Sheldon Museum of Art


Date of this Version



Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, University of Nebraska- Lincoln, 1987


All images are copyright by the original artists. Publication copyright 1987 The Regents of the University of Nebraska


Born and raised in St. Louis, Natasha Nicholson spent her first years in a crowded apartment in a housing project, moving as a teenager to an old house only slightly larger. Her three brothers slept in one room, the three girls in the other on the second floor. It was the children's floor, Nicholson's mother rarely venturing up, and the struggle for space and power among the siblings was unrelenting.

Within this crowded, chaotic environment Nicholson had to create her own way to reach for another reality. When she needed a moment away from the life that surrounded her, she would touch her "treasures," a group of little objects she had lovingly collected and arranged on a table next to her bed. While the space she had under her control was tinyhardly an arm's length across-it centered her vision of beauty and order. Her objects were the talismans she needed to obliterate the ugliness beyond her reach. "For me," she has said, "the treasures were the objects that had the power to overcome my surroundings. They had the power to transform life." Only recently has Natasha Nicholson been able to acknowledge the connection between her childhood and her sculpture. She may have resisted making this connection earlier because the memories have been painful, but having recognized it's importance she has been quick to respond.

From the young girl's small table, always carefully arranged, with its snippets of ribbon, tiny, nacreous shells and bits of printed paper, one may see the genesis of the rooms and houses in this exhibition. Both three-room constructions seen here, (Cat. Nos. 16 and 17) give an impression of deep sobriety with their somber color, a dark grey blue. Within these spaces are chairs, (which the artist regards as the human or "figurative" component of her sculpture), wishbones, halfobscured photographs and human hair-the artist's ownscattered on the floor. The juxtaposition of these objects is discomforting, yet from within these spaces comes a glow of light, a radiance that Nicholson defines simply as "hope" or "beauty." She has said, "I need to combine beauty or order with what I call the 'edge.' Some people have thought 'danger' might be a better word. This element is important to me because it's that sense of risk that makes the beauty all the more powerful."