Born in Pittsburgh in 1951, Lenne Nicklaus-Ball has been interested in art since started attending weekend art classes at the Carnegie Museum of Art while she was in elementary school. In 1973, she graduated from Bowling Green University in Ohio with a B.F.A. in Graphic Design. Although her career began in graphic design, Nicklaus-Ball continued to paint and draw, eventually moving into the painting of commissioned abstract, nude portraits before designing beaded handbags and ceramic pieces. It was not until 2003 that she was introduced to the African tradition of decorating ostrich eggs while on a trip to South Africa.
This exhibition focuses on ostrich eggs ornamented with vintage and costume jewelry. The series is named after the artist’s grandmother, Margaret Nagy Nunn, and was started after her death in 2004. Begun as holiday gifts for the artist’s siblings in her remembrance, the eggs referred to different events and periods in her grandmother’s life. Once the work became more elaborate, the idea of adding new pieces to this ongoing series became a reality.
The process of making these works begins with painting the ostrich eggs with acrylic and enamel paint. Then jewelry and other adornments are applied to the egg to fit the theme and look of the piece. They are all connected to special occasions in the life of the artist’s grandmother. The egg and its stand embody both specific memories and a sense of her grandmother’s personal style. The eggs change with each new piece, which is developed over a number of months.
The creations of these pieces is more intuitive than deliberate, since it involves both memory and interpretation, working with materials that evoke a bygone time, using jewelry and rich textures. These three-dimensional collages suggest the era of big bands of the 1940s and aspects of Southern society in the 1950s, when women wore gloves, hats, and brooches. These are both memory pieces and sensuous sculptures, reflecting the artist’s work as a painter, ceramicist, and creator of beaded hand bags. The recycling of found objects and discarded home accoutrements becomes a way to preserve experiences in a material form.
The artist’s intention is for the viewer to approach each egg as a visual feast of colors, shapes, and women’s accessories. The pieces are a way for viewers to tap into their recollections of the last time they encountered pearls, crystal necklaces, and rhinestone earrings – such as going to church or a society ball. Each piece is meant to be enjoyed by the viewer entering into its whimsical fantasy.
This exhibition was organized through Katharine T. Carter & Associates.