Local artist Nancy Sansom Reynolds exhibits worldwide

By Page H. Gifford

Nancy Sansom Reynolds’ sculptures echo nature in the abstract. She has deep connections to nature, having spent her childhood in rural Maryland.

“I grew up surrounded by nature and the arts,” she said. Her father was rooted in music, while her mother, an artist, nurtured her love of the visual arts. “No question I would have been an artist,” she said. Beginning at age four, she played the piano and later discovered links between her music and her art, believing they worked in tandem and one without the other wouldn’t be as rich or even exist.

She said she grew up during a time when women were expected to be housewives, teachers, nurses, and secretaries and that art was never considered a viable career choice. She began her career with a B.A. in art from Frostburg State University in Maryland, with a double major in painting and piano. Classically trained, she composes her own music which mimics the same fluidity as her art. Often using her art pieces as a backdrop during her piano recitals, she delved into performance art.

Later, when attending George Washington University and working toward her MFA in art and painting she had a conversation with the head of the sculpture department who told her to stick to sculpture rather than painting. He saw her potential and encouraged her and with that, she earned an MFA in sculpture and theater art.

Her passion for music and art became more ingrained as she continued to create. Her husband Bob Reynolds, became her creative assistant, literally doing the heavy lifting, making shipping crates for her larger pieces, and providing overall support. Her son has also accompanied her to many exhibits and shows. Her family also experienced the creative dynamics she grew up with.

Life was busy; raising a child while she and her husband worked full-time in San Francisco. Bob worked in communications, art, and design while she worked as a graphics and printing manager for national publications. While living in Arizona, she worked as an adjunct professor, teaching drawing and 3-D design. After returning to Maryland, she continued teaching. Meanwhile, she built her art business. She began making her creations in fabric and then moved to wood.

For 30 years she has been creating, networking, and marketing her work around the world. The designs she created and executed in wood, have been seen in hundreds of exhibits and shows throughout the U.S. She has commissioned pieces placed in embassies, hotels, hospitals, companies, and private homes as far away as Australia, China, Africa, France, Malaysia, Nepal, Spain, and New York.

“I don’t recommend it unless you are a workaholic. It’s an intense schedule with gallery shows, exhibits, and commissions. It’s a different life.”

Painstaking and detailed is how she describes the process in which the end product is fluid and beautiful in its simple form. It is intense and she pays close attention to every detail beginning with thumbnail sketches.

“I don’t use measuring tools but draw everything freehand,” she said. She then makes a maquette in stiff paper as a model for the larger piece of sculpture. This helps her to visualize it from different angles to see how it might look and how to construct it. She then moves on to drawing and cutting out the pattern. Thin sheets of plywood are stacked together and glued, never nailed, laminated, and ground down to their final appearance with aniline dyes or acrylic washes. Her pieces range in size from eight feet to a 35-foot wall piece.

Nevertheless, it is what inspires her that makes her pieces unparalleled.

“I’m inspired by nature, plants, and water. I love drawing plants,” she said. “One of the paintings I did in college was a rose and I used that to make forms in wood.” Many of her pieces twist and move like fabric and her understanding of how fabric drapes is incorporated into her work.

The work itself is key to Sansom Reynolds’ view of the world. She said she likes the variety of her pieces and that nothing is replicated.

“The child has been raised and kicked out the door,” she said, smiling.

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