Ceramicist Lesley Nolan’s “Branching Out” centers on a ponderous, androgynous figure with mahogany eyes lilted heavenwards. Two branches diverge from the top of its head and its torso is rooted in a square-shouldered stump. Adorned with glimmering fungi and an air of woodland mystery, the piece is a testament to Nolan’s ability to tell stories in clay.
“I’ve always loved to be outside and with the pandemic I spent a lot of time hiking through the greenway,” says Nolan. “I got interested in the forms of a lot of the fallen stumps and logs. There’s this dying and decaying log and yet there’s the life of the fungi, vines, and the seeds of something else that is growing up through it. I loved that whole circle of life kind of thought process.”
Nolan’s most recent clay works are on display alongside artist Barbara Balzer in their “Figures in Form” exhibition at LeMoyne Arts. While many of her works are a celebration of the human form as it is transformed by the natural world, Nolan did not start out in clay as her primary medium.
As a student in school, she was immersed in theater as her main artistic outlet. Nolan never took art classes, and instead was drawn to characters as they appeared on the stage. Nolan’s grandmother was an oil painter, and her mother was a craftswoman. Coming from a long line of “army brats,” Nolan says the true talent of the women in her family was curating their surroundings.
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