Nancy Ortenstone looks into transformation in her eye-pleasing abstractions.
by Wolfgang Mabry
A successful, full-time painter for the past 20 years, Nancy Ortensone absorbs the sights, sounds, and atmospheric wonders of the physical world with the fullest sensitivity and appreciation. Then in the tranquility of her studio near a small village in the mountains of northern New Mexico, she approaches her art as an alchemist approaches her raw materials. One dictionary definition of alchemy is "the transformation of something common into something special." It's a perfect summation of Nancy Ortenstone's creative output.
Today her paintings grace corporate and private collections around the world. In her mastery of pure abstraction. Ortenstone composes forms and colors into beautifully balanced and exquisitely nuanced organic wholes, complete in themselves, and worthy of contemplation for their aesthetics alone. An Ortenstone canvas is a rich starting point from which too conceptualize and furnish a phenominal interior. The artist's motivation, on the other hand, is to appeal also to another kind of interior, the inner life of the perceptive, evolving soul.
Earlier in her career, Ortenstone interpreted the landscape and other abstractions like music and color in her own imagery, analyzing anddiscussing more intellectually in her work. Her painted essays on form and color were inspired by the ever-changing splendor of nature, music, dance and chroma. recently her inspiration comes more from intuition, that deep and bountiful well.
"For several years, I have wanted to create this neww body of work. I kept getting glimpses of these paintings, which I refered to as my 'Meditation' series. For a long time, either the paintings weren't ready to present themselves, or I wasn't quite ready to receive them," she recalls. "Apparently, they needed time to germinate, or I needed time to evolve to a place where I was ready to express them." Then while working on a current series called "Between Two Worlds," Ortenstone had a eureka moment, a sudden transition in which she gave up control, let go of the strictures of what she had known before.
"My desire is to paint the experience of transformative flow. I want the viewer to find a continuously changing moment in my paintings so that what is seen at one time is quite different in the next moment. Just as our moods are in constant flux, I want my art to reflect the changing weather of the soul."
Ortenstone also perceives the healing aspects in the alchemies of both her process and the philosophically rich content in her paintings. "By allowing ourselves to feel our personal and/or collective feelings, we yearn to re-enter a state of grace. At the time, it may seem distant, but the shift is ever so slight, just a step away. It seems to come from acceptance and gratitude.
Nancy Ortenstone's paintings are more than easy to accept. Beguileingly beautiful in the purity of their abstraction, serenly calming in their softnaess of edge and tone, her paintings may sing quietly; but oh, how lovely their song.
FOCUS/ SANTA FE, January 2005 04