Western Facades | What is the Who?

By Nance Van Winckel

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Graffiti as Poetry/Poetry as Graffiti

Nance’s visual art pieces, digital photo-collages, draw from the traditions of urban landscape photography, collage, mural, and graffiti art. Especially in the tradition of graffiti-artists, she is interested in the urban landscape as a kind of frontier and the graffer as pioneer. The graffer, in staking claims to boarded-up buildings that others perceive as wastelands, reclaims unclaimed space.

She has published several books of poetry and short stories. But the page is a by-invitation-only art. The wall is in your face. She is fascinated by the many ways poetic language may intersect with graffiti. Both are messages, but there’s a primacy she appreciates about graffiti. Graffiti are messages that must be conveyed. It’s all about emotions and ideas that are uncontainable. And as with poetry, the graffer tackles the big emotions of love and grief and, perhaps most of all, of sheer being, unequivocal presence. The graffer transforms the “self” into a cipher, a thing of mystery but a thing that must be noticed.

With graffitied “poetry,” words take on a new or “refreshed” intimacy. They are not just language acts but physical things: brush strokes and paint flecks.

Obsolescence and the Old Northwest

She is attempting to “capture” in these pieces a world that’s quickly passing. Many buildings Nance photographs are from small towns in eastern Washington and Montana. There’s still a feel of the Old West about these buildings. Some were associated with the former financial “engine” of the region: silver ore and lumbering, industries whose demise is reflected in the now dilapidated state of these formerly lovely buildings.

She is interested too in how an abandoned building, no longer having a life of “use,” may open itself to a new stature, albeit one that exists outside the confines of everyday life. She tries to “renew” these buildings, although perhaps paradoxically, only in a dimension that stands at the extreme other end of their former early 20th century grandeur; now they assume life through a digital dimension. She hopes, though, that as they’re released from their former bonds of “use,” the re-newed old buildings may completely defy a world of commerce and become something entirely “else.”

Gallery | Western Facades | What is the Who?
By Nance Van Winckel

All images in this gallery copyright Nance Van Winckel; images may not be copied or otherwise used without express written consent of the artist. Click image to view in larger size or to begin slideshow:

About Nance Van Winckel

Nance Van WinckelNance Van Winckel’s sixth book of poems is Pacific Walkers (University of Washington Press, 2013); her fourth collection of stories is Boneland (University of Oklahoma Press, 2013). A photo-collage novel will appear in 2015; excerpts appear in Kenyon Review Online. She’s received two NEA Poetry Fellowships and awards from the Poetry Society of America, Poetry, and Prairie Schooner.

Her text-based photo-collages have been published in Handsome Journal, The Southeast Review, The Cincinnati Review, Em, Dark Sky, Diode, Ilk, and Western Humanities Review. Her visual art has also been shown in the Durango Arts Center Gallery, Northwest Arts Center, Robert Graves Gallery, and Spokane’s Museum of Arts and Culture and the Chase Gallery. In September she will have a solo show at Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona.

She lives in Spokane, Washington and teaches in the low-residency MFA Program at Vermont College.

Learn more about Nance Van Winckel and her work at photoemsbynancevanwinckel.zenfolio.com.

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