Saturday, January 20, 2018

"An Inner Astronomy" a solo exhibition by artist Catherine Nash

Catherine Nash
An Inner Astronomy
, 2018
site-specific installation at the Triangle L Ranch's Adobe Barn Gallery

Catherine Nash
An Inner Astronomy
, 2018
the artist-astronomer's desk

It has been so long since I posted on my blog...much has happened in my life that kept my fingers from the keys, but I am back in the studio and getting ready for a solo exhibition.  I've just been interviewed by and will be their February 2018 Profile artist.  Thought to post the interview here!
Catherine Nash
An Inner Astronomy, 2018
6 of 21 ct. (8 ft.L) mixed media paintings on Japanese kozo paper 

“An Inner Astronomy”  
A Solo Exhibition -  by Catherine Nash
Installation and Sculptural Assemblage
February 3 - March 20, 2018

Triangle L Ranch’s Adobe Barn Gallery
2805 N Triangle L Ranch Rd, Oracle, AZ 85623 (link for directions
Saturdays 10-3 and easily by appt. by calling 520-623-6732

Opening Reception Saturday, February 10th, 1-5pm
The artist will talk about her work at ~3pm.

Closing Reception, Sunday, March 18th, 5pm to 8pm.
The artist will talk about her work at ~6pm. 
With telescope viewing provided at Triangle L Ranch by Mike Weasner, 
Chair of the "Oracle Dark Skies Committee"  Link

Live music for both receptions by hypnopad

Catherine Nash
An Inner Astronomy, 2018
4 of 21 ct. (8 ft.L) mixed media paintings on Japanese kozo paper
Catherine Nash
Knowth, 2018
mixed media painting on Japanese kozo paper 
8’ x 20”


Tucson Happenings:  Please tell us about your new solo exhibition entitled “An Inner Astronomy.” 

Catherine Nash:  My solo show and new installation, entitled “An Inner Astronomy”, is my response to the mysterious beauty of our physical sky and my reflections on an inner space that I catch glimpses of during quietude and contemplation. I am very drawn to the mystery of the night sky and it has inspired my art for some time now.   My readings and research led me to study how varied cultures have explained the mystery of space and the planets and stars.  I discovered that there was such a thing as archeoastronomy - the study of how peoples in the past interpreted phenomena in the sky and how it influenced their mythology, music, art, and storytelling.  
My forays into this world have indirectly informed and influenced my new works in painting and sculpture.  But the only specific cultural imagery that I have used, out of respect for indigenous peoples and other cultures, was that of my own Celtic heritage: the ancient stone carvings in Knowth, Ireland (ca. 3300 B.C.), which have been interpreted as a lunar calendar, inspired one of the twenty-one scrolls in “An Inner Astronomy.”

Calendar stone from Knowth, Ireland (image sourced on

TH:  Can you describe your installation in more detail?

CN:  Of course~  My intentions with this new work have been to “recreate” the laboratory of an imaginary scientist/artist.  Twenty-one scrolls painted with different imagined celestial maps, constellations and grids are suspended in a curve on either side of the gallery and lead into a centralized work desk. Gilded orbs and globes cover the desk in different states of completion. Sculptural works such as “Specimen” and “Sky Trap” sit on the antique wooden table.  The drawer is filled with vintage art supplies and paper and tools of measure.  More scrolls hang above the desk ready to be painted by the astronomer.  The chair has a used work apron thrown over it as if the astronomer just left.

Catherine Nash
An Inner Astronomy
the Astronomer's desk in progress, 2018

Catherine Nash
Encaustic, dried moth and butterfly, 
found objects in an antique round box 
ca. 1912.
8”h x 7” diameter
Catherine Nash
Sky Trap
found woodworked pine and walnut wood, encaustic, oil 
stick, lashed willow branches
7”h X 13”w X 13”d

TH:  What emotional content do you feel is generated by this new work?

CN: A sense of wonder and curiosity.  My biggest influence is the awe that I feel at the mystery and immensity of space.  My artist husband, Robert Renfrow, talks about “the presence of absence” in photography…and I love that concept: “that an image can have an implied presence, an indication that something was there at one point and is now gone.” There is evidence that the astronomer/artist had just been there. The persona of “the being” that has been creating these works is very present.  I am hopeful that the viewer will project themselves into the shoes of the missing astronomer and embody a sense of wonder at our place in the universe.

TH: Have you had experiences in nature under the night sky that have fed your creative muse?

CN: Experiences are not hard to find in our beautiful, spacious desert, but one has to get out of the city’s light pollution to really see the night sky. I once participated in a special tour of artists up to Kitt Peak - as the day shifted into night, the light faded in slow gradation. The stars seemed incredibly close.  
On another occasion, the night before I was to hike down to Havasupai in the Grand Canyon, I lay down open air on the rocks. So mesmerized by the “turning” moonless sky, I barely slept. In the early ‘80s, while living in northern Arizona, I was invited to a Bean Dance within a kiva in the ancient community of Oraibi in the Hopi Nation. The dance eventually started long after midnight. Looking out over the mesa’s edge, the horizon dissolved into the sky, the full moon illuminated the timeless scenario and ancient landscape.  These experiences have colored my soul and spirit.  How can they help but influence my art?

TH:  Will you please discuss astronomy as a science and how it relates to your work?

CN: If an astronomer comes to see this exhibition, they will only find a few direct references to astronomical imagery.  Mostly this new work is imagined and in response to photographed phenomena and early drawings and writings by astronomers throughout the ages.  

I will add though that I’ve been researching a specific historical figure in the astronomy world, Maria (pronounced Mariah) Mitchell who was the first American woman to ever work as a professional astronomer. In 1847, Mitchell won a coveted gold medal given by the King of Denmark for being the first to discover a comet through a telescope. Two summers ago, I visited the island of Nantucket, MA where she was born in 1818 and toured through her birth home and first observatory. There, I interviewed the undergraduate astronomers on their first day of their summer internship.  
Last summer, I had a private tour of the original observatory built to Maria Mitchell’s specifications on the campus of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY, where she had been a professor of astronomy from 1865-1888. In Vassar’s Special Collections, it was amazing and an honor to see all the original glass plate negatives that Mitchell made with her students.   Inspiring!  
All of these experiences and research have influenced these new works and installation within “An Inner Astronomy”.

Maria Mitchell, US astronomer and pioneer of women's rights, 
from a portrait by H. Dassell, 1851
(image sourced on

TH: Is there anything else you’d like to add? 

CN: This new installation has never been fully installed before, so I am hopeful that you will add a photo after the show opens officially on Feb. 3rd! I’ve been working on components of it for three years and it is now finally coming to fruition. 
The Adobe Barn Gallery of Triangle L Ranch in Oracle is the perfect venue for this show. The rustic interior with its weathered beams and adobe walls lends itself perfectly to the vintage-inspired feeling I am hoping to achieve. When actually installing, I’ll be also responding to the space itself. I’ve been so grateful to the Ranch’s Sharon Holnback and Jim Pollack for giving me the artistic freedom to install my work in any way I choose. Triangle L Ranch is an amazing place (host to the epic GLOW happenings during the fall.) Besides the Adobe Barn Gallery, the Ranch is host to a B & B, a local arts gift shop and a wonderful sculpture park that trails through the rock-strewn desert in Oracle. And it is perfect as Oracle is officially designated as a "Dark Sky" corridor. The Gallery’s official hours are on Saturdays from 10-3, or by appointment by calling the Ranch at 520-623-6732.  

And, of course, there are two events for “An Inner Astronomy” - both an opening on Feb 10th and a closing reception on Mar. 18th, replete with telescope viewing of the night sky by Michael Weasner of the Oracle Dark Skies Committee.  Hope that you’ll make the trek to Oracle!
Besides the installation, 7-9 other works by Nash will also be shown. 
Amongst these:

Catherine Nash
Bottled Sky
Antique tool boxes, antique bottles, found wood and vintage 
elements, encaustic, oil stick.
9”h X 13”w X 4”d closed; 23”w open

Catherine Nash
Sun Nest
Lashed branches, linen thread,
 found worked wood, oil stick, 24K gold leaf
27.5”h x 15”w x 5.5”d
(45” high with the threads)

Catherine Nash
Counting Moons
Japanese kozo paper, konn’yaku, hakezome with pigmented inks, 
wax, drawing, shifu thread of kozo paper.
65” h x 37” w

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Now Downloadable! "Authentic Visual Voices" and more

Now Downloadable or Streaming!  Authentic Visual Voices

I can't tell you how excited I am to announce that Authentic Visual Voices 
is now available as a download now for your ipad, iphone or laptop!!  
You can download it and/or keep it in the cloud for streaming any time.

Authentic Visual Voices: Contemporary Paper & Encaustic 
380+ color images 
29 video interviews with international artists 
who integrate the two media - 
for 2D and 3D inspiration!
Please visit 

In fact all of our videos and books and research is available this way 
through our new Purple Platform shop...
For our educational Papermaking Workshop videos and the unique Beater Finesse
Entering the new digital world!

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Art of Jurying~ "Experimental Watercolor" Exhibit for the Southern Arizona Watercolor Guild

I was asked to jury a show for the Southern Arizona Watercolor Guild (SAWG) last week.  I am not a member and know very few of the artists whose work was submitted.  This is a synopsis of a letter I wrote to SAWG.  I thought to post it to my blog.... I am asked to jury a lot and was inspired to write about what it is I look for when I am analyzing the work before me.  Perhaps it will be of interest to other artists and jurors.

I am inspired to write to you all, the members of the Southern AZ Watercolor Guild~  Thank you so much for inviting me to jury your latest experimental show.  Last night was a great pleasure and an honor to view and jury this wonderful show.

1.  Best of Show (monetary)
Ruth Tone – "Foundation Patterns"

2.  Award of Excellence (monetary)
Laurie Giangregorio – "Ki’xocolatl" 

3.  Award for Most Experimental (monetary)
Sarah Schmerl – "Hiking Companions"

4.  Honorable Mention (monetary)
Deanna Thibault – "Circling Around"

5.  Photography of one artwork (Gift Certificate) 
Bob Luedtke – "Trova Bird" 

6.  Custom Stretching (Gift Certificate)
Francheskaa – "Silver Stream"

Anyone who has been showing for many years understands that jurying is always subjective.  One learns not to be disappointed (too much!) when hearing the results of the winners, or more often, whether or not one even gets their work into a juried show.  I have both been rejected fully and won best of show…with the same work!  (Obviously different exhibitions and jurors).  The viewer brings their world viewpoint to your work.  A juror does too.  If you didn’t get an award…6 out of 70 works were the odds, that by no means makes your work unsuccessful.  It has taken me years, no, decades,  to be able to shrug off “failure”. 

The artworks that, to my eye, stood out amongst the rest have some aspects in common.  I thought to describe what it is/was that I search for and am moved by when I am jurying:

Experimental:  This is the theme of the show, so this played the most pivotal role for jurying.  Is there a freedom of markmaking/brushwork?  Did the artist push themselves with the use of media, either with straightforward watercolor or by mixing other media with watercolor?  Am I surprised and delighted or moved by the use of media?  While the work may have been extremely experimental for you, (for instance, if you are realistic and the work you submitted was abstract), it should also exhibit mastery of the principles of design and composition.  The works I chose for awards all also masterfully incorporated the following:

Masterful Composition:  How the shapes, directional movement, edges, color, difference in scale etc. should be arranged and designed with the viewer’s eye in mind.  What is the focal point?  How is that supported by the elements of design and imagery? I personally like some visual tension within the work.  Consider the rule of thirds when composing:

Superb and engaging use of color and value:  Color evokes an emotional response.  Even when you are being experimental or non-objective, the use of color should be integrated.  For instance if you used all the colors of the rainbow in the same value, that might not be as powerful as manipulating some of them to be darker or lighter.  Experiment with using three analogous colors and one complementary color.  (blue, blue violet, yellow green and red) or (pink, yellow orange, red and blue).  Learn about the power of color, take a color course; try one small composition of shapes (photocopy a black and white line drawing of shapes) and try painting it five different times with different color combinations.  Try the same thing with varied values.
Some simple web searches yielded the following interesting links:

Content:  You might think that a work has to have recognizable elements to have content, but scale of the image, visual movement within the work, emotive color, tantalizing pattern and energetic line quality all evoke mood.  Poetic sensation is directed by what is incorporated into the work, both consciously and unconsciously.  The painter Josh Goldberg is one of my best friends.  I am always viscerally moved when standing in front of one of his exquisite works.  I am not an abstract painter, but of course can be moved to tears by abstract works that somehow turn on a switch within me.
Visit the website of Josh Goldberg to view his work and read his thought provoking writings.

And another site that looked interesting to me:

Mark of HandIs there a conversation between the creator and the created?  What that means is, has the artist deftly left some “accidents” of media un-reworked to maintain freshness?

Lost and found edges: consider the freedom of brushwork and how edge and lack of edge can create a sense of spatial depth.
I love the freedom in the work of Charles Reid.  Here is his take on lost and found edges:
There is a pdf you can download with further information.
New Zealand watercolor artist Susan Harrison-Tustain demonstrates her watercolor techniques of lost and found edges:

Presentation:  The way the work is presented has to considered with the utmost care.  Does the framing support the artwork?  the frame should not overpower the work, rather it should serve to emphasize the work, pull the viewer’s eye into the painting.  Truthfully, we should hardly notice the framing:  it is the back up singer, singing in perfect harmony with the art and supporting the lead singer.  Is the presentation a bit shoddy?  Even if there is no frame, how it is suspended, mounted, positioned on a base should be clean and simple and elegant.

Professional photography:  I am adding this, but please note that as this was a local member show, photographs were not necessary or required.  It is vital that the work be photographed with finesse:  correct color and light balance, in focus and all extraneous surrounding environs totally cropped out.  Don't crop the work itself, if possible, especially if edges are important.  Always document the work before framing, especially if under glass.  No reflections and no hot spots. Remember that computer monitors vary in how color is viewed. Your job is to make the photo look just like the artwork. Take the photo with a gray card to achieve accurate color and value. "Hire up"- find someone who can shoot the works for you, if this is beyond your capabilities.  Note:  This show was not juried based on photography, I am just fortunate that there were images available for this blog.  A quick web search brought up this informative and helpful site about photographing artwork.

Fully Integrated:  When all of the above is working seamlessly in tandem, the work shines. 


One suggestion I have to SAWG is to include a few honorable mention awards amongst your very generous financial awards.  These can be non-monetary and could be offered to the juror to give out at their discretion…perhaps 3-5…ok I am giving six!  It was incredibly challenging to choose the awards…I belabored over my decisions…Not enough ways to acknowledge them.

Juror's Honorable Mentions:  I’ve woken up this morning, thinking about the show I juried last night, remembering particular works that didn’t receive one of the six awards.  So I am going to take the liberty to dole out six honorable mentions, if I may do so:

Frani Bopp – "Out There"

Sandy Brittain – "Dream Coat"

Mary Bubla – "Searching for Dinner"

Margret Erath – "Judgement Seat"

Terri Gay – "Ick-Ack-Ock"

Sue Ritz - "Tribute"

Go See the Show!
SAWG Gallery
5605 E River Road #131
Experimental Show
April 8 to May 4
Open Daily 11 to 4 – Closed on Monday

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Authentic Visual Voices: A Journey

After two and a half years of research, writing, interviewing and editing, I am truly excited to announce the completion of my book, Authentic Visual Voices: Contemporary Paper and Encaustic.  Deeply committed to the use of these two media in my own artwork for decades, I was and am inspired by how many artists had begun to integrate paper with encaustic. 

Artists who started with paper were discovering the wonderful qualities of wax and encaustic and vice versa, artists painting with encaustic were exploring paper as a surface.   For those artists new to the encaustic medium, it is important to note that even up to only 3 or 4 years ago, it was deemed “mandatory” to paint onto absorbent, hard substrates such as wood.  Paper was never touted as a suitable surface on which to paint encaustic.  Today, working with encaustics on the thinnest gossamer handmade Japanese sheet to a rigid cast paper sculpture is commonplace.

Both media have experienced a renaissance of artistic interest:  the exploration of hand papermaking and subsequent use of paper as an artistic media saw its popular renaissance in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s.  Contemporary interest in paper was sparked by the research and work of Dard Hunter (1883-1966), who, making handmade paper as early as 1913 as part of the Arts and Crafts movement, also traveled the world to document the disappearing 2000 year old craft in over twenty published books on the subject, as well as by the studio experimentation of Douglass Morse Howell, (1906-1994) one of the first to experiment with paper pulp and paper as art media in the ‘40s and ‘50s, and who subsequently taught many talented artists who went on to teach others.  The act of creating with paper today is fully accepted in its own right. 

Encaustic’s renaissance within the art world is relatively more recent.  Certainly, encaustic has historical precedence that dates back before the Fayum mummy portraits of Egypt, with artist pioneers using encaustic during the last century as well,  but the increase in interest in painting with pigmented molten wax has occurred more during the last thirty years.

Calling it “cross-pollination”, I was keen on introducing these two media worlds to each other.  I did lots of research to discover the artists who’d been exploring the integration of paper and encaustic for many years on their own, developing techniques and methods that corresponded to their needs.  Compiling a database of international artists (created initially with my colleague, artist Haley Nagy), I realized that the real story lay in understanding the artists.  Not the how behind the media, but the whys behind the choices artists make to express ideas. 

To my curatorial eye and aesthetics,  a number of artists deeply intrigued me and I decided to pursue traveling to their studios to talk directly with them.  With the help of generous donations to my fundraiser through USA Artists Projects, I went on the road with video camera in hand.  I documented my visits though journaling, photography and video.  I can’t tell you what a thrill it is to finally publish the results of my research.   It has truly been an amazing journey, one that I invite you to share with me.

Authentic Visual Voices: Contemporary Paper and Encaustic is a survey of international artists whose work explores the diversity of paper combined with the unique properties of encaustic wax in collage, photography, printmaking, sculptural paper and artists books.  This unique book on DVD offers a rare opportunity to gain insight into the artistic process.  

Twenty-eight professional artists in their own voices discussed their artwork with me during in-the-studio video interviews.  Our focus was on where their creative inspiration emanates from and how they as artists synthesize experience, emotions and concerns into their work.

Each of the 28 international artists were asked to create a new work in front of the camera and complete it for inclusion in this book.  The content-rich, image-filled portfolio pages of these artists are followed by another gallery of compelling works and ideas by 102 international artists - a total of over 380 color images and almost five hours of edited video (29 ten minute video interviews).

Emphasizing the voice of the artist, Authentic Visual Voices is a brand new, computer interactive book on DVD that artists and art lovers in particular will find captivating as they gain a deeper understanding into the motivation of these engaging and powerful artists.

Computer Applications required to read/view Authentic Visual Voices
These DVDs on not playable on a TV monitor but are intended for use in computers only.
Viewers will need Adobe Reader  to read it (the book is burned onto two DVDs and is a large pdf with embedded videos in 5 parts) as well as Flash Player   to view the videos (the application needed to watch videos on Youtube for instance). These are free applications for both Macs and PCs.  There are eventual plans for the book to be available as a download.

go to

Some feedback from readers:

“...the production quality is wonderful and you ask the BEST questions!!!! You did a great job...I am really enjoying watching the videos.  Everyone should buy a copy!!!"

"I can read books about artists and also read what they say about themselves, but the interviews are a real treasure. To actually hear what they say-- often the kinds of words I'd like to mouth--is another dimension. And the format of the printed portion followed by the video is to me unique and so enhancing. I'm going through it slowly to really absorb. Thank you."

"I am enjoying this DVD so much! It's an artistic and spiritual feast! I take it in small doses, savoring each interview, which I seem to like to view first. Then I am more attentive to the written words. And I have a deeper understanding of the work itself going back to the visuals.  I'm recommending it to both encaustic artists and artists working in other media.  Such food for my soul.  Thank you for this gift."

“Authentic Visual Voices is a MASTERPIECE... I don't want it to end. I will spend the summer learning and learning. Brava Brava Brava!”

"By listening to the questions you had been asking each artist and how they responded, I suddenly understood what it meant to be an artist. I realized that each of them had the need to express in a visual format whatever it was that was important to them. It didn't matter if they needed to show their fascination with astronomy, or make a political statement, or show support for a social issue. The passion was there. It was so simple. I don't know why it had taken me that long to realize that. But it was your interviews that brought it all to light for me.
I realized I had the passion that other "real artists" were describing. It was such a beautiful feeling, but such an emotional moment for me. I will never forget how I felt. And it happened because I was listening to your interviews. I watched the rest of them over the next two days, feeling a new kinship with each artist....the excitement, inspiration and motivation that [was] generated in me allowed me to look deeper into myself and make a wonderful discovery, for which I am most grateful."