may FEATURED artist

Nancy Morgan

Piscataqua Reflections

Ceres Street

Star Island

Born in Portsmouth, Nancy grew up in the Seacoast area and currently resides in Portsmouth. She is a self-taught fabric artist and has published two books on her process, which has evolved through her lifetime of sewing and her 20 years of experience. Currently, she owns Nancy Morgan Art, a working studio and gallery in Portsmouth. 

I Paint What I Love

by Nancy Morgan

Much has been written about the dilemma many artists face as to whether they should paint what they see or what they know. Does the artist clearly see what they are looking at, do they have the artistic ability to translate that image into a work of art? There are equally good discussions supporting these views: should the artist follow their heart and paint what they know or step outside of their comfort zone and challenge themselves?

I have followed this debate with great interest, and what I have personally gathered from this conversation (and ultimately decided to do with that information) is paint what I know, but not until I really see it. In my world, my brush is my sewing machine and my palette is my fabric. As a fabric artist, I have been perfecting my art for the past twenty years. When I started this journey, there was no doubt what my subject matter would be. I was born and raised in the Seacoast and have been witness to the countless changes that have occurred here. I thought I truly knew and appreciated every aspect of the cities and towns, the rivers, the mountains, and the sea. But once I decided to capture these scenes in fabric, it was like a filter had been removed from my eyes; everything became clearer and brighter, the details more distinct. Suddenly, I was seeing these familiar scenes in new ways. Now I translate this fresh image into a piece of art utilizing fabric, thread, and tulle so that others can have the opportunity to view the scenes in the same way that I do. For example, when I look at Ceres Street, I see a street full of vibrant colors, a street steeped in the history of Portsmouth. I see the South End with its peaceful, calm waters, and intimate settings, and I see the Oceanic Hotel on Star Island as beautifully regal, stoic, and timeless. These are all scenes that I have known for years, but now I am really seeing them, as if for the first time. And when I see things as they really are, not as I ‘know’ they are, my work becomes more intimate. 

There are many beautiful places in the United States and throughout the world that offer breathtaking scenes easily translatable to fabric art, but I have never been to these places and, as such, do not know them. So, when asked if the subject of my art is primarily local scenes, I humbly and confidently answer, “Yes!” I paint what I see, what I know, and what I love.

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