February 19, 2019
My work is included in this newly published book about public art created for the Chicago Transit Authority. Text and design by Ruth Lopez and Jason Pickleman
Elevated: Art and Architecture of the Chicago Transit Authority, serves as a guide to the more than 70 works of art and 24 significant architectural elements showcased across the CTA system. Creation of the new book is part of CTA’s vision to expand and showcase public art across Chicago’s bus and rail system, while also enriching the experience and minds of those who travel the system each day.
July 6, 2018
Nicole Gordon is an artist and mom of three based in Chicago. She paints stunning surreal landscapes, which provide the viewer with a visual feast, and also creates sculpture and installation work. Nicole received her BFA from University of Michigan and also studied at the Lorenzo de’ Medici University in Florence, Italy. Throughout her career, Nicole has had over 20 solo exhibitions and has explored fascinating and deeply thought-provoking themes. Her early works, dived into the subject of mankind forsaking the environment driven by the Seven Deadly Sins. Her more recent themes, have been about surrendering to the loss of personal space, as well as exploring the tension which exists between the artificial and the real. Nicole has produced a truly astounding body of work which showcases phenomenal craftsmanship and unforgettable style. She’s currently preparing for her next solo show which will take place at the Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles next year.
June 26, 2018
Nicole, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
In high school I had a very influential art teacher as well as incredibly supportive parents who encouraged me to follow my passion and study art in college. I chose to get a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of Michigan so that I could balance a fine arts degree within a more liberal arts framework. During college, while I considered myself a painter, I experimented with every manner of medium. I had a professor who encouraged me to think much more conceptually about image making and encouraged me to experiment with expressing my ideas through use of a variety of materials. Interestingly I took very few painting classes and instead chose to learn different studio practices such as printmaking, fiber arts, photography and sculpture. After I graduated I spent the summer at an artist’s residency where I was able to make art without the structure of an assignment or deadline. It was the first time that I had total creative freedom. I think this could have gone one of two ways-I would either flounder without having a teacher guiding me, or the freedom would feed my creative energy. I found the latter to be true and after two months at the residency realized that art-making was essential to my daily routine.
When I returned to Chicago after the residency I began a Master’s degree in art education. I quickly realized that I wasn’t ready to jump straight in to another full-time degree program so left after only one semester to work and paint full-time. I found a studio in Chicago and began my journey of meeting other like-minded artists and finding my way in the Chicago art scene.
Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I am primarily an oil painter but also create site-specific installations where imagery from my paintings is reproduced three-dimensionally. These installations offer the viewer a fully immersive experience in which they can physically enter into the narrative of the work. I paint dreamscapes that represent the thrilling and terrifying worlds that we can create within our own minds if given the chance to truly be alone. When a child has the time and freedom to go into their self-constructed worlds—that is, through their own looking glasses—fascinating things come about. I try to tap into that place myself during my creative process and let traditional logic fade away. Part of the creation process for me is to try to operate in parallel meanings. In that sense, the work is not a mystery that is meant to be solved by the viewer, but rather something that puts them in a unique place and causes them to have thoughts that are out of the ordinary.
Do you think conditions are generally improving for artists? What more can cities and communities do to improve conditions for artists?
I think there has been a huge transformation of the art scene since I started working as a professional artist in Chicago. I think in some ways it has become harder for artists to find traditional gallery representation but Chicago offers a lot of alternative exhibition spaces in so many neighborhoods around Chicago. Artists are doing a really nice job of advocating for each other and creating interesting opportunities for themselves and each other. The virtual world is helping connect artists together like never before. I am personally so much more connected to other artists both locally and internationally because of this.
What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
I currently have an exhibition at The Art Center of Highland Park that runs through June 25th. I also have a large-scale painting in a group show at Bernarducci Gallery in New York City that will be on view until July 17th. In the studio I am working on new paintings for my second solo show at Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles that is slated for November 2019.
November 14, 2017
When did you know you wanted to pursue art?
I’ve been interested in making art for as long as I can remember. I decided to get a bachelor of fine arts degree in college because I couldn’t imagine my life without art as a central component. I still can’t imagine it.
Tell us about your process. How do you come up with each painting? Do you keep references, sketches or notes before you execute each piece?
I typically come up with a theme for a series of paintings that might include anywhere from 10 to 20 pieces that fit into an overarching concept. I keep an ongoing database of imagery that I draw from to create the narratives within the paintings. Sometimes I come across an image that gets added to my database that I might not find the appropriate use for until years down the road. Since the color palettes of my paintings greatly influence the mood of each piece, I like to work out my color combinations before the painting process even begins.
What inspires the color and imagery in your paintings?
My narratives are meant to be interpreted as dreamscapes so the hyper-saturated and high-key colors create a out-of-time feeling that isn’t rooted in reality. I try to choose imagery that is timeless and nostalgic.
Name a few of your influences.
I have been influenced by varying periods of art history throughout my artistic practice. I am currently very inspired by the female Surrealist painters who were creating works in which the subconscious mind was explored. Dorothea Tanning once wrote, “Keep your eye on your inner world.” This statement resonates conceptually with my newest body paintings that depict the thrilling and terrifying worlds that we can create within our own minds if given the chance to truly be alone. New York based artist Valerie Hegarty is a big influence on my art making practice because of her incredible ability to work in a variety of media and she continually explores new materials throughout her career. While I consider myself primarily a painter, I like to challenge myself to take my work off of the 2-dimensional plane and into the realm of sculpture and installation.
How important is fun and experimentation in your process?
Experimentation is a very important component to the way that I create my imagery. I create narratives and combine imagery from so many different sources that it requires a lot of experimentation with how the various layers of imagery relate to each other. I have a lot of fun with the process of creating these narratives in which I strive to contain both an air of whimsy as well as darker undertones that reveal themselves the more time that is spent with the work.
October 3, 2017
I’d say being high and Nicole Gordon’s paintings go hand-in-hand, but her work is so imaginative and otherworldly that it acts as a psychoactive on its own. Her paintings look like a cross between an extended-version of the Alice in Wonderland universe, and a bad acid trip. Some of her artwork carries social and political undertones; all of it will put you into a trance. I caught up with Gordon to find out what inspires her artwork, how to best tap into the creative flow, and what lies beneath the psychedelic chaos.
August 5, 2017
When you think of the Mad Tea Party ride at Disney Parks with its spinning teacups, you might associate it with words like fun or exciting. I think of words like nauseating and unhappiness—the Alice in Wonderland attraction doesn’t do it for me. And that kind of ties in with the whimsical and grim illustrations in artist Nicole Gordon’s Dehydrated Rainbow exhibit.
Currently on view at the Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles through August 12, the exhibit includes a handful of pieces featuring the teacup motif. They’re part of landscapes that have bright colors but are at odds with the usual scenes one finds at amusement parks. Gordon said in a release, “The spinning teacup ride is something so joyful and so innocent, but also so terrifying and sickening. I think it is something most people can relate to visually.”
July 17, 2017
August 20, 2017
You just finished your solo exhibition at Corey Helford Gallery entitled “Dehydrated Rainbow”. I find the title of the show fascinating. Does it represent your artistic vision for your new series where you contrast a world of whimsical fantasy with darker truths?
I think the title is fitting because of the contrast between the vibrant colors in the dreamscapes and the black and white figures that inhabit them. The figures are devoid of color to suggest that these narratives are the magical and fantastical worlds that we can create within our own minds if given the opportunity to seek inspiration inwardly rather than from the outside world.
Where did your inspiration for your new series stem from? Did your new works develop from a personal place? Did you learn any “darker truths” about yourself along the way?
In creating this series, I allowed myself to remember thought processes that I had as a child when everything was more mysterious, unlimited, and often frightening. During my childhood, there was quite a lot of time for creative and unstructured play. As a mother to school-aged children, it became very clear to me that the structure of my kid’s lives didn’t allow for nearly as much time for quiet self-reflection. I think that it is during these quiet, unburdened and unplugged moments that magical and creative things happen.
While working on this series I realized how challenging it was for me to unplug myself from my own rigorously structured life. It’s certainly a work in progress for both my children and me.
Repeated throughout much of your work is a teacup, reminiscent of the Walt Disney Mad Hatter Teacups ride. How did this idea develop and what significance does it have to your new body of work?
I specifically use the image of the Mad Hatter teacup ride for a variety of reasons. Firstly, I love that it’s such an iconic image and so easily recognizable. I think that having an iconic image helps people connect with the work on a personal level. Secondly, the ride can be simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying and these are the opposing emotions that I try to convey within the narratives of my paintings. Lastly, I use the Mad Hatter tea cup imagery because of its relationship to the story of Alice in Wonderland. The Alice in Wonderland tale weaves in elements of childlike innocence with darker undertones. This resonates conceptually with my work in which more somber narratives are revealed within a backdrop of hyper-saturated colors and playful imagery.
July 17, 2017
Nicole Gordon – Dehydrated Rainbow – Guest Blog
posted in: Guest Blogs | 1
‘Dehydrated Rainbow’ by Nicole Gordon
With my newest body of work, ‘Dehydrated Rainbow’, I have been primarily focused on the core concept of creativity when over-programming goes away. These dreamscapes represent the internal worlds that we can create when we aren’t distracted by daily scheduling. I try to tap into that place myself during my creative process and let traditional logic fade away. I allow myself to remember thought processes that I had as a child when everything was more mysterious, unlimited, and often frightening. When a child has the time and freedom to go into their self-constructed worlds, fascinating things come about.
Nicole Gordon - Bouquet
The imagery of Disneyland’s Mad Tea Party spinning teacup ride is featured predominantly throughout the show. The ride is often simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying, not unlike the experience of looking inwardly and relying on ourselves for a deeper understanding and connection with the world around us. The Mad Tea Party ride is associated with the story Alice in Wonderland, which resonates conceptually with my work. The Alice in Wonderland tale “straddles the line between childlike innocence and darkness. Like Alice and her topsy-turvy adventures, we can’t be certain about the truth within the mythology.” Not unlike these tales, my work weaves in elements of childlike innocence with a darker undertone that reveals itself the more time that is spent with the work. The narratives are sometimes disorienting and irrational, in stark contrast to the logic that guides our everyday lives.
Nicole Gordon - Tension
I was drawn to the phrase, Dehydrated Rainbow, as the title for the show because of its inherent absurdity. A real rainbow is the last thing in the world that could ever actually be dehydrated as it’s hydration is all it really has. On a literal basis, I think that the title is fitting because of the contrast between the vibrant colors in the dreamscapes and the black and white figures that inhabit them.
‘Dehydrated Rainbow’, will be on view at Corey Helford Gallery between July 15th and August 12th.
March 16, 2017
The frenetic pace of Gordon’s life set the stage for her most recent exhibit, Magnified, which was shown last spring at the Linda Warren Projects Gallery in Chicago. This exhibit set a series of exciting things in motion.
“I’ve never been much of a marketer,” says Gordon, a characteristic many artists might claim. “But someone from Hi Fructose Magazine saw Magnified and decided to feature my paintings in a 10-page spread. Then, I was contacted by a Spanish fashion designer called Armuseli—to create clothing items using my paintings. The current momentum is pretty amazing.”
The well-spoken, yet modest Gordon is now engrossed in her latest body of work that is scheduled to show in July at the Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles, one of the premier galleries of New Contemporary art. “While Magnified was about finding peace in the chaos, I’m flipping that idea and imagining what life would be like if we were given more space for quiet and reflective thought,” she says. “The narratives are the fantastical wild and crazy worlds that we can create for ourselves when we’re alone. Finding quiet, being reflective, and viewing the world creatively.”
This next solo exhibit of Gordon’s, yet untitled, will include 15-20 pieces at the gallery’s request, integrating a figure into each situation—typically in the form of a child.
“I’m very concept-based and series-based,” Gordon explains. “Typically, I have an overall concept for the entire series. Then, I find imagery that really resonates with me and fulfills that. I spend a lot of time creating the compositions. Sometimes I’ll create five, six, or seven compositions before I start painting them.”
Gordon keeps an ongoing database of imagery that she’s constantly referring back to. For this new body of work, she’s selected amusement parks and rides (many of them long-since abandoned) and things that mesh with pop culture iconography to convey her narratives. She’s drawing from experiences one has as a child and sometimes mixing them with something more sinister. One element that repeats throughout Gordon’s work is a teacup, reminiscent of the Walt Disney Mad Hatter Tea Cups ride. “The spinning teacup ride is something so joyful and so innocent, but also so terrifying and sickening,” Gordon says. “I think it is something most people can relate to visually.”
A third of the way through this new effort, Gordon is finding her color palette to be a bit darker and richer than past collections. “I might take a landscape and invert all of the colors so it’s not what you expected to see. My color selection is very dictated by a mood that I might be in or a path that I’m enjoying,” she says. “You’ll also notice that I’ve painted all of the figures in my paintings in black and white so they appear as ghostly figures. I want people to wonder if this is imagination, or reality, or just a dreamscape. It makes the narrative more obscure and more open to interpretation.”
Even as Gordon works up against an aggressive summer deadline, something she is driven by, she finds herself easily working on multiple paintings simultaneously and referencing female surrealist artists from the past.
“I recently realized that here I am, a female artist, and although I often reference a lot of art and art history in my work, I haven’t given a nod to many female artists in the past,” she says. “Part of it is that the female artists aren’t typically in your line of sight. So I started to do some research, specifically female surrealists, because I consider my work a contemporary take on surrealism.”
A standout for Gordon was Dorothea Tanning, an artist who made a name for herself for many decades throughout the 20th century, dying at the age of 101 in 2012. “I was a huge fan of Tanning’s in college and found myself recently reexamining her work. She has this amazing quote ‘Keep your eye on your inner world.’ That really is what this whole new body of work is about for me—not looking elsewhere for direction on where to forge your path. You have to find that direction and inspiration from within.”
Gordon will incorporate an installation art piece as part of her show in July, as installation art is such a significant part of the work she creates. “I had this idea to have a full-scale teacup that people could sit in and feel as if they’ve walked into one of my paintings,” she muses.
In spite of the growing demand for her work, Gordon finds the time when she is actually putting brush to canvas—whether the painting be large or small—to be therapeutic and meditative. “I don’t think I’m unlike many artists in that I have this almost compulsion inside of me to make art. It fulfills something that is unexplained and it’s here for me whenever I need it.”
To learn more, visit nicolegordon.com.
June 29, 2016
It’s the 40th volume of Hi-Fructose!
Featured in this issue is:
Mark Mothersbaugh’s new museum retrospective at the Akron Art Museum, the elaborate skull carvings of Jason Borders, a studio visit with Japanese artist collective three, the wonderful drawings of Nicomi Nix Turner, photographer Robert Bartholot’s mysteriously artificial images, Nicole Gordon’s bright and tragic landscapes, and Vincent Castiglia’s amazing blood paintings. Then we delve into the violence of man with Cleon Peterson’s graphic paintings, discover the cinematic baroque paintings of Jamie Adams, and review on the new Peelander Z documentary Mad Tiger!, and more!
April 14, 2016
Chicago based artist Nicole Gordon creates eclectic landscapes reminiscent of fairytale dreamlands as metaphors for the emotional and physical loss of personal space.
These paintings are from Nicole’s series entitled “Magnified,” and are on display currently at Linda Warren Projects in Chicago until April 30th, 2016.
April 6, 2016
Nicole Gordon paints landscapes that lean on the whimsical and somewhat grim, an expression of beauty met with the horrors of real world change and transformation. The Chicago based artist cites namely 16th century painters Pieter Bruegel and Hieronymus Bosch as her inspiration, whose works while dramatic and highly stylized, also offered expressions of the every day of their time. Similarly, Gordon describes her work as a combination of fantasy with darker truths: her use of bright colors and out of place objects create an imaginative view of reality.
“I like to make commentary that’s veiled within some sort of beauty; something beautiful that upon closer inspection reveals itself to be more darker, more sinister,” she explains. Her recent body of work, currently showing at Linda Warren Projects in Chicago, realizes new scenery that are equally beautiful and eerie. Throughout, her paintings detect a deep concern for the environment; man-made structures are taken back by nature, as in works like “Congestion”, featuring pastoral landscapes overtaken by humongous highway systems, or “Stop the Ride”, depicting Disneyland’s Mad Tea Party teacups spinning in dramatic forests.
“I would say that my work reminds us of our flaws, but encourages us to overcome them,” Gordon says. “I attempt to create work that while dark and rather apocalyptic in many ways also incorporates ornate touches and decorative elements that serve to balance the somber and more serious imagery. These devices offer beautiful moments that happen alongside the often destructive ones and are meant to reflect hope and the possibility for change.”
April 15, 2016
Tiptoeing between reality and the surreal, Nicole Gordon’s exhibition “magnified” presents a whimsical wonderland of phantasmagorical landscapes. In her paintings’ highly stylized alternate realities, people are strange, cartoon-like creatures with delightfully eccentric silhouettes and sceneries look like elaborate movie sets. In them, larger-than-life LEGO brick sculptures appear in natural settings. Oversized teacups reminiscent of amusement-park rides battle wildfire and pink flamingos wander in enchanted gardens.
Gordon takes us down the rabbit hole of her imaginative worlds—a mash of reality and absurdity—with bright, vibrant colors that create unnerving, illogical sceneries representing the ultimate place of mystery and wonder: the real world in which we live. As powerful metaphors for our contemporary culture, these images offer insights into the way we experience the world today—reflecting the environment as a physical and emotional space in which the nature/technology binary is made readily apparent.
In an otherworldly space wherein painting and installation coexist, Gordon’s large-scale oil paintings hang alongside a wicker chair swinging from the ceiling hovering over a moss rug in which tiny polka-dotted mushrooms appear to grow. Allowing the viewer to physically enter into the narrative, the three-dimensional installation not only extends the paintings into the viewers’ space, it also challenges them to inhabit them. By breaking traditional barriers between painting and sculpture, the artist blurs the line between artistic mediation and pure experience. Seductive, idyllic habitats are juxtaposed with post-apocalyptic worlds, where after natural or man-made catastrophes, only scattered elements of society and technology remain. Out-of-context objects create bizarre, sometimes disturbing settings—physical remnants or enigmatic traces of technology or human activity that disrupt natural life.
Considering the visible and the tangible as well as the more elusive and mysterious senses of space, Gordon moves beyond its physical dimension toward its social and the psychological aspects. This makes “magnified” more than a fairy tale-like world within which the viewers could let their minds roam free. As they try to define (or redefine) themselves in the multi-layered realities of space, the show leaves them feeling exactly like right after a whirling, disorienting thrill ride, spinning in their own oversized teacup into oblivion. (Vasia Rigou)
January 16, 2016
The show runs from March 18th 2016 to April 20th 2016. An opening reception will be on Friday March 18th from 6-9 pm
August 7, 2015
CHICAGO — In the entire history of art, how many works depict a tree as their main subject? The answer is probably incalculable, but even attempting to imagine it makes the mind dizzy, like trying to grasp the mathematical concept of infinity. Yet in two group shows in Chicago, one sees a range of artists wringing new meaning from our leafy friends.
In Roots, at Linda Warren Projects, 18 artists were invited to show work that illustrates their own relationship to trees. As evidenced by a catalogue of short artists’ statements that accompanies the show, many of the artists have personal associations with trees, while others use the tree as a formal pictorial or sculptural device. Thus we have more or less straight depictions of trees in paintings, photos, and sketches by Tom Torluemke, Tom Van Eynde, and Brenda Moore; small paintings of evergreens in lurid, Pop-art colors by Chris Uphues; and whimsical paintings in which cartoonish characters pose in the middle of forests, as in Nicole Gordon’s “Curiosity Often Leads to Trouble.” That painting seems to be a form of throwing one’s hands in the air when confronted with the long and weighty tradition of landscape painting, almost as if poking fun at the whole enterprise. Better and more convincing responses can be seen in the more abstract works, such as Emmett Kerrigan’s sculptures or Nina Rizzo’s paintings, which both use different dimensions of wood pieces and play around with their weight in space. The wisest moves seem to occur when artists forgo color altogether: Joseph Noderer’s “Bigfoot Creek” is a tall canvas of interlocking monochromatic shapes that nevertheless uses strong contrasts to imply different colors; and in Michiko Itatani’s “CTRL-Home/Echo,” the artist has forsaken representation altogether and made an image that looks totemic.
May 28, 2015
May 28th - July 11th 2015
Nicole Gordon’s large-scale oil paintings and gouache studies reflect surrendering to a loss of personal space. Using natural environments to stand as metaphor for physical, emotional, or spiritual personal space, each timeless setting has been infiltrated by pop-culture imagery. The heightened colors and out-of-place objects create absurd, and sometimes disturbing, stage-like scenes that become an alternate reality. What may at first seem like a disturbance to the serenity ultimately animates the setting and breathes new life into the space.
January 10, 2015
January 10th - March 8th
August 12, 2014
October 5, 2009
Now on view at the Chicago Cultural Center is Stateless, New Work by Nicole Gordon. The paintings by the Chicago-based Gordon employ a lush commingling of diverse stylistic references from Flemish artists to Persian miniature paintings to create her own whacky vision of the clash between urban civilization and the natural world. In her two major paintings on view here, onlooking monkeys gaze dreamily or stare directly at us, perhaps assessing our complicity in this. A centrally placed sculptural element completes this “unnatural” tableau.
Gordon’s work can be seen as a fusion of dialectical tensions, between disparate cultures, between three dimensional “real” space and the two dimensional picture plane, as well as between civilization itself and the natural world. Her painting clearly employs imagery from Pieter Bruegal as well as his dark allegorical sensibility and moral tone. But it also has specific references to the patterning of Persian miniatures and to be flattened, layered Asian perspective. Thus East, Mid-East and West are conjoined in these paintings. Ultimately the exhibition can be seen as commentary on our relationship to the natural world and on the representation of our place in it.