Dreamscapes and Inner Worlds by Nicole Gordon

In this body of work, I explore the relationship of a young person set against a backdrop of common, pleasurable experience crossed with destructive events. These seemingly banal activities are set against imagery of destructive forces imposing fury against the quietude. These dreamscapes represent the thrilling and terrifying worlds that we can create within our own minds if given the chance to truly be alone.

I am a painter living in Chicago, Illinois. I received my Bachelors of Fine Arts degree at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I have had solo exhibitions in Chicago (Linda Warren Projects, the Chicago Cultural Center and the Elmhurst Art Museum), Los Angeles (Corey Helford Gallery), Wisconsin (The Kohler Art Center), Ohio (Angela Meleca Gallery) and Boston (Miller Block Gallery). I have participated in group shows around the country and have completed large scale public art commissions for the Chicago Transit Authority and for New England Biolabs in Massachusetts.



When did you know you wanted to pursue art?

I’ve been interested in making art for as long as I can remember. I decided to get a bachelor of fine arts degree in college because I couldn’t imagine my life without art as a central component. I still can’t imagine it.


Tell us about your process. How do you come up with each painting? Do you keep references, sketches or notes before you execute each piece?

I typically come up with a theme for a series of paintings that might include anywhere from 10 to 20 pieces that fit into an overarching concept. I keep an ongoing database of imagery that I draw from to create the narratives within the paintings. Sometimes I come across an image that gets added to my database that I might not find the appropriate use for until years down the road. Since the color palettes of my paintings greatly influence the mood of each piece, I like to work out my color combinations before the painting process even begins.


What inspires the color and imagery in your paintings? 

My narratives are meant to be interpreted as dreamscapes so the hyper-saturated and high-key colors create a out-of-time feeling that isn’t rooted in reality. I try to choose imagery that is timeless and nostalgic.


Name a few of your influences. 

I have been influenced by varying periods of art history throughout my artistic practice. I am currently very inspired by the female Surrealist painters who were creating works in which the subconscious mind was explored. Dorothea Tanning once wrote, “Keep your eye on your inner world.” This statement resonates conceptually with my newest body paintings that depict the thrilling and terrifying worlds that we can create within our own minds if given the chance to truly be alone. New York based artist Valerie Hegarty is a big influence on my art making practice because of her incredible ability to work in a variety of media and she continually explores new materials throughout her career. While I consider myself primarily a painter, I like to challenge myself to take my work off of the 2-dimensional plane and into the realm of sculpture and installation.


What is the Chicago art community like? Do you feel it has had an effect on your art and career?

 I have been working and living in Chicago since graduating from college so there is no question that Chicago art community has been a huge part of my career development. The first galleries that I ever worked with are in my hometown. The Chicago Cultural Center still rates as one of my top recommendations for seeing amazing and diverse art exhibitions. The Chicago art community has been changing a lot over the last few years and there is such a renewed and exciting energy about the city with a lot of experimental spaces popping up all around the city. 


How important is fun and experimentation in your process?

Experimentation is a very important component to the way that I create my imagery. I create narratives and combine imagery from so many different sources that it requires a lot of experimentation with how the various layers of imagery relate to each other. I have a lot of fun with the process of creating these narratives in which I strive to contain both an air of whimsy as well as darker undertones that reveal themselves the more time that is spent with the work.

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What advice would you give other artists just starting out?

My biggest piece of advice would be to stay true to yourself and make the work that you are passionate about. I think it's important to not focus so much on what's trending and popular but rather on making work that you feel deeply connected to.