Nona Hershey

Artist Statement

My work is about illusion:

From a distance seemingly rendered images of clouds are instead loosely abstracted graphite powder marks layered atop random patches of watercolor.

We think of clouds as pure and white and fluffy, yet roughly hewn blue Styrofoam shapes suggest their lightness and at the same time, suggest toxicity.

Diagrammatic lines reiterate the static picture plane yet enhance the illusion of ever shifting clouds behind the pictorial frame.

In 2008 we are ever more aware that what is presented as truth is not necessarily what is actually happening.

My fascination with clouds began during a Residency Grant at the Ballinglen Foundation in Ireland in 2001. It was just at the outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease. There were heart breaking stories in the news about mass slaughter, with vivid depictions of the smoke from burning animals. 2001 experienced a proliferation of other events, each with their own horrific billowing smoke and devastation. I listen to NPR constantly in the studio and I am an avid reader of current news. The travesty of what we are often told, versus what is actually happening to our environment and to masses of victims bombed, burned and tortured plays an active role in my thinking about the sky.

Since the beginning of time, clouds have represented uncertainty. Religion, science, and art have continually attempted to determine the specific origin and character of forces larger than our selves. Clouds have represented the wrath of gods; the beneficent containers of rain; the boundary between this world, and the mystery beyond. As the clouds shift, so does our imagination, our well being, our hope and our lack of it.

My work is an attempt to grasp the ephemeral. Using balls of cotton imbued with graphite powder, the drawings are made by slowly building up layers of tonality to evoke form and light. The softness and translucency of the medium lends itself well to mutability. This gradual, incremental process is a continual dialogue of invention as forms begin to emerge and the openings between the clouds become animated by the character of their edges. My goal is to suggest air, light, movement and the precariousness of hope.

Linear markings are sometimes embedded behind the clouds to suggest wind patterns and sometimes right up front on the picture plane as a means to establish a palpable distance between the viewer's picture plane and the ever shifting clouds behind and beyond the pictorial frame. That dichotomous aspect of illusion: the artificiality of the flat picture plane versus (hopefully) a believable sense of wind and air is analogous to my own questions about instability and power within and beyond our control.


Unrest 2007
Last Update: September 22 2009
For additional information, contact: Susan Classen-Sullivan