‘Icons from an Ancient Future’

Article Published: Jul. 12, 2012 | Modified: Jul. 19, 2012
‘Icons from an Ancient Future’

Nancy Brittelle creates works of shaped paper and cardboard that she paints to look like pieces of metal.
PhotoS by Jeff Eason

Rarely has an artist made such an abrupt change of direction as Blowing Rock’s Nancy Brittelle.

Once famed for her realistic drawings of barns and other historic buildings, Brittelle now creates abstract three-dimensional pieces that are made of paper and cardboard but look like they are made of metal.

“I started doing this seven years ago,” Brittelle said. “I was driving in the rain and found this wet piece of cardboard that had fallen off a pickup truck. I was fascinated about how you could manipulate and change its shape while it was wet.”

Many of Brittelle’s latest cardboard creations are on display at Art and Artifacts on Sunset Drive in Blowing Rock as part of the new exhibit, “Icons from an Ancient Future.” The exhibit also includes the beadwork jewelry of artist Julie H. Knabb.

An artists’ reception for the new exhibit will take place at Art and Artifacts from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, July 13. The event is part of this month’s Sunset Stroll on Sunset Drive, an art gallery, shop and restaurant crawl.

“I have increasingly found myself drawn to images that so fascinated me as a child before the influences of others began to affect my way of seeing the world,” Brittelle said. “I can recall playing with cardboard and other types of papers to create interior worlds for my dolls and their accessories.

Reconnecting with these early discoveries has led me in a new direction, one tending toward the sculptural rather than the two-dimensional, and one in which I can use recycled and water-based materials to create art.

“For me as an artist, it is an endlessly fascinating adventure to take ordinary materials and transform them into something resembling ancient forms made of precious metals looking centuries old, but shaped within a modern context.”

According to Brittelle, many of her works are influenced by Eastern philosophy and art, Greek and Roman shields, and even the way the moon looks from her Blue Ridge Mountain home.

“I have created 13 different pieces for my ‘copper moon’ series,” she said. “For me to create a realistic metal effect, it is very labor intensive. My pieces have as much as 20 to 25 coats of paint to achieve the look of metal.

“One of the people who bought one of my pieces told me that when she was getting an electrician present to help her hang the piece, he asked her if there was anyone around to help him lift it. He didn’t realize that it wasn’t really made of metal and really quite light. That’s one of the best compliments I’ve ever received.”

Brittelle also derives pleasure from using recycled items in her artwork and has many friends who give her things, such as cardboard egg cartons and pressed paper forms that are used in boxes to ship wine bottles. She tends to give her pieces generic names, such as “Heavy Metal Red,” so that the viewer can create his or her own impression of the piece without being influenced by a too descriptive name.

As an artist, Brittelle began painting in her mid-40s and was soon asked to begin showing her work in galleries. After 10 years as a realistic painter, she discovered a love for the abstract and for working with cardboard, paper and torn pieces of old watercolor paintings.

“To some people, it might seem like I’m doing something completely different than when I was painting barns,” Brittelle said. “But when I was painting barns, I was fascinated with the tin roofs and how the metal aged. So this is kind of an extension of that fascination.”

For more information on the exhibition “Icons from an Ancient Future,” call Art and Artifacts at (828) 414-9400. Art and Atifacts is located at 159 Sunset Drive in downtown Blowing Rock.

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