Ingrid Nickelsen wasn’t originally from Humboldt County, but her legacy here is strong in her landscape paintings, which capture the rugged beauty of rivers, streams, and wilderness areas that are both familiar and remote. It is also alive in the legacy Nickelsen bequeathed to support local women artists after her death in 2005. Since 2007, the Ingrid Nickelsen Trust has donated more than $300,000 to female artists in the Humboldt area through annual grants.
To honor the organization’s 15th anniversary this year, the group of women involved with the foundation (known informally as the “Liz’s Painters,” thanks to the camaraderie created during the Liz Harwood Pierson and Terry Oats in wilderness painting retreats held in 2004 and 2005). to do something bigger for the community. In collaboration with the Morris Graves Museum of Art, they laid the groundwork for a month-long celebration of the artists and Nickelsen themselves. The result is two exhibitions, Ingrid Nickelsen Trust Juried Exhibition: Celebrating 15 years of Ingrid Nickelsen’s legacy and its companion show Use this map to explore: The landscapes of Ingrid Nickelsen. They are an ode both to a remarkable woman who is no longer with us and to remarkable female artists working in Humboldt today.
The exhibition is also the first time since 2006 that Nickelsen’s work has been on public display. Originally from the Boston area, the artist was an avid hiker and backpacker who made her home in Eureka in the 1960s. Primarily a ceramist, she began painting landscapes two decades later, using her wanderings into the wilderness to capture landscapes in extraordinarily unique ways. Sometimes observing her chosen locations for several days at a time, she would paint the varied conditions she saw with vivid hues and in translucent layers that bring both water and earth to life. A 2005 trek into the Siskiyou Wilderness proved to be the last when she was injured in a fall. But even to her last moments, Nickelsen was devoted to the local art community, writing a will on the back of her walking card detailing the use of her estate to fund female artists. (The exhibition catalog contains an essay by diary Contributor Gabrielle Gopinath, who will also be available at www.humboldtarts.org with more about the artist’s life and work.)
From its inception, the Trust has made discretionary, unsolicited grants for things like tuition, travel budgets, medical expenses, art supplies, and the like. However, this is the first time the Trust has organized a juried exhibition for money. “Each woman that we have sponsored has a different need or reason for validation and financial recognition,” said Trust spokeswoman Carrie Grant. However, she said: “We’ve lost some art galleries in recent years and women have fewer venues. We thought an exhibition would be a great way to give every female artist in Humboldt County a chance to showcase their work. “
The juried exhibition is also the first all-female art exhibition at the museum. There was no entry fee for artworks and organizers were shocked to receive 234 entries – more than double their expectations and the largest return on a tender Jemima Harr, executive director and curator of the Humboldt Arts Council, has achieved in her 18 years at the museum has seen. “For me, that really brings women artists together in this community and that’s what it’s about.” She added that it was an honor to work with the Trust on the exhibition. “And to finally be able to get artists and visitors back the way we used to be before the pandemic is fabulous,” Harr said.
The exhibition’s tender attracted artworks from all genres: paintings, textiles, ceramics, sculptures and more. The task of narrowing the field fell to the judge and Humboldt-based abstract painter Joan Gold, herself a former fellow. “Joan is sort of the matriarch of Humboldt County’s female artists,” Grant said, noting that the museum staff and others working on the exhibit are all women.
Gold walked slowly between the entries, considering and categorizing each piece with a slip of paper. She knew what she was looking for but wanted to give each piece the study it deserved. Color and the use of color and texture were priorities, and Gold understood that the winning pieces needed to have purpose and vision; they couldn’t be “accidental”. They also had to portray Nickelsen’s legacy in a way that felt appropriate.
In the end, Gold selected 11 winners, whose prizes were presented during a reception at the museum on August 6th. The 10 winners of the Ingrid Nickelsen Trust $500 are: Trixie Galletti, Lori Goodman, Sherry Hazelton, Cheryl Peterson Rau, Laura Corsiglia, Anna Oneglia, Christy Tjaden, Shoshana McAvoy, Naomi Ruth Olsen and Carol Anderson. The winning pieces are all unique and represent different mediums – including Goodman’s hanging sculpture “Knots, Sticks, and Stories” and Tjaden’s more abstract painting “Nostalgia as Landscape: Wandering in a Long Forgotten Love Song, She Found Two Snakes Where Once She Believed There”. Was a Road” – but each exudes a wealth of color and attention to detail reminiscent of Nickelsen.
The $1,000 Judge’s Choice Award went to ceramist Annakatrin Burnham for her 2022 sculpture Generations. Reminiscent of a crab pot in shape and texture, a complex cubic ceramic sculpture is sublimely crafted with texture and detail Layers of paint that combine well with Nickelsen’s work. Burnham expressed her gratitude, saying the show is “a testament to our thriving community of female artists … I am both humbled and inspired even at just sharing this vibrant space with so many of Humboldt’s talented female artists.”
Housed in the Morris Graves Museum of Art Ingrid Nickelsen Trust Juried Exhibition: Celebrating 15 years of Ingrid Nickelsen’s legacy, we’re using this map to help you explore: The Landscapes of Ingrid Nickelsen until September 16th.
Tamar Burris (she/she) is a freelance educational writer and relationship coach. Her book for children of divorce, A New Special Friend, is available through her website at www.tamarburris.com.