Collection: Words And Feeling, Selected By Nicole Shaffer (online exhibition)

About the exhibition

When going through the NIAD archives, I was struck by a number of works that pair text with image in ways that shift language and illustration from a familiar, functional use to something more expansive. I access a similar experience of forming unexpected and generative correlations when I observe my sensations through movement. For this online series, I selected works that opened up my thinking about language and sensory experience.

When scrolling through the incredible digital archive on NIAD’s website, I first noticed how drawings and paintings by Mireya Betances, Samantha Kershnar, Heather Hamann, and Sara Malpass include language that interrupted my assumptions around what I was seeing. It was like the text created space, allowing me to see and feel more. It felt like receiving a present.

I experienced Karen May’s work as also creating space. I saw installations in her drawings on top of ads for art exhibitions. Her work in this series makes use of the material surface of found gallery promotional material and responds to the spaces and artworks represented in the ads. Even the use of the text of her name felt like claiming space and asserting her presence.

The formal qualities of the text in the pieces by Serena Scott and Danny Thach demanded from me a new understanding of familiar language. What can I learn about what it means to reach by considering the repetitious effort required to use such beautiful handwriting? What can I learn from a boldly typed proclamation that refuses my access to coherence?

Expressive mark-making from Evelyn Davis and Arista Dawson reminds me of what it is to be in my body while making – to think with movement. The rich color and texture in the work by Shirley How and Maria Radilla evoke in my imagination a pleasurable tactile experience.

Drawings by Jeremy Burleson offer me a sense of ease and belonging in my relationships. James Heartstill’s multiple renditions of a home with its consistently represented features and Eddie Braught’s beautifully colored drawing of a home with mirroring entrances led me to pause and consider the vast diversity and complexity of experience. We will all draw different houses. Esmeralda Silva’s magical heart-filled neighborhood is where I want to dream. The two lists by Sara Malpass remind me of the sense of home I feel when experiencing wonder, being appreciative, and from the consistent access to creative community provided by supportive arts organizations.

About the selector

Nicole is a current MFA candidate at San Francisco State University and has exhibited in Bay Area spaces such as Southern Exposure, Wolfman Books, Krowswork Gallery, SOMArts, their dad's apartment, a Synanon commune, the Port of Oakland, and inside a truck. They live in Oakland and so did their grandma.

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