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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Vernita E Nemec AKA N’Cognita

NYC,
USA

Vernita Nemec AKA Vernita N’Cognita’s first installation artworks in the mid-70’s were the fragments and detritus of her artmaking, transferred from the walls of her studio to the gallery. She continues creating installations both as site-specific works and as backdrops for performance artworks. Mixed media collages & photographs are also within her oeuvre.

A sense of autobiography has permeated all of Nemec’s art since her first feminist performance in 1978, during which she swept a street corner in SoHo, where she still lives and works. Her first official performance was at the Guggenheim Museum in Meredith Monk’s Juice. Since then, she has performed her own work at the Women’s Building in Los Angeles, La Mama, Franklin Furnace and other venues including a Guerrilla Performance at the Pompidou in Paris.

The artist added “N’Cognita” to her name to honor lesser-known artists. She has been active as a visual/performance artist and curator since the late 1960’s, when she co-curated X-12, the first feminist art show of the period. The artist has worked with Artworkers Coalition (AWC), Women Artists in Revolution (WAR), Artists Meeting for Cultural Change and later, PADD (Political Art Documentation Distribution) and has served on the Board of Heresies, a feminist publication.

During the 90’s, Nemec served as Director of Artists Talk On Art, interviewing art world luminaries, and as an independent curator at Henry Street Settlement for the Arts. Until 2006, she was the Director of Viridian Artists, a contemporary art gallery in Chelsea. She is now on the Board of Directors of the feminist gallery SoHo 20.

Nemec completed her BFA cum laude at Ohio University and received an NDEA Grant for her MA from New York University. Since, she has received grants from the Jerome Foundation, Artists Space, Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance Art, The Puffin Foundation, among others. The artist has presented her visual and performance art in the U.S., Mexico, Hungary, Germany, Japan, Ireland and France.

Feminist Artist Statement

Autobiography & what it is to be a female is a constant thread, whether I am performing a word & movement piece (AKA performance art) or creating a physical artwork.

My artmaking is a way of translating my thoughts, fears and fantasies into installations, performances, photographs, collages and poetry. With paper, torn edges, found objects and images, I seek to create a visual autobiography with my art. Addressing issues of relationship, loss and self-actualization (AKA Feminism) my fragmented imagery, though seemingly disconnected, is imbued with complexities and nuances that I feel reflect our 21st century lives.

In 1997 I wrote: “My art is about anger, pain, pleasure, hopes, regrets, mistakes, love, hate, freedom, recycling, adolescence, childhood, dolls, aging, happiness, fantasies, dread, fear, beauty, nature, politics, power, destruction, distraction, sexuality, sexism, feminism, spirituality, illness, healing, drugs, envy, science, art, history, memories, dreams, nightmares, hopelessness, confusion, play, daddy, mommy, secrets, lies, life, death, detritus, innuendo, art making and chance.”

My art is about all that still, regardless of what media I use.

In the late 70’s & early 80’s, I tackled adolescent memories and wanting better love; feminism, artmaking and the conflicts therein. In the nineties I struggled with issues of identity and purpose and now in the twenty-first century, I have added the dilemma of aging.

A would-be dancer, singer and actor, I put all that, along with my poetic ambitions, into my performance art. My visual artworks, have included series of Haiku Collages, Body Prints, Dick Drawings & The Endless Junkmail Scroll to name a few. I save everything, in case I can later turn it into art. My studio, where I have lived & worked since 1972, is filled with the detritus of my life, both frustrating & inspiring me.

In 1969, as I began my New York City art career, I learned firsthand the difficultly of exhibiting art when one is of the female gender. I was fortunate to find Art Workers’ Coalition (AWC) and Women Artists in Revolution (WAR). The meetings I attended and the artists I met gave me the courage to organize with a friend the first Feminist Exhibition (X-12, 12 Women Artists) of that time. For a girl from Ohio, it was a daring act, but one that proved to be a gesture of power and evidence for me, demonstrating that through our actions, we often determine our the courses of our lives.

<p>Brooklyn Blues</p>

Brooklyn Blues

Part of a series of “Security Collages” made from recycled papers as I attempt to make art from materials otherwise discarded. It is a 3-D Collage of security envelopes fragmented, burned, torn and painted. My mother and uncles, all artists, used to sketch on the backs of envelopes, which led to my fascination with using envelopes as an art material.

Brooklyn Blues

Part of a series of “Security Collages” made from recycled papers as I attempt to make art from materials otherwise discarded. It is a 3-D Collage of security envelopes fragmented, burned, torn and painted. My mother and uncles, all artists, used to sketch on the backs of envelopes, which led to my fascination with using envelopes as an art material.

Killing Beauty

Killing Beauty is a segment of an ongoing paper work I began in 2006 entitled the Endless Junkmail Scroll.

It is made from recycled papers as I attempt to make art from materials otherwise discarded. At present, in 2008, it is already more than 300 linear feet and torn into segments as fragments are framed, sold and exhibited. It is a 3-D Collage of security envelopes fragmented, burned, torn and painted. My mother and uncles, all artists, used to sketch on the backs of envelopes which, along with my concern for the environment and the importance of recycling, led to my fascination with using envelopes as an art material.

Endless Junkmail Scroll

The Endless Junkmail Scroll is a work begun in 2006 as a statement about the plethora of junkmail and one possible solution. It is an ongoing piece with fragments torn and separated for both framed and unframed presentations. Long segments are installed to twist and curl around a space, filling the air with detritus transformed.

Clinging Vine

Clinging Vine is part of a series of collages cast of security envelope papers transformed and pressed onto a mold of bricks to create a wall fragment. On the works I have images of photos I have taken on various long & short journeys and voyages.

Paper Doll

Many of my primarily solo performance works come out of memories. Paper Doll was inspired by a childhood memory of my sister and the paper dolls I loved as a girl. Here I am both the paper doll making her own clothing and a real woman talking about feminist fascinations and being a female in a man’s world. Butoh movement and a monologue of 20 minutes.

Transformation Daze

This solo Transformation Daze was commissioned for an exhibition in Darmstadt, Germany, in their world famous gardens. Translating the theme of gardens into a Butoh performance, I am a caterpillar that becomes a butterfly, which morphs into a snake.? Layers of costume are removed as I finally morph into a snake that eats the apple in the Garden of Eden. In this image, I am still a caterpillar. The next time I hope to perform this piece with these costumes on a shore washed up with trash from our polluted waters…a 21st Century garden…

Bohemian Barbie in Paris

I have been creating “Barbie” performances for nearly the past decade, in an effort to deal with being an aging woman. Various incarnations have been born but the primary works have been about “Bohemian Barbie” becoming an “Aging Activist Barbie”. This image is of “Barbie in Paris,” a guerilla performance presented at the Pompidou. I go on for about 20-30 minutes with fighting Barbies, putting on make-up and Butoh-izing various stereotypical postures of what a woman is supposed to be.

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361 Canal St #2
NYC,
USA

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