Nikkal, B&W and Red (2018) collage 14×11 inches


I created the collage seen nearby as a sample for a class I teach at the Pelham Art Center in Pelham, NY. My collage is made with cut and pasted magazine papers on a 14×11 inch Bristol paper substrate. Look close at the design and see there are multiple pasted papers in this collage. It’s designed as an abstract grid. There’s a bottom layer you cannot see. It was a large page from W magazine with a B&W photo of a model sitting in a field of flowers, holding a flower in his hand. See the image below. The bottom layer image was almost as big as the 14×11 inch substrate. I glued it down and added the small collage papers over the photo image. The top layer is made with small square papers from art magazine and show stripes, round letter forms, half circles and bullseye shapes. I included a drawing with concentric circles with two lines that criss-cross the circle. I like to create collage with papers with circles and round shapes. Almost all of the top layer papers were printed in high contrast black on white or white on black.





Nikkal, lower layer in the B&W and Red collage


The image nearby is the bottom layer of the collage. It shows a model sitting in a field of flowers. After I glued down this large magazine image, I started to glue cut papers near his right shoulder (seen on the left). As I glued, I payed attention to the visual relationship between the new piece and the image below. Notice the printed image of a cathedral building in the image above. It was the first paper added. I added text collage above and the drawing with the concentric circles to the right. Then I added papers so they touched and overlapped, paying attention to contrast and connecting patterns. I included papers with high contrast and some with low contrast. sSome papers were graphic with lines and letters. I didn’t cover the entire first layer but you have to look closely to see where the bottom layer image peeks through. I added the 4 tiny red collage papers last.






Black and White Are Colors

I think black and white are colors just like red, purple, blue, green and yellow. Black and white are potent because they are at opposite ends of brightness (in the value scale). I like high contrast. It can be dramatic. We pay attention to opposites and high contrast.


I showed my collage to the class and also showed an iPhone image of the magazine paper that was underneath. I asked my students to go through the W magazines we have in class, select a large black and white image and glue it to the Bristol paper substrate as the first step. Then they looked through art magazines and found papers for the top layer of their collages. Their papers are from the same magazines I used, but you will see they selected papers with a lot more red. They love to work with red.


See images below of black & white and red collages done by students in my classes at the Pelham Art Center.



Chris Timmons, B&W and Red collage (2018)


The image at left is by Chris Timmons. She used stripes, dots and circles in black white and red. I believe you can see part of an image from her bottom layer. It’s a face partially covered by a red half-circle in the center of the collage. Chris added a second face on the right edge of the collage, facing sideways to balance the horizontal white on black stripes.








Ilene Bellovin, B&W and Red Collage (2018)



The image at left is by Ilene Bellovin. She used horizontal strips of red, grey and black and white  for collage over her bottom layer. Notice there is a sense of a figure in this collage made with paper strips.




Leslie Cowen, B&W and Red Collage





The image at left is by Leslie Cowen. You can see a building face with fire escapes. That image is her bottom layer in the collage. Leslie cut and pasted a vintage image of Jackie Kennedy in the upper right. Notice there is a cartoon drawing in the lower center that looks like eyes. Notice Leslie pasted in text in white on red, white on black and black on white throughout her collage to add to the rhythm of the diagonals in the fire escapes.







The Magic of the Color Red


Red is one of the top two favorite colors of all people. Red captures attention. It’s one of the most visible colors, second only to yellow. The history of languages reveals that red is the first color after black and white (all languages have words for black and white). If a third hue exists, it is red. When using red, where it’s placed and what it’s next to makes a big difference. I use it sparingly and tell my students to use red as an accent color because a little bit of red goes a long way.


Here are more images in B&W and Red by students in my collage classes.


Estelle Laska, B&W and Red Collage (2018)



The image at left is by Estelle Laska. I believe the background layer in the collage is an image of a woman in a white dress. Estelle always makes narrative collage with a story and here she shows us her love of fashion illustration with collage she found of vintage drawings of ladies with long gowns and round hats. Estelle even included paper text with the words Fearless Fashion in the lower center of her collage, and used a red letter “A”, red quotation marks (on the right side), and a large open donut shape cut from red paper.






Harriet Goldberg, B&W and Red Collage (2018)


The image at left is by Harriet Goldberg. I can see part of the image of a building facade in the lower layer in the collage. Harriet cut two drawings with the letter “X” and pasted them in the upper and lower portions of her collage. Above the lower “X” he pasted a drawing of a cute face. It’s the same drawing that Leslie Cowen used in her collage. Harriet added red paper over the lips in the drawing, and cut and pasted 10 more red magazine and painted papers over her collage in a horizontal and vertical pattern to mimic the design in the buildings behind.






Paulette Coleman, B&W and Red Collage (2018)


The image at left is by Paulette Coleman. I think Paulette likes to work on a square substrate and probably cut it down from 14×11 inches to 11×11 inches. She also used a smaller, mostly white background lower layer collage on the substrate and then pasted various magazine papers in red, black and white. There’s a rhythm of squares, dots and stripes that she pasted horizontally, vertically, diagonally and curved throughout.Notice the portrait on the lower left. Notice the red titanium red balloon by Jeff Koons on the lower right. Reds balance the four corners of this collage.







Nelly Edmonson, B&W and Red Collage (2018)


The image at left is by Nelly Edmonson. You can see she used a duplicate (copy) image of the building facade with fire escapes. Harriet Goldberg used the same paper for her background. Nelly added red netting on the upper left to give a pink cast to the collage. You can see the pasted image of the building behind the red netting. Nelly strategically placed small red papers into the image of the building in the bottom layer. Notice the b&w face on the right. A lot of the papers mimic the diagonal patterns in the building fire escapes and lead your eye back into the image on the bottom layer.







Joseph Albers, The Interaction of Color, oil on panel.



Finally, there are many different reds. There are dark and light shades of red, depending on whether they have been mixed with black or white. Some reds have a yellow tone (tomato red) and some have a blue tone (berry red). The image at left is by Joseph Albers (German-born American, 1888-1976) and titled The Interaction of Color. It shows variations in the color red. Albers was an artist, educator and wrote extensively about color. His paintings explored chromatic interactions with nested squares in a series of works titled Homage to the Square. Each painting consisted of either three or four squares of solid colors nested within each other to show how colors change when they are placed next to other colors. Read more about Joseph Albers here.

Read more about the color red here.




Did you notice how every collage by my Pelham Art Center students has a different design? Some class members left a lot more of the bottom layer exposed. Would you like to make a collage in black and white and red? Email me and ask for a free PDF for this project.

Your comments are welcome.



nikkal, NINES, 60×36 (2015) original version


I challenged myself to change a painting I completed in 2015, because I didn’t like the rough patches of paint on the surface and also wanted to simplify the geometric design. See the original version nearby.

NINES was exhibited recently in a 3-person show titled In the Space of Spirit (Nov 16, 2017 to Jan 11, 2018) at the Lakefront Gallery at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in Hamilton, NJ. It was a big show. I had 23 works in the show, including large paintings and framed collages. Karen Fitzgerald, who organized the show, and Kristin Reed were there other two artists. Sheila Geisler selected and hung the show on the huge mezzanine level at the Lakefront Gallery.






NINES at the Lakefront Gallery



The image nearby shows NINES on the Lakefront Gallery wall, flanked on the left by Kristin Reed’s 2 works and on the right by Karen Fitzgerald’s two works. Notice there is a large number nine painted in dark grey in the upper left side of my painting. The exhibition was reviewed in a Times of Trenton article: Lakefront Gallery Fine Arts: ‘In the Space of Spirit’ | (Nov 29, 2017). Janet Purcell wrote about NINES: “Pay careful attention to her (Nikkal’s) large acrylic on canvas where the number nine sometimes appears prominently and other times only obscurely. “ Purcell added a statement by Sheila Geisler: “Her (Nikkal’s) adept manipulations of contrasting color create a sense of movement – the surfaces seem to breathe. She is dedicated to exploring the layering of materials as well as the layering of form and pattern.” I was pleased with the review and the recognition that my abstract geometric works are always about surfaces and layering.




I brought NINES back to my studio on January 11th, looked closely at the way it was painted and decided I definitely would change it. On January 25th a pithy post arrived via email from Seth Godin to accept the challenge to begin. The post is titled Beginning is Underrated. Read the post.



Merely beginning.

With inadequate preparation, because you will never be fully prepared.

With imperfect odds of success, because the odds are never perfect.

Begin. With the humility of someone who’s not sure, and the excitement of someone who knows that it’s possible.



NINES in progress, close up view


The image nearby is a close up of the painting after I started to make changes. I wrote myself a work memo: Sand Nines when you arrive at the studio to make the surface smoother. Plan to use a sand block. Scrub gently in a circular motion. It’s hard to tell from this close-up, but I turned the painting upside down so the top is now the bottom. Look at the center of the painting here and notice the painted paper collage. The papers shows up because I reduced the layers of paint with sanding. Notice the cut paper letter D on the right sided. I started to add new collage. The paper, a reverse letter D is not glued down yet.







nikkal, NINES, acrylic and collage on canvas (2017)


The image nearby is the new version of the painting. I painted out the large number 9 and large grey oval shape in the original painting. I painted large areas with thin layers of white acrylic to soften the grey yellow tones and unify the design. I changed a yellow square to grey. As I worked, I wiped the acrylic paint gently to reveal undertones. With the turnaround, the nines became sixes so I knew I would have to add more collage numbers to keep the title NINES. FYI: when I am working on a painting, I always paint papers at the same time. That way I have collage papers with colors that match.I eliminated the yellow gold bar at the bottom, the yellow stripe on the right and little gold square on the left.







I will show NINES soon in a group exhibition titled Black White & Grey at the Upstream Gallery in Hastings on Hudson, NY March 1-18, 2018. I am a member of the gallery and NINES now has the right colors for the group show. It’s all black and white and grey.



I found another Seth Godin post, dated January 21, 2018, that says exactly what I think and feel about this process. It’s titled The Gap. Read it here.


There’s a gap between where you are and where you want to be.

Many gaps, in fact, but imagine just one of them.

That gap–is it fuel? Are you using it like a vacuum, to pull you along, to inspire you to find new methods, to dance with the fear?

Or is it more like a moat, a forbidding space between you and the future?


What did I learn?

Go for it. There are always gaps. Dance with the fear. You can make it work.


Your comments are welcome.


If you are in Westchester County, NY, please stop by the Upstream Gallery, 8 Main Street, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY and see the exhibition (March 1-18). Gallery hours are Thursday to Sunday, 12:30-5:30. Come to the reception Sunday, March 4th, 2-4 pm. The show includes various media, all interpreting black, white and grey.


nikkal, Blue Triangle Diptych

I submitted two diptych paintings for a juried exhibition titled Duality: Glimpses of the Other Side at to the Islip Art Museum. One diptych – titled Blue Triangle Diptych (nearby) was accepted. One diptych, titled Blue and White Triangles (below) was rejected. The juror was Scott Bluedorn, an artist who lives and works in East Hampton, NY. The exhibition is June 24-September 17, 2017. The reception date is June 24th from 8-11. The Islip Art Museum is located at 50 Irish Lane, East Islip, NY 11730 on Long Island. Gallery hours are Th/F 10-4 and S/S 12-4.


I don’t typically submit works for juried shows but was intrigued with the theme and the wording in the prospectus. It asked artists to “seek out what’s hidden behind the veil of perception to reveal chaos in the mundane, beauty in the ordinary, and depravity in the wholesome.” I don’t see how my work is veiled, depraved or chaotic, but I suppose my approach to layering with paint and papers implies veiled perception – something below the surface. I am interested in duality. The diptych is my approach to expressing duality. I work with painted papers and collage. The media is dual. In the first diptych, one panel has painted paper collage and one panel is a painting in acrylic. Each includes triangles but the configuration is not parallel. Each panel is 24×16 inches. Together, the diptych measures 24×32 inches. I like the interplay between mixed media – collage and painting, paper and paint. The Blue Triangles Diptych was never intended as a diptych. Each panel was created to stand alone. By chance, I placed them next to each other against a wall in my studio (I was re-organizing space). I liked what I saw and I decided they belonged together – it was serendipity! I think of them as fraternal twins.


nikkal, Blue and White Triangle diptych

The image nearby is my 2nd diptych titled Blue and White Triangle Diptych. This work was declined. It was created as a diptych. I changed triangle shapes and added more light blue and white papers as I worked. Notice the way the triangles go from wider to thinner as they approach the center and press into each other’s space. I wonder if this work was declined because the two parts are united. What do you think? I hope you can attend the reception and/or see the exhibition if you find yourself in the area. Link here for more information and directions. The Islip Art Museum website says the IAM is a leading exhibition space for contemporary art on Long Island, and the NY Times calls the Museum the “best facility of its kind outside Manhattan.”




I have a skinny, 16-page paperback catalog titled Contemporary Diptychs: Divided Visions. See it nearby. It’s an old catalog from a 1987 exhibition. I found it while browsing for art books at the Strand Book Store (828 Broadway and 12th Street in NYC). I loved the cover image and the essays about diptychs inside. If you haven’t been there, you must visit the Strand. It’s a great destination for art book lovers.  The catalog cover image shows a contemporary diptych titled Slope of Repose, by the artist Edward Henderson, dated 1986. The catalog has the same title as the exhibition – Contemporary Diptychs, Divided Visions, – and includes essays written by Roni Feinstein, formerly Branch Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Fairfield, CT. Feinstein organized the exhibition at two Whitney Museum branch locations – one at the Equitable Center in Manhattan, 787 Seventh Ave., NYC and another at at the Whitney Museum branch in Fairfield County, Stamford, CT. Both shows were in 1987. The exhibition catalog is still available online.


According to Feinstein, the first diptychs were tablets consisting of two pieces of wood with writing hinged together. In the late 16th century, diptychs were used primarily for companion paintings with portraits of a husband and wife, intended as a pair, but also visually independent. The contemporary revival of diptychs in the 1960s was more about conceptual art – dealing with issues of narrative and allegory, autobiography and self-expression, social, political and cultural commentary.


The essay about Edward Henderson’s diptych Slope of Repose (image is seen above) says: “Things are not exactly as they seem. The left side may look like a collage with pasted newspapers and other elements, but it’s a trompe l’oeil painting. What looks like a wooden bar running down the middle is actually painted to look like it’s real, and the right side panel shows a letter N (an apartment house) but is assembled from thin strips of balsa wood. What seems to be collage on the left side is painted and what seems to be painted on the right side is collage.” The diptych makes you ask – what is real?




I am pleased to be included in the exhibition Duality: Glimpses of the Other Side at the Islip Museum, and can’t wait to see the various works that were accepted in this annual show. Long Island is a lovely place for a day trip in the summer. If you are nearby, please stop by and see the exhibition. Let me know what you think. See directions to IAM here. Let me know what you think about contemporary diptychs and the idea of duality.


It Takes a Team

May 24, 2017

I visited the NYC Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) last week to see the exhibition Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction (through August 13). The show is fabulous and all the most exciting abstract artists (who happen to be women) are included. The curators selected works from the Museum’s permanent collection, including almost 100 paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings, prints, textiles, and ceramics by more than 50 artists. I loved how the works were installed in the galleries. I am a keen critic when it comes to exhibition installation. It takes a team to select the great works and it takes a team to install the best exhibition.

The curatorial team included Starr Figura, curator, Department of Drawings and Prints, and Sarah Hermanson Meister, curator, Department of Photography, with Hillary Reed, curatorial assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints. According to the online comments, the installation was loosely chronological and synchronous, with works that range from gestural canvases by Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler, and Joan Mitchell to radical geometries by Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape, and Gego. There are fiber weavings by Magdalena Abakanowicz, Sheila Hicks, and Lenore Tawney. There’s collage Anne Ryan. There are paintings – both large and very white  by Agnes Martin and Yayoi Kusama. The last gallery includes a large sculpture by Lee Bontecou. There’s a hanging sculpture by Louise Bourgeois (it looks very heavy), and – my favorite – a wall installation by Eva Hesse done with industrial materials. It’s a stellar cast. I include some of these artists below with images taken at the exhibition (my iPhone) as well as images from the MoMA website. Visit the exhibition online here. I hope you get to see the show and see all the media and  all the artists.


Agnes Martin, The Tree, oil and pencil on panel, 1964



The painting seen here is 6×6 feet, done by Agnes Martin (American, born Canada, 1912-2004). Titled The Tree, it’s oil and pencil on panel, and dated 1964. Image: copyright Estate of Agnes Martin/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. This is a very white painting with faint pencil lines on canvas. When you walk up close you see it clearly. From a distance everything is quiet and delicate. Agnes Martin had a recent retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC – I made sure I got to see it more than once, and also attended a panel program at the Museum. I heard that Martin made all her pencil lines by hand. Amazing. Her work is highly regarded and her career and persona are fascinating. Here’s a link to see images and a video from the Guggenheim Museum show.



Carmen Herrera, Untitled, painting on canvas, 1952

The image nearby is by Carmen Herrera (born 1915, Havana, Cuba). It’s untitled and dated 1952. The artist is still working and showing her paintings and sculpture at age 102. I love this painting because it has black and white stripes that create the illusion of triangles. Notice the top and bottom of the painting where there’s black against white and white against black. Carmen Herrera was and is always focused on the edges of her paintings and sculptures. Herrera studied art, art history and architecture in Havana and then in Paris, France where she because part of an international artist’s group called the Salon des Realties Nouvelle. She distilled her geometric style of abstraction in Paris. She reduced her color palette to three, then two colors for each canvas. She created hard-edged canvasses at the same time Ellsworth Kelley (also in Paris) developed his style. The Museum website says: Herrera’s ascetic compositions prefigured the development of Minimalism by almost a decade, but the artist did not receive the critical attention she deserved. I saw this same image by Carmen Herrera at the Whitney Museum of American Art at her 2016/2017 solo exhibition titled Lines of Sight. See more images and read about the Whitney exhibition here.


Yayoi Kunama, Untitled, 1959

The work nearby is by Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, born 1929). I’m a great fan. Here work and career are amazing. This painting is very white and looks like lace. It has dimension. It’s untitled, done in 1959 and oil on canvas (41 ½ x 52 inches). Yayoi Kusama is almost 90 years old and still exhibiting everywhere. Her white painting in this exhibition looks nothing like current images that you see in galleries and museums. Recent exhibitions include installation with ceramic pumpkins and polka dots in mirrored spaces. When you think of Kusama, you think kaleidoscopic imagery and incredible color. The painting at MoMA is copyright 2017 Yayoi Kusama. I posted a blog about Kusama in 2012 – titled Collage Exploded – about her solo show that year at the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC. All about dots. See it here. The David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea, NY, represents Kusama, and organized Infinity Mirrors, Kusama’s current North American traveling exhibition (2017-2019), a survey of the artists’ evolution to create art in immersive infinity rooms. The traveling exhibition includes sculpture, installation and large scale paintings. Read about Infinity Mirrors here.

Women Artists: Eclipsed Careers

Elsa Gramcko, Untitled, 1957


I’ve already said that every work in the exhibition Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction  is part of the permanent collection at MoMA. But, many works are exhibited for the first time or in a long time. I’ve listed who donated the art to the Museum. Most of the artists – because they are women – were eclipsed in their careers by the “big guns” (i.e. male artists) and did not have a solo museum exhibition during their lifetime. That’s all changing now.

The image at left is by Elsa Gramcko (Venezuelan 1925-1994). It’s untitled, 39×13 inches, 1957, oil on canvas and painted with a deep Yves Klein blue, with black, white, red, yellow and green in a bold geometric design. The blue and white together are radiant. This is not a big painting in size, but the saturated colors and design are totally captivating. I noticed it immediately as soon as I walked into the gallery space.  The painting was a promised gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund, 2016.



Lydia Clark, The Inside is the Outside, 1963


I recognized the image at left as soon as I saw it. It’s a stainless steel curvilinear sculpture by Lygia Clark (Brazilian, 1920-1988), titled The Inside is the Outside, 1963, 16 x 17 ½ x 14 ¾ inches. Lygia Clark had a retrospective exhibition at MoMA in 2014 organized around three key themes: abstraction, Neo-Concretism and the “abandonment” of art (the last was participatory). The MoMA says Clark became a major reference for contemporary artists dealing with the limits of conventional art forms. Read about the 2014 Lygia Clark exhibition: The Abandonment of Art, 1948-1998 here. This curvy steel sculpture is another gift from Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund, 2011.




Eva Hesse, conceptual sculpture,1966

Here is my image of a sculpture by Eva Hesse. I saved my favorite image for last. I am intrigued with the industrial materials she used to make art, and by the shape the materials create on the wall. This conceptual sculpture is untitled, dated 1966, and made with enamel paint and string over papier-mâché with elastic cord, approximate size is 33 1/2 x 26 x 2 1/2 inches. Eva Hesse was German-American (1936 – 1970) and is associated with Minimalism and Feminist Art. In this work, contour is the primary concept. Notice the shape. Hesse’s work demonstrated to a new, postwar generation how to distill feelings and conceptual references down to a set of essential forms and contours. Her career spanned little more than a decade. Even though she died young, she left a huge legacy for others to follow. She said: In my inner soul art and life are inseparable. I think art is a total thing. Her work has remained popular and highly influential to important international artists who followed, including Louise Bourgeois, Bill Jensen, Martin Puryear and Brice Marden. Words associated with Eva Hesse’s works: wit, whimsy, evocative and spontaneous invention. Her media were casually found, everyday materials. Important critics describe her forms as languid and proto-feminist. Read about her Life and Legacy here.



I am always impressed with the talented teams that curate an exhibition – what they choose to include and how they choose to organize how the show is installed. This exhibition is about great artists (who happen to be women) who were marginalized in the art world during the post World War II period. The MoMA, and other museums, are making amends for that exclusion.

This show feels contemporary. That’s a compliment from me.

I want to recommend a new book I’ve just read that I found at the MoMA bookstore after I saw the exhibition. I always stop at the bookstore to find a little book to add to my library. I like little books to carry and read if I’m on the train, waiting for an appointment, etc. Ideally, the book doesn’t have too many pages, there are lots of images and really good text. I found Who’s Afraid of Contemporary Art? An A to Z Guide to the Art World by Kyung An and Jessica Cerasi (2016, Thames & Hudson). The book is fun to read and answers 4 basic questions: What is contemporary art? What makes it contemporary? What is it for? And why is it so expensive? The authors discuss museums and the art market, the rage for biennales and the next big thing. Who’s Afraid of Contemporary Art? examines how artists are propelled to stardom, explains what curators do, and challenges our understanding of artistic skill, demystifying the art market, and much, much more. Every short chapter includes a 2-page commentary and an image by or about a significant work by a contemporary artist. Both authors are highly qualified to write about the contemporary art world. Kyang An is an Assistant Curator at the Guggenheim Museum, NY and Jessica Cerasi is Exhibition Manager at Carroll/Fletcher and was Assistant Curator of the 20th Biennale of Sydney in 2016.


Get the book Who’s Afraid of Contemporary Art? and go see the MoMA exhibition before it closes August 13. You’ll find there are artists you love and didn’t know about. There are more than 100 works by 50 artists to see. Email  me your comments about your favorite artists and works in the show. Tell me if you agree that many works also seem contemporary in spirit in spite of the fact they were created so many years ago. Tell me what you think about the sculpture by Eva Hesse. Thank you for your comments.


The Collage Experience at the Barrett Art Center in Poughkeepsie, NY

I belong to an artist’s collective called the Power of 13. We are 13 mid-career artists who meet informally once a month or every 6 weeks to chat and catch up on what we’re doing in the arts. We are painters (contemporary and traditional), printmakers, a fine art photographer, mixed media artists, and sculptors. We network, share tips, critique works in progress, and look for exciting places to see contemporary art and show our works as a group. We have a lot to share – and that is what is so exciting about being part of the group.

I’m a contemporary collage artist and tend to see everything in terms of collage and installation.


Nikkal, Curvy Geo Stretch

The image nearby is a new collage I created titled Curvy Geo Stretch. It’s done with black and white painted papers and is framed and 14×14 inches. I call it Stretch because of the light black shapes that shift to the left – or to the right, depending on the way you want to see it.  My collage is hanging above a 5-foot wide marble fireplace in the 1st gallery at the Barrett Art Center. Sitting nearby on the mantle is a classical 26 inch high bronze sculpture of a violin. On 2 adjacent walls are various paintings and  collages. The installation is a fascinating juxtaposition of old and new – art and architecture – and the mix of works by 6 members in the group. There are 64 works by 13 artists in the exhibition, including paintings, collage, mixed media, sculpture, photography, printmaking and drawing. We are so pleased to have the opportunity to show works by the Power of 13 Collective at the Barrett Art Center.

Penny Dell curated and organized this show. I helped Penny install everything. It took us more than 2 days. All the individual works show well together, and the collective spirit is strong.


The opening reception was April 22. If you are in Dutchess County on Saturday, May 20th, please come to the closing reception at 55 Noxon Street, Poughkeepsie, from 2-4 pm. Read about the Barrett Art Center:


Edna Dagan sculpture


The 2nd image at left is a close up view of Edna Dagan’s sculpture with my grid collages in the background. Both are installed in the front gallery at the Barrett Art Center. In Edna’s sculpture, you see a cherub and part of a violin. This work is about 26 inches tall. Edna has 4 sculptures in the exhibition, and all are about music with a violin done in cast metal. My 2 collages are painted papers on paper. Framed sizes are 32×28 inches. I especially like the close up photo of the sculpture juxtaposed with the slightly out of focus view of my grid collages.






The Barrett Art Center

The image nearby shows the Barrett Art Center. Image is courtesy of their website. The building is narrow and long with 2 galleries, meeting room, office and kitchen on the 1st floor, and more galleries and classroom spaces on upper floors. The building is named for Thomas W. Barrett, Jr. who was born in Poughkeepsie, NY on 9/12/1902 and was an artist interested in the social and the societal value of art. He formed the Dutchess County Art Association, mounting exhibitions for local artists, giving them a means of showing and selling their work during the Depression era. He studied art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and worked as an artist in NYC. He returned to Poughkeepsie in 1929, and moved back into the current Barrett House where he was born.


2nd gallery view

In the image at left, I’m standing in the doorway in the 2nd gallery space with a view of the hallway behind me. Penny took the photo the day we installed the art. Notice that the space is relatively small and there’s a lot of art to see. It doesn’t seem crowded because the ceilings are high – and that makes you feel you’re in a larger space. In this photo, you see 5 small mixed media works by Alice Harrison hung vertically on the left. On the short wall to the left of the doorway is a mixed media painting in pink and green acrylic by Ruth Bauer Neustadter. Above the painting are several wall-mounted wire and hand-made paper sculptures by Penny Dell that skip across the wall left to right above and across the ornate doorframe behind me. Penny’s wire sculptures are light and etherial, yet fill the space and create a special kind of energy. They’re white on a white wall, but cast shadows and draw your eye upward. Notice the top wood blocks on the doorframe with carved acanthus leaves. Notice, on the right – a funky green mixed media sculpture by Susan Lisbin perched on a white wood pedestal and, on the back wall are 3 more works by Susan, including a color-field skinny abstract in green painted on found sheet metal. Once again, you see the juxtaposition of contemporary art, greens and reds, blacks and whites with vintage architecture.


Penny Dell wrote:

…Seeing the show allows viewers an opportunity to puzzle out connections between works and artists who through the years have continued to meet regularly. Read more of Penny’s comments about the collective and the exhibition here:


Hallway installation



The image at left shows me in the front hallway at the Barrett Art Center (photo by Penny Dell). I’m standing below and she’s standing at the top of the stairs – looking down at me. The image shows the art installed on both sides of the narrow hallway. Notice the antique floors – wide plank old wood – and, in the top left portion of the photo you can see the decorative carved wood trim on the 2nd floor landing. I’m a big fan of the details you find in older homes. This one was build in 1842. We were told to hang art on the staircase wall because there would be a constant flow of traffic up the stairs to a second floor gallery and classroom studios. It was a challenge to get the last pieces hung so high up the staircase, but all the works hang well together in the hallway and add another dimension to the exhibition.



Crowded hallway at the reception for Power of 13



Here’s another image of the hallway installation, taken during the April 22nd opening reception. Notice the beautiful Victorian light fixture (in addition to the track lighting), and notice the high ceiling in relation to the people. The woman standing on the left is over 5’10” tall.





Photography by Pauline Chernichaw


Here is a view showing contemporary photography by Pauline Chernichaw in the 1st room gallery with a view to the front hallway exhibition beyond. I think the black and white photos show really well on either side of the doorway. Do you agree? I love the contrast of the horizontal format of the photos – sleek and contemporary – with the vertical door opening and with the color of the woodwork and ornate trim on it. In this photo, the paint trim color looks oyster grey and picks up on the grey tones in Pauline’s photos. However, in hanging these works, I was more concerned with contrasting horizontals and verticals.



Susan Sinek and her painting



The image nearby shows Susan Sinek and her figure painting in the 2nd room gallery. If you could see the works on the wall Susan is facing, you would see her prints and figure drawings.


I hope you can visit the exhibition and see all the works.





About the Power of an Art Collective

The Power of 13 collective has been meeting for years in each other’s homes and studios. Many artist groups (collectives) are larger than we are. Some are smaller. We started the group with 9 (and called ourselves the Power of 9) and then added more members, so changed our name in steps to the Power of 13. We think 13 members is about as big as we want to be.

We are like almost all artist groups in that we are organized to share tips, critique art works and network information. Some groups limit members to a professional category, typically architects, graphic designers, painters or printmakers. We prefer to be informal and friendly. We like the idea of sharing information across media boundaries. We are serious artists. We always share great food and conversation.

We thank Penny Dell for contacting the Barrett Art Center and organizing our group exhibition. Read more about Thomas W. Barrett here:



Do you want to meet other artists? Do you want to be part of an artist’s group? If you do, I recommend you check out local art centers, colleges and universities. Go to art receptions. Attend public meetings with artists who speak about their work. If possible, take a class to meet other artists. Ask people how to join a group. Many Chambers of Commerce and arts councils list arts associations. Check out artists’ groups online.

I hope you think the history of the Barrett Art Center is interesting. The Power of 13 collective thanks the Center for this opportunity to exhibit in a unique and beautiful space.

Please write and tell me how you are engaged with the arts. Email me if you want suggestions for how to form an artist’s collective. Thank you for your comments.



Appropriation is a very useful concept in contemporary art and essential to appreciating contemporary collage art.


I like to make funky figure collages with papers and text cut and pasted from magazines like W, Elle. Vogue, and ArtForum. I thumb through the magazines and tear out pages when the right image strikes. Everything becomes a magazine mash-up.


nancy nikkal, sex celebrity, collage 2016


The image nearby is my collage titled Sex Celebrity. This work is part of a new series with female images done in collage with various cut and pasted papers. Some of the papers are straight out of the magazine. Some are painted with acrylic. Some papers are purchased in an arts and crafts store. I like to mix and match and create works that combine image, color, pattern and texture. Most of all, I am fascinated by celebrity culture and Pop Art. My goal is to create images that are edgy, sexy and provocative.


The image you see is a collage on a 12×16 inch panel showing two x two females. Everything is an image: some more, some less real. The colors in this collage are creamy white, grey-black, green and tiny touches of pale blue and red.


The large female image is a close-up of a face, eyes closed as if in a swoon. She seems ensconced in a reverie in a garden setting, surrounded by green. She’s a beauty. Her eyes are decorated and glittery. There’s a large, expensive diamond jewel floating near her nose. The jewel looks like a delicate flower or a garden bug. I’ve seen expensive jewels in fashion magazines. They’re highly crafted with multiple stones. A beautiful woman deserves a beautiful diamond. I embellished the image, but it’s straight out of the magazine.

The smaller female image in my collage is a figure in a couturier outfit and her breasts are exposed. You see a lot of that in the fashion magazines currently. She’s standing in front of the large face image. There’s a third image in black and white located on the lower left side. It may be a print by Pablo Picasso torn from an art magazine. I took it because it was the right size and in black and white. There’s a fourth image on the right side that’s a face and facing left. If you look carefully, you can see eyes, eyebrows and hair. The face is made with striped green paper. I like stripes. I like to combine abstraction, reality and fantasy.


I cut and pasted all the papers. There is no actual glitter and no jewel – just papers to simulate jewels and glitter.


Appropriation in Art

I recommend the book titled Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. It’s a little book with a lot of big ideas. The author says: remix and reimagine to discover your true path. It sounds like collage.

Appropriation in art is defined as the act of using pre-existing objects or images with little or no transformation applied to them. The artist’s job is to decide how much image transformation is necessary. Some artists feel guilty for stealing an image. I’m not sure that’s true for everyone. There is so much to steal now. Images are everywhere. I think it’s how you use them that makes a difference.


nancy nikkal, flat chested, collage 2017

The image nearby is a magazine collage I created on a 14×11 inch paper substrate. I gave it the title FlatChested. I think she is. She’s high fashion and very thin. The image is inspired by the concept Exquisite Corpse where the parts don’t have to match. Each of the 3 parts comes from a different magazine page. I liked the pink background in the middle section and the model’s long, graceful hand. Her eyes were made up with glitter and that was also appealing. I liked the wild, dark hair in the top section that has a mustard yellow background. I liked the pattern where the hair is separated by a part in the middle. The width worked well with the cut-off hat in the pink section. I liked the dot patterns in the black and white bottom section. Everything worked well. I didn’t have to add glitter because the model already had glittery eye makeup. I changed her mouth and shortened her torso. Colors are gold, pink, black and white. Her skin color is caramel brown. The papers come from W magazine. There are only 4 pieces in this collage –  three horizontal rows of cut and pasted magazine papers and a mouth from a model image in black and white (from the same magazine).



My students often ask me about copyright infringement and appropriation. One student this winter had to overcome – and actually did overcome – her resistance to appropriating magazine images. I persuaded her. We talked about it all through the winter term at the Pelham Art Center where I teach contemporary collage to adults. Her career is print publishing so I understand her resistance to appropriating images. I really like her 3 portrait images. Each one is very different. See them below.


student portrait collage with papers & glitter


The image nearby is the 1st portrait collage Ilene created in class. Her papers included stamped drawing paper (dots) for the face, chevron-striped paper for the dress, decorated papers from magazines and painted paper for hair, eyes, nose and mouth. The collage is on 14″x11″ Bristol paper (substrate). Ilene spent a lot of time cutting papers for the hair, eyes and mouth. Notice one eye is light brown and the other eye is a black and white pattern. Ilene added green glitter eye makeup last. Her background is grey magazine paper with a printed gallery name as vertical text. I remember Ilene asked me if she should cut, cover or leave the vertical text. I said yes – leave it in – it’s not too prominent. Ilene’s 1st collage has a lot of directional movement with pattern and cut papers. The grey dots in the face are tilting down right. The vertical text is parallel to the right edge.




student collage, assorted papers & glitter, 2017


The image nearby is the 2nd portrait collage Ilene created in class. It’s much more abstract and the eyes, mouth, chin and hair are made with cut triangle papers. The papers come from magazine pages but do not show a model’s image. There’s a lot of dynamic energy in the way Ilene placed the cut papers. Notice some of the magazine papers are solid black, beige, yellow, blue and magenta red. Notice a few of the cut papers have stripes and crosshatched line drawing that adds texture. I love the spaces around the triangles. Ilene used a minimum number of papers but still gave us a sense of modeling the shape of a face. Notice the shading in the red papers for the lips. The way Ilene cut the papers gives a sense of volume. Notice the nose and tiny hands (each within a contrasting triangle) are actual magazine images – the only ones in this collage. Hooray for appropriation! I believe Ilene made the hands and nose small to make them less obvious as swiped magazine images. Notice the magenta-red lips are larger than either hand.



student collage, exquisite corpse portrait, 2017


The image nearby is the 3rd portrait collage Ilene created in class based on the concept Exquisite Corpse. I believe I made my collage FlatChested (above) during the class to demonstrate how to cut magazine papers in angled, horizontal strips, using different models for each piece. Ilene’s portrait includes a woman’s eyes, ears and hairline on top and a man’s mouth, chin and neck below. She included a black round hat for the top strip in the collage, and found decorated papers in swirly patterns and bright colors for the bottom strip. I know she loves this portrait collage. I really like the contrast of one face in color and another face in black & white, and really like that one half of the face is male and the other half is female. Ilene selected images with care so that the expressions in the eyes and mouth co-mingle.





See 72 pins (images) for the Exquisite Corpse at my Pinterest site. Some of the images are historic examples. My students love Exquisite corpse as a class project and I set up Pinterest boards so they can check out images online. Read more about the Exquisite corpse here.



Today, appropriating and remixing images and media is common practice for visual, audio, and performing artists. Appropriation is a strategy. Visual artists would not be able to create the mash-up of  images we create without all the images online and in magazines. They’re available, plentiful and we find them. Please share your thoughts. Do you swipe images and use them in collage? Do you re-mix other media? Tell me if you love the Exquisite Corpse.

Thanks for sharing – Nancy



March 7, 2017

I posted a recent blog titled Hearts for Valentine’s Day, dated Feb 13, 2017


The first image shows magazine papers in red, painted papers, and papers with text in black, red and white. I cut the papers and created hearts in halves to show that two halves pieced together would make a single heart. I believe relationships are about how we connect. We start apart and we come together. Collage is about putting things together.

I included some of the backstory in the blog about Valentine’s Day, and showed collage versions of Valentine’s Day cards with heart images.

nikkal, Valentine's Day collage

nikkal, Valentine’s Day collage


The image nearby is a Valentine card I created with hearts and a figure from a fashion magazine. The model is seated on a plush red sofa and the hearts are floating above her head – larger than life. See more traditional cards with hearts in the Hearts for Valentine’s Day blog post.

The Art of Collage is about Cut and Paste

I always look online for what people say about collage. Frequently it’s described in terms like cut and paste. I believe we live in a cut and paste world. That’s a big reason why collage is so contemporary.



I found an article online from the Financial Times – Visual Arts (March 3, 2017 by Emme Crichton-Miller) titled Cut and paste: the art of collage – works of fragmented reality come together in two concurrent shows in New York and London. The exhibit is in New York to April 15 and in London March 10-May 13. It’s a fascinating article and references historic and contemporary collage. Read about it here.



Nikkal, Blue & White Triangles, painted papers, 24x32 inches

Nikkal, Blue & White Triangles, painted papers, 24×32 inches



My studio practice is painting and collage, but I make collage differently than most collage artists. I paint papers for collage and cut and paste them into geometric grid patterns.  I put the papers together in ways that emphasize color relationships.

The image nearby is  titled Blue & White Diptych and is made with painted papers in shades of blue, cut into triangles and pasted on 2 wood panels. Together, the panels are 24 inches high and 32 inches wide. Notice how the triangles move left to right and go from lighter to darker as they move within the collage.


Nikkal, Blue Triangle Diptych, 24x32 inches

Nikkal, Blue Triangle Diptych, 24×32 inches


The image nearby is titled Blue Triangle Diptych, and done as two panels that are 24 inches high and 32 inches wide. The right panel is an acrylic painting, 24×16 inches, that looks like a collage. The left panel is a collage with painted papers, 24×16 inches that has a triangles done with layered paint. Some of the underpainting shows through. The colors in the painting are blue, green, pale sienna, white, black and grey.  The left panel has only right angle triangles made with two pieces each. The right panel has triangles with all different angles and shapes. I did the painting and collage separately. By chance, I put them together, and  decided they speak to each other and belonged side by side. If I flip the panels left and right, they look different, so it’s important to keep them exactly as they are.



I work with acrylic paints and mix all my colors. Everything I do is about color – even black and white are colors because they are mixed. My current studio focus is about triangles and the colors blue, white and black. My previous focus was grids and the series titled Metro. I wanted to learn to love the color green. That meant a serious focus on one color.  When I paint, no color is straight out of the tube pure. Nothing is exactly red or blue, yellow or green. Nothing is exactly white or black. I play with the basic colors and paint colors in layers to show how they interact visually. If you want to learn to paint papers, see my video tutorial Painting Papers with Nancy Nikkal. Please also see my green paintings and collages in the Metro Series.

Are you fascinated with color? I see color, not just as art, but as everything in my everyday life – in the city and in the parks, in plants and trees, the ocean, the sky, in cinema, television and magazines I read, the flowers I arrange, the clothes I wear, the design and furnishings, paint on the walls at home, table settings, even the food on my plate. Color is everywhere.


Here’s an extra – a little information about the science of color: In physics, a color is described as visible light and has a specific wavelength you can measure. Black and white are not considered colors because they do not have a measurable, specific wavelength. Black is described as the absence of light. White light (seen through a prism) contains all wavelengths of visible light and reveals the entire color spectrum. If we discuss paints and dyes, we understand what we see is a reflected wavelength. So there’s a science to paints and dyes also.

Thank you for reading, and for your comments – Nancy