Where are you from and where do you reside?
I was born and raised in Florida, and I moved to Boston for graduate school. I currently live in Newton, MA, where I’ve also maintained a studio in my kitchen for the last seven years.
How has your kitchen-studio influenced your practice?
The kitchen really is the center of our home, and we spend most of our time there, cooking, eating, doing homework with my oldest son, and making play-doh creations with my youngest. It also happens to be where I store and display finished paintings, work on paintings in progress, and make daily collages. In this sense, the melding of my studio with the kitchen has really allowed me to make progress in my work over the last few years. I am able to pick up and work whenever I happen to have time, and I also end up looking at my work throughout the day. This allows me to think about what my next move will be, to “work” even when I am not working.
You have a particularly unique process for creating your artwork–what led you to this process and how did you know it was the right one to pursue?
I’ve always been attracted to paper and unusual materials, and I’ve been making collage for many years. However, collage became an essential part of my practice in graduate school when I had no money, and I decided to scavenge for materials. I fell in love with cardboard–the color, the unique shapes, and the different textures. By using the found cardboard to paint on or to make an object, I was able to act spontaneously, on pure emotion, not thinking much about what I was doing. That element of fun is necessary to get to the core of who you are as an artist and to make new things. I chose to push these collages to be more by painting from them; after seeing them hanging on my studio wall for a while, they began to take on more meaning, like characters with a persona. I saw the potential for them to be the subjects in a larger story. The paintings of the collages allow me to input a part of myself discreetly and also to be analytical in a way that is challenging. I very much enjoy the challenge of trying to figure out how to recreate a specific texture or the transparency of certain paper using paint.
What's a typical day in the studio like for you?
As a busy mom who also works part-time, I discovered that I must plan out what I will be doing in the studio next. Since I often can only work a few hours at a time, I have to decide prior to heading to the studio what type of work-day it will be, causing me to work in stages. For exampleis it a collage day? Gesso day? First layer of paint? Drawing out the composition? I typically spend hours and sometimes days thinking about my next move and working it out in my head before I actually get to it.
After seeing them hanging on my studio wall for a while, they began to take on more meaning, like characters with a persona. I saw the potential for them to be the subjects in a larger story.
Nina Stolz Bellucci
What necessities do you require when making your art?
I like to have a variety of paper and materials to choose from when making the collages that I use in my paintings, and I am constantly on the look-out for salvageable cardboard, wood, and small objects. My own printed photographs and colored paper that I’ve painted myself are necessary in order to maintain a sense of self and purpose in the collages and, ultimately, in the paintings.
How do you choose your materials?
When making a collage, I notice a material’s color, tactility, pattern, shape, and sentimentality, which is determined, for example, by how long something has been living in my studio after being rescued. The longer I hang onto an object, the more likely it is that I will attribute some sentimental value to it, by recalling the moment that it was found. I have also used a few of my children’s drawings in the collages which work in contrast to the inherent stillness of the pieces by providing a sense of movement.
For the paintings, I use acrylic and water, no mediums. The adaptability of the paint allows me to push it in different directions to act as a transparent layer or a more opaque area of paint. There may be an area, for example, that incorporates the color underneath in order to mimic the type of paper used in the collage.
What’s an example of a work that included one of your children’s drawings in the initial collage?
The collage I made in preparation for the painting, Persistent Pathways, includes a drawing done by my youngest son with black ink on yellow paper. It’s just a quick scribble, but it symbolizes so many things–innocence, joy, persistence. I often look to him as an example of how to live life, as he emanates so much joy in everything he does. Persistent Pathways uses his drawing as well as other images of repetition (circles, radial lines, repeating lines of a crosswalk) to describe many methods for seeking answers to life’s big questions. Ultimately, though, none are more successful than a child’s willingness to accept the circumstances and to make the most of it by finding joy in the little things.
What is the most difficult part of the artistic process for you?
The most difficult part lately has been maintaining some sense of continuity in my work. I often only have an hour or two to work, and I sometimes go a few weeks without working at all. In effect, I can forget what my intentions were or lose a significant idea. I have found the key to maintaining continuity though, is to keep a notebook of sorts to jot down ideas or words and to take pictures wherever I go of inspiring light, shadows, and compositions. I consider this to be my exercise in drawing and a way to continue on the same wavelength.
Ultimately, though, none are more successful than a child’s willingness to accept the circumstances and to make the most of it by finding joy in the little things.
Nina Stolz Bellucci
Are there any aspects of your process that are left to chance?
The light cast onto my collage still lifes creates shadows and gradients of value that I incorporate into my paintings. Depending on the time of day that I can get into the studio, these shadows may change shape or intensity, revealing new formal relationships.
How do the different elements come together in your works?
I am driven to make paintings that utilize line, shape, and space. These elements work together in my paintings to suggest a unique narrative and to allude to awkward or abstract spaces. I enjoy using these to elements to create a sense of uncertainty in the viewer (as a reflection of my own uncertainty), hopefully causing the viewer to want to look a little bit longer.
How important is spontaneity in your art?
In making the collages, which my paintings are based on, I am essentially acting on pure emotion. The decision-making is spontaneous and depends on many factors, including my mood, what materials are available at the time, and what I am visually drawn to. Working spontaneously allows me to have fun and not worry too much about what I am doing or why. A more decisive thought process occurs only after, while I am making the paintings.
Where do you find your day-to-day inspiration?
I often find inspiration in the most mundane objects and everyday places. I take a lot of photos while I am going about my usual routine, and I have gotten into the habit of noticing unusual objects, strange shadows, and unique colors. I also use the camera frame as a way to see new compositions. These photos may end up in my collages, but ultimately this act helps to exercise my eye, keeping me in the habit of noticing things.
What’s one of your favorite objects you own? What’s the story?
One of my favorite objects is a grey, patterned stone that I collected from the shores of Iona Island in Scotland. It amazes me to think about this little stone’s history and the time it took to create its pattern of white lines from the waves constantly crashing over it. I took a trip there with my family about nine years ago to honor the memory of my father. His journey there many years ago was a spiritual one, and this rock helps me to feel connected to him.
Do you see your works as unique or as part of a series?
The only way I feel that I am working towards a goal or that I am making any sort of progress as an artist is to work in a series. My current series of paintings entitled, Lines Are Everywhere, encompasses my own experience of discovery, through the process of looking, of making, and of finding inspiration in everyday life.
These photos may end up in my collages, but ultimately this act helps to exercise my eye, keeping me in the habit of noticing things.
Nina Stolz Bellucci
Do you find that environment relates to your work?
I am very much influenced by my surroundings, using various elements to describe how I feel. On my daily walks of the neighborhood (en route to school, the grocery store, work, etc.), I often take photographs and collect objects. These walks, especially on fair-weather days, often become my time to think and to clear my mind. When I take the photographs, objects, and impressions back to the studio, I am compelled to utilize them in a collage, which I see as a means to draw visual relationships between ideas. Painting from these collages and dissecting the different images only helps me to better understand the pieces and to make sense of the whole and, essentially, myself.
What themes or motifs are you consistently drawn to?
I am consistently drawn to recreate ideas of spirituality, of the duality of stillness and movement, the experience of place, finding inspiration in the everyday, and being present in the moment, among others.
Are you formally trained?
I attended BU for graduate school and was fortunate to have painter John Walker as my mentor. He led by example as he was often the first one to his studio in the morning and the last one to leave. He also had a unique way of seeing things, and he wasn’t afraid to be direct and honest. I still hear his encouraging voice in my head while I am working in the studio.
Painting from these collages and dissecting the different images only helps me to better understand the pieces and to make sense of the whole and, essentially, myself.
Nina Stolz Bellucci
Do you remember the first work of art that captured your attention?
When I lived in Florida, I often visited the Salvador Dali Museum which was not too far from my house. I will never forget that feeling of awe as a child, standing in front of The Hallucinogenic Toreador, a massive painting towering over 13 feet high. It both confused me and left me wanting more. Strange how this is the reaction that I strive for in my own work today!
Are you influenced by any artist that does something completely different than you?
I really enjoy reading about the artistic practices of other artists, and I often refer to Anne Truitt’s Daybook for inspiration. She kept a journal for about seven years during her travels and often refers to memories of her past and her childhood in order to understand the present. She offers up quite a bit of insight into the artistic process and exemplifies the notion of life as art.
How has your work developed in the past few years, and how do you see it evolving in the future?
My work in the last few years has become more complex as I have discovered more about myself. I think I have always tried to simplify my imagery and my process to a fault. Once I began to realize that there are so many things around me, in my everyday life, that inspire me, I was more inclined to keep pushing my paintings to include multiple ideas. I see my work evolving to include more personal imagery, such as my children’s drawings, and perhaps more figures. For now, the collages act as their own characters, but every once in a while I have the urge to paint someone.
What’s next for you?
This June I have a solo exhibition at MUSA Collective in Boston, which is a group of artist friends who have either graduated from BU or live in the Boston area. It has been a great support system in simply knowing that there are other artists also trying to make it work, and we provide valuable feedback for each other as well as encouragement for moving forward.