Nicole Chesney was born in Cinnaminson, New Jersey in 1971. She began her undergraduate studies at California College of Arts and Craft and completed her BFA at the Massachusetts College of Art in 1997. In 2000, Nicole earned her Master’s degree from The Canberra School of Art in Canberra, Australia. Awards received include a Jutta Cuny-Franz Foundation Supporting Award in Düsseldorf, Germany, the UrbanGlass Award for New Talent, and The Corning Museum of Glass Rakow Commission. She has also created large-scale, site-specific commissions including those at 7 World Trade Center, New York and Massachusetts College of Art, Boston. Her work is exhibited and collected internationally including the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Palm Springs Art Museum, and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
Warm breath on cool glass, the play of cast shadows and light on a wall, falling feathers, a whisper — mysterious, gentle signs of life that invoke visceral, emotive responses. I imbue my paintings with their own distinct vitality similar to these subtle, often unnoticed whispers. Created from layers of oil paint on etched, mirrored glass, these paintings envelope viewers in a seductive, mysterious space. Their reflective, shining, richly saturated surfaces are unapologetic in their beauty and desirous, jewel-like appeal. Yet they never remain stable — the constantly changing ray of incidence and ray of reflection on their mirrored surfaces makes each visual encounter unique and ephemeral. For those that stay, look, and linger, the works slowly, subtly reveal new facets of themselves.
My work explores the relationship between light, space, visual perception, and imagination. The mirrored glass surfaces in these works not only create pieces that are always visually transforming, but also produce an optical depth that beckons viewers in. Viewers see a faint outline of themselves — a dark reflection that varies with the changing light and shade of oil pigment. Mirrors represent the human desire to see and reflect that which is desired. In this light, my paintings reflect back to the viewer their own imagined space — a desirous, inner landscape or an unknowable, future dreamscape.
These paintings not only portray these enigmatic spaces, but also are the spaces themselves. In a confluence of abstraction and realism, these paintings are nonrepresentational renderings of abstract spaces. In the words of Coleridge from The Sublime Somnambulist: “The sight of a profound sky is, of all impressions, the closest to a feeling. It is more a feeling than a visual thing, or, rather, it is the definitive fusion, the complete union of feeling and sight.”
Art historically, I am inspired by numerous varied sources, some of which include: Giorgio Morandi’s depictions of light and shadow; the soft, shimmering paintings of James McNeil Whistler; J.M.W. Turner’s landscapes; the emotive color fields of Mark Rothko; the subtle marks of Agnes Martin; the exploration of perception by artists associated with the Light and Space movement; and the sculptures of Anish Kapoor. While I take influence from various artists associated with Abstract Expressionism, my work in many ways reacts against the noisy, boisterous paintings championed by the protagonists of that movement. Rather, my work explores and in turn reveals the understated, ephemeral aspects of our world — whispers, innuendo, and intimacy — and offers a space for their contemplation.