For her solo exhibition, The Rekindling, at Nine Gallery in January 2011, Nan Curtis sat at a work table surrounded by plastic bins of stuff. There was a box of old purses, thimbles, and antique lace. “I brought all of my stuff and assumed I'd be building more stuff out of my stuff,” Curtis says. “People asked, actually Joan Shipley was the first to ask, can I bring my stuff?” Curtis decided to invite patrons to bring her their personal collections and commission her to “rekindle” the collection as a work of art. During the month-long exhibition more and more works were commissioned, each patron filling out a form with questions including whether the collection could be altered, but having no say in what the work might be. One of the resulting works, “Untitled (LACE)” is a photo of the artist completely wrapped from head to toe in the precious antique lace. Fourteen patrons commissioned works. Curtis is exploring both making an exhibition and a publication of the work.
Curtis’ sculptural works about social interaction have often addressed her personal history in an oblique way. For example, “Chair Fort” is four dining room chairs roped together facing away from each other creating a hiding spot…or a void in the center of them. “I like personal work,” Curtis says, “but I don't want to be just about Nan. That's where I cull stuff from, but that's not where it resides.” The Rekindling, then, represents a new challenge, working with someone else’s personal history as it is located in things. “These new works, they don't want to refer back, but they're definitely personal,” Curtis says.
Nan Curtis has taught at Pacific Northwest College of Art for 16 years. She was the Feldman Gallery + Project Space director and curator at PNCA from 2000–2006, as well as chair of the sculpture department during the same period. Curtis was recently awarded the 20th Annual Bonnie Bronson Fellowship Award and a Creative Capital grant. She’ll use the resources of the fellowship to rebuild her website and complete the Rekindling commissions.