Hare Labyrinth - Rita Bard - acrylic on panel

Imagination Overdrive

Two artists drawn to painting share their visions of the universe

exhibition at Victoria Price Art & Design, Santa Fe, NM

by Kathaleen Roberts • Journal Santa Fe
Oct 10, 2008
Art • Community News

At first glance, Nancy Hidding Pollock’s drifting clouds bear little resemblance to Rita Bard’s whimsical creatures. Both Santa Fe artists moved from other fields to pick up a paintbrush: Pollock was a metalsmith; Bard worked in stained glass. In moving toward painting, both women questioned their imaginations and their world. Where Pollock looked toward the sky, Bard focused on a fantastical universe of animals and iconic shapes.
“The Singular and Eternal: Nancy Hidding Pollock & Rita Bard Imagine the World” opens tonight at Victoria Price Art & Design.
Pollock’s “skyscapes” series often incorporate a gridded structure sprinkled with math or scientific equations. As she found herself more and more drawn toward abstraction, she discovered a “morbid fascination with something I didn’t understand.” Lest you mistake her for a math geek, Pollock is quick to say she has always been terrible with numbers. In college, she took astronomy to fulfill her science requirement because she thought it skipped over equations. But as she matured, her fears softened into curiosity. “Math is such a part of the landscape, in both constructive and destructive ways,” she said. “I ended up having friends that are physicists. They’ll explain something and I’ll think, ‘That’s so interesting.’ I’m kind of a tourist scientist.” Some of the numbers seem arbitrary; others appear as mathematical explanations of cloud or weather patterns. Others, like Pollock’s recent commission for the Santa Fe Community Convention Center, serve as ethereal commentary on decay or atomic radiation. The clouds billow and float. “They’re intangible and unchangeable,” she said. “I like that image of what is constantly changing.”
Bard moved from stained-glass design into painting because she had always wanted to create fine art. She spent about three years studying stained glass at Hadamar Glasfachschule before moving back home to Kentucky to work. “All the time, I was drawing,” she said. “My family are all artists. It’s kind of an inherited aesthetic view. “My mother always said, ‘Don’t do art,’ even though I always loved art,” Bard continued. “My mother had all the Renais- sance art history books. She encouraged it so much through her nature, even though she was nervous about the ‘making a living’ part.” Bard supported herself at a stained-glass design studio for 10-15 years before returning to school and earning a degree in printmaking at the Maine College of Art. In 2002-03, she moved to Santa Fe to pursue painting full time. Viewers often comment on the stained-glass-inspired panes and clean lines inherent in her work, although Bard says she is usually the last to notice the connection. “I’m interested in repetition,” she said. “I’m interested in simple blocks of color. I’m very interested in experimentation. It’s awkward; I want to find a different dialogue.” Her “creatures” — some seemingly human, some animal, some a kind of bizarre hybrid — flow from her subconscious. Bard won’t dig too deeply for an explanation, as though she is afraid to break the spell of her own opacity. “I never really thought that much about it, because the intellect can inhibit my process,” she said. “Finally, I said, ‘Let go of that.’ They’re simply man in a different form. They set up scenarios that are kind of human scenarios I try not to think about it. I get too anxious about rights and wrongs, and I start overanalyzing.” The broad planes of color washes show a mixture of sparseness and naiveté lifted by an exuberant expression. “I like the simplicity,” she said. “It’s somehow an American kind of legacy; it’s like Shaker furniture. “This specific body (of work) deals a great deal with absurdity,” she added. “Absurdity plays a big and recurring role in my art. After all, for better or worse, it seems one does not have to look very far to find the very absurd and seemingly ridiculousness of our everyday lives.”