by Christy Rodriguez de Conte
For Eliv Nichols, Tallahassee has been home for over two decades. Her artistry is a fine balance that celebrates her Colombian culture with the beauty of belonging she has found in her Tallahassee community. Get a look at her work at the Visions of Gratitude Exhibition at the Artport Gallery through Nov. 2.
Anyone who owns a mango tree in Florida knows to clear space in their fridge and freezer throughout the summer months. The warm ground cushions the fruit’s fall. It gives its owner enough time to peel, puree, spread, whip, bake, saute, or freeze them. Yet, few have thought to paint them.
Lucky for Tallahassee, artist Elvi Nichols has captured the drama of the mango in her paintings and is here to share it at her first solo show, “Visions of Gratitude,” displayed at the Tallahassee International Airport’s Artport Gallery. “I felt the need to paint mangos hanging on the tree. I never wondered why. It was just like when you feel that you want a piece of chocolate [and take one],” laughs Nichols.
Nichols arrived in Tallahassee after 42 years in Colombia, looking for a fresh start. Although she is naturally a creative person, she never imagined this leap would lead to a new artistic chapter. As a child, Nichols danced as a way of disappearing into her own body and mind while becoming wholly absorbed in the music. Today, she finds the same level of satisfaction and absorption in her paintings.
She admits that her roots influence her work in the colors and textures she so amazingly captures. “When I was about 5 years old, we lived in a house with a big back yard in Barranquilla, Colombia – filled with trees and fruits, and in the middle, there was this big mango tree,” shares Nichols. “I remember the sweet smell in the early morning, the mangoes hanging on the tree with their rich colors, ripe yellow, orange-pink.”
These memories fill her mind and have These memories fill her mind, then her canvas with ready-to-pick, mesmerizing images.
Nichols came to painting later in life. The beauty in discovering an artistic passion as an adult can be found in the freedom from external pressures to succeed or please. Instead, Nichols paces herself and confidently creates a process that fits her life and artistic style. Nichols credits artist Darlene Arthur McBride for introducing her to oil painting. Nichols worked with McBride to improve her skills and accentuate her paintings by attending lessons and adopting McBride’s technique.
“I have tried to follow her process. I do a sketch, then a wash with raw umber, and then [I add] the colors,” says Nichols. “Finally, I use Liquin Original and varnish after I am totally sure that I am finished with the painting and it is dried.”
Since her first class with McBride in 2017, Nichols has developed into a fine artist whose work has been featured across Tallahassee. From her “earlier exhibits” at El Jalisco SouthWood and Art in the Park Downtown to later shows with 621 Gallery and City Hall, where her painting was chosen to remain on display at the Commissioners Room on the 4th floor for one year. Nichols’s paintings center around one emotion: joy.
Read more on the Tallahassee Democrat.