An aptitude test in junior high school suggested that Vivan Nestel should follow a career path to professional artist. Art, however, wasn’t what her parents had in mind, so they guided young Vivian into more practical pursuits like shorthand, bookkeeping and typing. These subject areas failed to satiate her creative urges, but did give her a solid, sensible foundation for post-academic employment. However, spend a day with Vivian, and you will realize that “sensible” isn’t on a top-ten list of descriptors for this ebullient artist.
It wasn’t until 1955, when the 25-year old Nestel adventured to New York, that she “learned to see,” literally and figuratively. Vivian enjoyed two years of “total self-indulgence,” feasting on all things theatrical, musical and artistic that New York had to offer. In her Greenwich Village neighborhood, she enrolled in a life-drawing class taught by classical sculptor, Arthur Lee. Vivian, then a “naïve 25-year old,” she says, learned a great deal about drawing and contour from Lee, after the initial shock of a live, male model, sans robe.
Vivian’s passion for art was fueled again during a 1963 adventure to 11 European countries with fellow San Francisco State University students.
Vivian, an English and creative writing major from San Francisco State and former library assistant at her alma mater, has relied on art as an affirming, comforting presence in her life. She describes art as something she could “hold onto” through challenging times, including the near-death and four-year convalescence of her husband, and a career as a medical billing assistant, stopped short by downsizing.
Vivian’s current show at the North Valley Art League’s Carter House Gallery is a retrospective of sorts, although it’s not apparent at first glance. Each piece in the show is mature, strong and colorful, but more careful examination reveals the show as a progression of style, method and technique.
It’s an evolution, drawing on all that she has learned in contour, watercolor and life-drawing classes and all she has absorbed from a lifetime of studying and appreciating art. Some of the pieces date to the 1950s and most have only been seen by a handful of friends and family.
Vivian uses a hand-held mirror in her space-challenged studio to reflect on her work and gain some distance and perspective from her subject. I would urge you to do the same thing when viewing Vivian’s show. Step back, view each cityscape, portrait and abstract on its own merit and then see the show in its entirety. Allow yourself to reflect on art’s ability to reveal our aptitudes, our indulgences, our best and worst memories, and our life’s evolution.
See Vivian’s work through April at the North Valley Art League’s Carter House Gallery, 48 Quartz Hill Road, Redding. Meet Vivian at a reception for the show during 2nd Saturday ArtHop, this Saturday, from 6 to 9 p.m.
Click here for ArtHop maps and information.
Adam Mankoski is a recent North State transplant who feels completely at home here. He enjoys experiencing and writing about the people, places and things that embody the free spirit of the State of Jefferson. He and his partner own HawkMan Studios and are the creators of Redding’s 2nd Saturday ArtHop. Email your North State news and events to email@example.com.