THE ART OF NANCY ORTENSTONE: AN APPRECIATION
Nancy Ortenstone’s art evokes the ambiguity between change and constancy, between natural forms—skies, oceans, landscapes—in their observed transformations, and the ageless, timeless white-light source from which they have emerged and to which they will return.
Just as we intuitively experience within ourselves the way that all colors in nature emerge from white, so while viewing the paintings of Nancy Ortenstone, we also experience the way that all colors observed in nature return to light. She calls the raw canvas openings in her paintings, “rips in the fabric of time.”
How best to describe this white-light stillness that underlies the flux and flow of color in her paintings? Collectors have often said that they never grow tired of her art. One couple called her painting “an inexhaustible experience.” Why is that?
Because, it seems to me, that her paintings are not fixed images in space or time; they belong to the ageless and the timeless; they evoke a process of continuous change. This mystical relationship between the source of all created beings and its most beautiful manifestations is at the heart of her work.
"This mystical relationship between the source of all created beings and its most beautiful manifestations is at the heart of her work."
Some have caller her art “non-objective”. But this seems a misnomer since the term only tells us what her art is not. While her paintings do not refer to any specific object, they do refer to the essence of natural objects or events.
Others have referred to her paintings as color fields, but this misses the ambiguity between the field of vision and the invisible ground from which this field emerges, and into which it will dissolve.
Observations of nature are transformed by her brush into soul-felt experiences gathered into herself during her almost daily walks through the New Mexico countryside then summoned to life in her studio with liquid acrylics rubbed and brushed and sometimes poured onto raw canvas.
I think of that famous observation of Heraklitas: that we can never place our foot in the same stream twice, though it is always the same stream. Every time you look at an Ortenstone Painting, you may see it in a different light, yet it remains the same wondrous vision.