Sunday, November 28

Bizarre and magic: new exhibition illuminates Indiana artist Nancy Noël – Nach Welt

Through the heavy black curtains in the dimly lit room, visitors to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum are transported into the studio of a world-famous artist.

Worn brushes and other artistic utensils rest on a paint-splattered table that was once Nancy Noël’s workplace. Calming and colorful paintings that exude humor and a sense of magic cover the walls.

Ambient sounds of insects and chirping birds wander through the room, recreating what it sounded like when the windows in Noël’s Zionsville studio were open.

“Having the objects from her life and seeing everything in life that inspired her is just very peaceful here,” said Monica Humphrey, the museum’s director of exhibitions and interactive media. “You have the ambient noise in this room and everything just comes together.”

Noël’s work and life are the focus of the latest exhibition in the children’s museum “The Paintings of NA Noël”. Known for her serene depictions of animals, children, and their travels, the Hoosier artist has painted more than 1,000 original works over the course of her career. Millions of her prints have been sold worldwide.

After her death in 2020, her sons Alexander Noël-Kosene and Michael Noël-Kosene wanted to find a way to honor Noël by partnering with a cultural institution with which she had such a close relationship.

In the exhibition at the Children’s Museum, Noël’s paintings find a new generation of viewers who will delight them.

“We grew up with this art and sometimes took it for granted. Having our mother in our lives was everything. Now, to work with my brother and the Children’s Museum to achieve this, the impact of their work is almost new, ”said Michael Noël-Kosene. “Some things feel like I’m seeing them for the first time.”

More than 40 of Noël’s paintings are featured in the exhibition, each of which highlights the artist’s fine vision and talent.

The ethereal shape of an angel, surrounded by a pastel-colored aura, seems to drift off the canvas in “Serenity”. Colorful dresses and robes drape over a regal-looking woman who is captured in “The Matriarch”. The eponymous black and white animals are created from bouquets of flowers in “Mother and Baby Zebra”.

“The variety of art she’s made over her lifetime is wonderful, having multiple points of access for people,” said Humphrey. “Children and adults can come in and see the different types of art, the storytelling, and the memories and emotions. There are just so many ways to get into art here. “

Much of the exhibition shows Noël’s work alongside actual items from her family’s home.

In “Velveteen Rabbit” a vulnerable child clings to a stuffed bunny. The popular rabbit depicted in the piece is on display in a showcase next to the painting. The antique tricycle from “Alex With Trike” is placed in front of the painting.

“We didn’t just look at her pictures, we looked at everything that inspired her,” said Humphrey.

Noël began painting in the 1970s and was one of Indiana’s best-known artists for decades. She initially carried her initials NA Noël and disguised her gender because she believed that male artists received more respect and credibility during this period.

But her contemporary Impressionist work quickly caught the attention of art critics and collectors from around the world, making her an international star. She died on August 16, 2020.

Over the course of her career, Noël has worked with the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis on a wide variety of projects. The exhibition shows a number of posters that she created for the museum.

“She’s been a friend of the museum for years,” said Humphrey. “She was an important member of the art scene, so it was very important for the museum to have her work here and celebrate with Alex and Michael.”

Noël and museum officials had discussed putting on an exhibition of their work in the past, but the details never came together. After their deaths last year, Alexander Noël-Kosene and Michael Noël-Kosene reached out to the museum to see how this could be done.

“We really wanted to do something with them because we had all this incredible art,” said Alexander Noël-Kosene. “We thought it was time and the museum moved very quickly to put a team together.”

Noël’s diverse and extensive work enabled museum staff to offer a number of different options so that people can truly immerse themselves in the paintings.

“We wanted to show how versatile she is as an artist. Many artists are known for a style. Mother certainly had certain styles that she was known for, but she really painted a lot of motifs, ”said Alexander Noël-Kosene. “You could be in this room thinking that it is filled with works by various artists. It was really important to show their versatility. “

Humphrey also tried to recreate the studio room where Noël worked. A wall-sized photo shows her workshop during her lifetime, while personal art supplies and tools are arranged in showcases.

Families can take a seat at tables in the room and create their own artwork, from family portraits to sketchy items that Noël included in some of her paintings.

“We really wanted to see this as an exhibition that shows art and shows how accessible it is. You don’t have to be a professional artist to enjoy it, ”said Humphrey.

For Alexander Noël-Kosene and Michael Noël-Kosene, seeing their mother’s work in such a prominent exhibition was a surreal but healing process.

“To witness the experience of our mother’s death was such a devastating experience, especially because she had a hundred more pictures in her life that she wanted to paint,” said Alexander Noël-Kosene. “This is the only thing I’ve been looking forward to to take my mind off the grief we’ve been feeling over the past year. It kept me going, and now when I see it here I can’t tell you how rewarding it is. “

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