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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Nancy Macko

Upland,
USA

A practicing artist since the early 1980’s, Nancy Macko has had over 20 solo exhibitions and participated in over 140 group exhibitions. Originally from Long Island, New York, she received her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin and her graduate degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. Her work is in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the UCLA Hammer Museum, the Portland Art Museum, the RISD Museum and the New York Public Library among others. She has received grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the James Irvine Foundation, and has had residencies at the Banff Centre for the Arts and the Musee d’Pont Aven in Brittany.

Macko’s first survey show, Hive Universe: Nancy Macko, 1994-2006, was exhibited at the Municipal Art Gallery in Los Angeles in 2006-7 and was accompanied by a full color catalog. This was the most substantive and comprehensive examination of her work to date and included over 60 pieces spanning various media—traditional and digital prints, video, and mixed media works on wood panels. The exhibition also included two video installations: Lore of the Bee Priestess (2004), post-production at Banff Centre for the Arts, Alberta, Canada, and Bee Stories (2006), created specifically for this exhibition. As part of the national Feminist Art Project, Hive Universe was the forerunning exhibition in Los Angeles to recognize the achievements of the feminist art movement.

Macko has been a member of the faculty at Scripps College since 1986. She served as Chair of the Department of Art and Art History from 1998-2003 and has been chair of the Gender and Women’s Studies Department for the past five years. She established the Scripps Digital Art Program in 1990. She has also served on: the Exhibitions Advisory Committee for LACPS (Los Angeles Center for Photographic Studies) (1994-6); the Art Advisory Committee for the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery (1996-8); the National Board of Directors of the College Art Association (1994-8); the Southern California Executive Board of ArtTable (2002-8); and the Advisory Board of the Southern California Women’s Caucus for Art (2003-8).

Feminist Artist Statement

Feminism has been at the heart of my work for over twenty-five years. Like a quiet undercurrent, a spring feeding the work it has enabled several important tangents to coalesce and form my most recent body of work, Hive Universe: Nancy Macko, 1994-2006. As early as the mid-seventies, I was discovering the roots of feminism in my early art training at CUNY Queens and in New York City in the mid-70’s. I continued this interest in the mid-west during undergraduate school at the University of Wisconsin, where I joined the newly formed Wisconsin Women in the Arts. During my graduate years at UC Berkeley, I had the opportunity to meet Judy Chicago and to contribute to the making of The Dinner Party (1979) in Santa Monica. I embraced this modern day matriarchal culture and it has had a profound influence on my artistic direction.

Today my spiritual and sometimes joyful work explores themes that encompass not only an imagined lineage of matriarchal cultures, in which the genders are equal—not one in which the female gender dominates in a reverse model of patriarchy; but also the mother/daughter relationship as it is experienced among bee priestesses, within the hive culture of the honeybees and within my own family. In my work, I have tried to weave a visually compelling narrative of courage, optimism and love by expressing the power of the sacred feminine—from nurturing to ferocious. Underlying the initial beauty of the work is a lifelong struggle to overcome the oppression and subjugation women are forced to endure. By visually implying the way in which “culture” is inscribed upon our bodies and psyches, I am also revealing the ways in which our creativity and life force carries on and can even move beyond these societal constraints.

Like two important predecessors, Ana Mendieta and Nancy Spero, I have incorporated elements of the “landscape as home” alongside powerful images of the female form excavated from pre-historic sites in an attempt to create a sense of hope for the future and the belief that we can each effect positive change within our lifetimes. I believe that if we can tap into the wisdom and ways of living from ancient times and imagine them in the distant future, we have a chance at changing the direction of the world and making it a safe place for all who inhabit it.

<p>22 X 30 plus square, #17</p>

22 X 30 plus square, #17

Early explorations of the mother/daughter relationship and a female lineage using wallpaper from my mother and grandmother’s homes. The predominating rose imagery seen here becomes an important visual signifier in my later digital and print work.

22 X 30 plus square, #17

Early explorations of the mother/daughter relationship and a female lineage using wallpaper from my mother and grandmother’s homes. The predominating rose imagery seen here becomes an important visual signifier in my later digital and print work.

Honeycomb Series #2

The Honeycomb Wall, 1992-4, was comprised of 100 wood panels each 11 1/2” in diameter. The panels contained found objects related to honey bees, the geometry of hexagons and the chemistry of honey as well as printed images produced from linoleum blocks and scanned and layered computer-generated images output as cibachrome photographs. In 1999, I translated the digital images from The Honeycomb Wall into a suite of five prints called the Honeycomb Series. These large ink jet prints were printed with permanent inks on Arches cold press paper using a Roland printer. Each one captures a distinct configuration created by the architecture of the wall.

Bucrania, #2

Bucrania, 1-12, is a suite of twelve archival digital prints, in which I am tracing the process of regeneration. The goddess Artemis is thought to be ruled by the moon and was called Melissa of Ephesus. The bull too belongs to the moon. Both the bull and the goddess Artemis belong to the moon and to the bees. Souls are bees and Melissa draws souls down to be born. Good souls can be reincarnated in bees. It is said that if you plant a bull’s head (a bucranium) in the ground in the spring, when the sun is in Taurus, a swarm of bees will issue forth from the horns. The notion is that the spirit of the bull passes into the life of the bees and the bees are thus “bull begotten.” The series imagines this movement of the soul as an almost physical form in the bucranium, as juices and bodily fluids, and as vapors disappearing out to the stars returning to an etheric state. The stardust and the clusters of rings act as references to the bees and the hive. As there is “life in death,” the bees represent resurrection and regeneration.

Amazon Rose

One in the “Our Very Lives” suite of large scale digital prints. Using images from old wallpaper, ancient artifacts from the Cucuteni period (5000-3500 BC) and paint-by-number drawings with the talisman of the bee priestess, these works draw upon notions of memory, time and the ancient past to pay homage to a female lineage that harkens back to the beginning of time. As women our experiences—both personal and public—are inscribed in and on our bodies like cultural tattoos that are often easily recognized and understood.

Talismans 2

Part of the “Our Very Lives” suite of large scale digital prints. Using images of old wallpaper, ancient artifacts from the Cucuteni period (5000-3500 BC) and paint-by-number drawings with the talisman of the bee priestess, these works draw upon notions of memory, time and the ancient past to pay homage to a female lineage that harkens back to the beginning of time.

In the Garden: Cornucopia

In the Garden:Cornucopia, a two-plate color etching and spit bite, is a bleed edge measuring 32 X 25”. The work recalls a time when the feminine was sacred and women were truly revered. The mysteries of fecundity and the life force are re-enacted through rituals that honor the sacred feminine. The visual reference to rich textiles and wall coverings may appear to give the work a sentimental edge but that is neatly overridden by the powerful images of an active feminine that knows no bounds allowing the work to sustain a sense of irony more than anything else. As part of a larger series of prints, this intaglio print creates an important intersection between my digital prints and my installations.

Through the Eyes of the Bee Priestess: Surveying the Land

Using a Canon EOS 20, a digital SLR camera, I shot images at Joshua Tree National Park in the spring of 2005 as part of a 24-hour photo shoot project and subsequent exhibition, Site Lines, at the California Museum of Photography in Riverside. The images were shot on the path of the 49 Palms Trail and from the property of the Homestead Inn on Two Mile Road in 29 Palms, where I stayed during the shoot. The images were manipulated (layered, color corrected) using Photoshop CS and printed on Epson Premium Glossy paper using an Epson Stylus Pro 9600. In using actual images of the landscape at dawn and pre-dawn, I wanted to convey the idea of another culture looking on—“surveying” as it were—thus the inclusion of the tripod and plumb bobs in the sky to suggest constellations of ancient cultures, and another albeit “feminine” presence. A four minute video tracking the desert light of dusk, pre-dawn and dawn and the predominating sounds of the wind and the animals accompanied the photo work in the gallery.

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Macko Studios, 1252 Monte Vista Ave, #21
Upland,
USA

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