yet persistent.”

MARCY MCDONALD, Art Critic, New Art Examiner

“Mary Nash’s archetypal pair Adamo and Evelyn makes a strong impression in the context of the exhibition.  The highly schematic, frontal figures are rendered in a primitive, simplified, thickly contoured style.  They stand in a maze of electrifying linear texture.”

WENDY SLATKIN, Art Critic, Arts Magazine

“In Mary H. Nash’s paintings and drawings, we are immediately arrested by the personal symbolism which is the hallmark of her original style.  There is a strong narrative element in the bold images.  Although Nash cannot be called a naive artist – she is well educated in fine arts and art history – her work presents certain affinities with folk art.  In its conscious disregard of anatomical rules and the use of narrative, her art expresses a primitive energy.  The characters in her tableaux are acting in a scenario created by the artist, an expression of a personalized mythology.  This rejects rules of perspective and proportion in the presentation of human form to heighten the symbolic relationships.”

 LENORE D. MILLER, Director of University Galleries, The George Washington University, Washington, DC

“Another grouping of works offered a glimpse of an inner world of fantasy: Mary Nash…able to match strong decorative motifs with equally intense subject matter.”

LENORE D. MILLER, Director of University Galleries, The George Washington University, Washington, DC

“Nash’s…primary visual concerns relate to narrative and symbolism which frequently incorporate portrayals of people and…personification of inanimate objects…”Volcano People” shows people being spewn out of a volcano that seems to have a life/energy/force/personality of its own…The painters in this exhibition demonstrate an interest in going beyond the pictorial, searching for visual equivalents using the vehicle of painting to envision their inner worlds.  The impetus for such personal exploration is diverse, indeed, but the need for such expression may be universal.”

LENORE D. MILLER, Director of University Galleries, The George Washington University, Washington, DC

“Virginia artist and self-described visionary Mary Nash, a GW alumna, will be showing several works, including a George Washington portrait painted on a t.v. cathode tube.  It is as if the artist needs to personalize the pervasive intrusion of the media.”

LENORE D. MILLER, Director of University Galleries, The George Washington University, Washington, DC

“Brightest of all the wall decorations are those of Mary Nash, another MFA graduate whose painted wood ensembles have made it all the way to the Whitney Museum.  Yet her works have the deceptive simplicity of native arts from Latin America.  “Face Rockets” features the head of a haloed God the Father on a blue and white cloud which resembles a braided rug, approached by three rising red rockets, personalized with wide-eyed faces, after burning iridescently in pursuit of mystic union.  From Nash’s apparent simplicity of style and deceptive simplicity of meaning,…”

JAMES THOMPSON, Art Critic, Asheville Citizen-Times, Asheville, North Carolina

“…look especially professional here…as do Mary Nash’s mysterious narratives in a folk art guise.”

JO ANN LEWIS, Art Critic, The Washington Post, Washington, DC

“Mary Nash has created some of the most imaginative skulls since Jose Posada.  Nash’s bold drawings suggest the skulls on colonial tombstones, but her skulls are not only of people, but of clouds, mountains, valleys, and the oceans.  Many of the skulls have expressions that are simultaneously stricken and childlike.  As one turns the pages of this book, the catalog of distress and sweetness becomes more and more inclusive, and finally spans the stars.  Nash’s perspective is strongly religious, at times a little reminiscent of Jim’s vision in J. G. Ballard’s autobiographical novel, Empire of the Sun, that no one needs to worry, we can’t be killed because we’re dead already.”

GEORGE GESSERT, Art Editor, Northwest Review, Eugene, Oregon

“In sharp contrast…are the big, bold and somewhat menacing images in the paintings of Mary Nash.  Her style is neo-primitive, not unlike that of untrained “native” painters who overcompensate for their lack of drawing skills or knowledge of perspective and proportion by obsessively concentrating on specific details.  In Ms. Nash’s case, it is most effective.”

RUTH LATTER, Art Critic, The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, VA

“Nash, who has a professional background in art, deliberately paints like an untrained artist.  In her monumental paintings on view, she employs such unexpected devices as inaccurate perspectives and proportions, childlike images, raw color and obsessive patterning.  Moreover, a somewhat sinister mood prevails.  The compositions are both frightening and funny.”

RUTH LATTER, Art Critic, The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, VA

“…Mary Nash,…are all visionary artists who belong to greater or lesser degrees to the ‘mainstream’ artworld of schools, galleries, and museums…She (Nash) has developed a body of work that attempts to demonstrate what is on the inside is of greater importance than outward appearance.  This belief is illuminated in her series of skull paintings.”

FRANK THOMSON III, Curator, Asheville Art Museum, Asheville, NC

“Mary Nash was one of five artists I selected for an exhibition titled Inside Visions.”  This was one of the two opening exhibitions for the Asheville Art Museum’s new location in the Pack Place Education, Arts , and Science Center.  I think that you will realize how much importance we placed on these opening exhibitions and that should give you some sense of the esteem with which I regard Mary Nash and her work.  The current artworld seems to be gradually cleaving into two distinct realms: the realm of the MFA artist, who regards commercial rewards as the ultimate signifier of artistic success and the other realm seems to be that of the Visionary or Outsider artist, people who perform their labors unaware of their relationship to art, whether contemporary or historical.  This division has come about for a variety of reasons, most perhaps are beyond the control of artist or curators.  That is why it is so momentous to discover artists who have the capacity to bridge the chasms.  Mary Nash is such an artist, and her work authentically speaks to both realms, the work of the Museum and the Gallery as well as the world of the psyche and the spirit.”

FRANK THOMSON III, Curator, Asheville Art Museum, Asheville, NC

“Mary Nash is no more constrained by propriety.  Her spiral-bound, sturdily produced Skulls Are Forever…begins as offbeat humor and gradually becomes truly loony.  Crude but emphatic drawings illustrate Nash’s “secret truths,” some incontrovertible, some debatable,…”

NANCY PRINCENTHAL, Art Critic, The Print Collectors Newsletter

“Funky portraits are Mary Nash’s signature.  Like her fellow artists in this exhibition, she draws with detail and extreme care.  Hundreds of small shapes individually executed combine to form texture for a garment or a backdrop.  Her subjects’ eyes are frequently hidden behind dark glasses or blinders or ribbon.  Her strange cartoon-like people are remote and hide their personalities from us in sightly sinister ways.”

WINIFRED BELL, Art Critic, The Berkshire Eagle, Massachusetts

“…a gallery full of GW images, ranging from a…Gilbert Stuart portrait to a conceptual commentary by Mary Nash, in which a pair of ornate shoes are stuffed with what appear to be shredded one dollar bills.”

KEN ODA, Editor and Art Critic, KOAN, Ken Oda’s Art Newsletter, Silver Spring, MD

“Self-described as a visionary artist, university-educated Mary Nash works in a realm most often inhabited by “self-taught” or “outsider” artists.  Her bizarre and sometimes unsettling images, however, are executed with a technical grace not often found in works of this nature.  Nash, who is also known for her artist’s books, paintings, and cut-outs, has used ink on paper for these large, startling statements in black and white.”

GARY BOLDING, Curator, Duncan Gallery of Art, Stetson University, DeLand, FL

“We are always delighted to expose students, colleagues, and the community-at-large to such strong work. “Worlds on Paper” was extremely well attended by a diverse audience, and I have heard nothing but praise regarding the exhibition.  On a personal level, it was a pleasure to be able to spend some time with your work.”

GARY BOLDING, Curator, Duncan Gallery of Art, Stetson University, DeLand, FL

“Also adopting a consciously primitive manner to convey a private mythology, Mary Nash of Virginia draws skull figures, hard-edged, assertively symmetrical, and finished with compulsive detail.  Thorny Rose Skull (1992, ink on paper, 41″ x 29″) equates woman with a flower, the aggressive thorns accentuating the female’s sometime menacing quality.  Killer Woman Skull (1992, ink on paper, 41″ x 29″) is no less fearful, with little daggers laced at regular intervals through her flesh.  In Bird Man Skull (1992, ink on paper, 41″ x 29″), a prickly nest rests uneasily atop the pointed ovoid head, the figure’s eyes a series of concentric circles, his teeth clenched in heavy black line.  Buzzards with echoing circular eyes prey on the eggs in the nest.”

DR. DOROTHY JOINER, Art Critic, Art Papers, Atlanta, GA

“More thrills and chills are in store with five ink drawings on big sheets of white paper by Mary Nash, also from Virginia.  If it’s hard to move past the…pastels, works like Ms. Nash’s startling “Two-Faced Skull” or “Jack-O-Skull” make such a shift exciting.  Those crisp, careful drawings of nightmares seem childlike at first glance, then horribly sophisticated.  Ms. Nash, whose background includes university training in art, works with simple, stylized forms that suggest a self-taught artist’s inner visions.  Her cool approach and obvious control, however, add a note of elegance that makes her work absolutely sinister.  Suitable though such sensational pieces are for the autumn art season…Nothing in these works, or in the more bombastic paper pieces by such operatic artists as Ms. Nash and Shanks, hints at the impact they may have on us after we leave the gallery and find ourselves reflecting on what we’ve seen – and how it makes us feel.  Art like this, ready and able to work on many levels, delights and resonates, it shows the potential of an old, often overlooked medium and presents it in a variety of forms, styles, subjects and techniques.  The pieces in “Worlds on Paper” summarize contemporary ideas in art, in a narrow but substantial slice, without abandoning something that modernism forgot:  Art is really fun.”

LAURA STEWART, Art Critic, The Daytona Beach Sunday News-Journal, Daytona Beach, FL

“…Mary Nash takes portraiture past traditional limits in her first large-scale solo show in the metropolitan area.  Nash’s show…is a whirlwind tour of color and motion on one hand and a high contrast examination of life and death on the other.  The most prominent imagery present in Nash’s work is that of skulls.  Her portraits grin with skull teeth and give animation to inanimate objects such as knives and hair.  Nash works, however, to make sure the skull imagery is more whimsical than alarming…The juxtaposition of life and death is apparent in “Blossom/Bird Skull,” a piece that appears both in the show and on the cover of the brochure advertising the exhibit.  A pen and ink drawing depicts a flower with a skull face looking straight out of the painting, with a hummingbird flying just below the flower about to harvest nectar.  The bird also has the wide-open eyes and skull teeth that characterize many of Nash’s faces.  Nash’s painted cutouts are the more colorful side of the show, and there are faces on many of her geological entities…Nash’s home is a work of art in itself.  Her “Center of the Universe” installation in her living room is a collection of found objects including more than 2600 electric lights and a group of TV sets with skulls painted on the screens and their own TV guides.”

EUGENIA E. GRATTO, Critic, The Connection, McLean, VA

“Purple pyramids rest on top of smiling orange skulls, bright stars come alive, and planets orbit the Earth at the new art exhibit at the National Center Gallery in Reston.  The exploding volcanoes, the moon and the sea shaped in the form of skulls and other idiosyncratic imagery may have people thinking that they have walked into a Grateful Dead show, but talking with artist Mary Nash gives wonderful insight into the meaning behind her work…Mary Nash is a nationally recognized artist whose work has been displayed in more than 80 shows…For example, “Earth (Mad Planet)” is a representation of the Earth orbiting three spheres.  Earth is in the shape of a human skull painted with dashes of red, green and blue.”

ED GUTOWSKY, Critic, Sun Gazette, Merrifield, VA

“At the other extreme there’s no missing Mary Nash’s nutty “GW TV” (1995), composed of beads and found objects glued to a television screen.”

HANK BURCHARD, Art Critic, The Washington Post Weekend Magazine, Washington, DC

“The exuberance of Nash’s flamboyantly colored paintings is uplifting, even when some of the subject matter could be interpreted as macabre.  Often a large central cutout is orbited by smaller pieces, as in “Domestic World,” 1988.  Common objects such as shoes, scarves and hats are seen rotating around the earth.  In “Face Rockets,” 1989, three rockets with human features aim upward toward a cloud bearing the face of God (who else wears a white beard and halo?) surrounded by stars.

Elements of the natural sciences frequently appear inextricably interwoven with the skull imagery, as in “Earth (Mad Planet)” 1990,  in which the earth is a grimacing skull orbited by planets and moons.  Although such imagery could be characterized as fatalistic, such an interpretation would seemingly be contrary to Nash’s intentions…

Nash’s black and white drawings are mask-like and static in contrast to the neon vitality of her paintings.  While the paintings depict forces of nature and celestial bodies, the drawings focus on smaller scale examples of our natural world such as flowers, plants and insects.  Skulls populate the drawings as well, but appear more stark and totemic when rendered in ink.  Humor is to be found here too, as in “Blossom/Bird Skull” 1992, in which grimacing hummingbirds recoil from a skull faced flower…

There is something immanently likable about an artist who can play with the subjects of death, transcendence and the cosmos without taking herself too seriously.  Given the time span of the work in this exhibit, which ranges over the past ten or fifteen years, Nash’s work is remarkably consistent in theme and style.  Consistent but never jaded.  Nash retains a delightful eccentricity and a rare ability to see with fresh eyes after years of exploration.  It is heartening to find a local artist of such spirited originality.”

SUZANNE S. SUMMERS, Art Critic, Articulate – Washington & Baltimore’s Contemporary Art Review, Highland, MD

“The moon is our closest neighbor in space and has inspired artists, dreamers and lovers for thousands of years.  Moon images can be found all over the world, produced by many different groups and cultures.  Often the moon is associated with female attributes and in western legends is referred to as a “she”…Is this moon mask by Mary Nash…male or female?  Is the moon fierce, kind, powerful, mysterious or lonely?  Has the artist portrayed the rational or the irrational aspects of the moon?”30

DAVID EDLEFSEN and JULIE DECKER, Curators,  Anchorage Museum of History and Art, Anchorage, Alaska

“Mary Nash has skulls on the brain.  The Virginia-based artist fills her black-and-white drawings with images of skeletons in motion, wearing expressions that range from celebratory to pensive to downright worried…Like the work of fellow southerner Lee Brown Coye…”

CASEY SEILER, Burlington Free Press, Burlington, Vermont

“Avile’s favorite piece in the exhibition was Mary Nash’s “Wild Woods Woman” which is Nash’s interpretation of the Green Leaf Man, a mythological figure who symbolizes nature.”

KARL DRERUP ART GALLERY, Plymouth State University, NH

“Thank you, Mary!  I am thrilled to have you in the show.”

LUANN T. PALAZZO, The Design Diva, New York for “A Book About Death: The Last Waltz” Exhibition at the Islip Art Museum, East Islip, NY

“…le prix du jury est revenu a Mary Nash, grande dame de la peinture americaine avec une longue carriere et de nombreuses recompenses.”

Trente-quatre artistes au 5e Salon International Art Resilience, “Le Jury du Salon a Decerne Cinq Prix,” France