Two Exhibits Explore the Legacy of Ingrid Nickelsen

Press release from the Morris Graves Museum of Art:

Ingrid Proud [Photo by Carrie E. Grant]

This month the Morris Graves Museum of Art explores the legacy of Ingrid Nickelsen (1942-2005) through two new exhibitions. “Ingrid Nickelsen Trust Juried Exhibition: Celebrating 15 Years of Ingrid Nickelsen’s Legacy”, juried by Joan Gold, will be on view in the museum’s Thonson and Anderson galleries. A companion show, “Use This Map to Help You Explore: the Landscapes of Ingrid Nickelsen” features a retrospective of Nickelsen’s visionary landscape paintings in the museum’s Knight and Bettiga Galleries. Both exhibitions will run from August 6—September 18, 2022. The Trust will be awarding six thousand dollars in prize money to artists participating in the juried show during an awards ceremony on Saturday, August 6, at 5:30 pm.

woman with easel and canvas by the river

Ingrid Smiling [Photo by Carrie E. Grant]

For Nickelsen, an avid hiker and backpacker, wilderness experience was fundamental to creative practice. This artist’s approach to landscape painting involved hiking, often solo, to remote locations, packing in gear to initiate works that would later be completed in the studio. She painted favorite rivers, creeks, and mountain peaks repeatedly, sometimes remaining at sites for days to make the observations that would be registered in her paintings’ translucent layers. Her work was influenced by early twentieth-century Expressionist painting, and by indigenous Californians’ approach to the land. Nickelsen died on a solo hike in the Siskiyou Wilderness in 2005, after sustaining incapacitating injuries in a fall. In her last days, she used artist’s charcoal to inscribe a will on her trail map, expressing the desire that her estate be used to fund grants for women artists. The Ingrid Nickelsen Trust, founded a year after the artist’s death, has awarded over $300,000 to date to women artists and women-led arts organizations in Humboldt County. The juried exhibition that the Trust has organized showcases both the diversity of the artists who have been inspired by Nickelsen’s example, and the scope of the creative endeavors that the Trust has supported over the past fifteen years. Gold, a committed abstract painter, indicated that one challenging aspect of her role as juror was selecting a range of contemporary artworks that did justice to the breadth and depth of Nickelsen’s legacy — including representational landscapes, in addition to more abstract work. Personal experience as a Nickelsen Trust grant recipient had made her cognizant of just how meaningful receipt of such an award could be, she said. Unexpectedly receiving a grant had validated and incentivized her own painting practice: “I opened an envelope, and a check fell out! It was like manna from heaven.”

artist painting near a river on a large rectangular canvas

[email protected] [Photo by Carrie E. Grant]

We at the Ingrid Nickelsen Trust are honored to fulfill Ingrid’s wishes by awarding and validating women artists,” Trust spokesperson Carrie Grant said. I am excited to have the opportunity to see this retrospective exhibit of Ingrid’s paintings alongside contemporary women’s art by Humboldt County artists.” She added that this juried show, the first all-woman exhibit in the Morris Graves Museum of Art, is likely to be the largest all-woman exhibition in Humboldt County to date. Nickelsen’s own luminous wilderness landscapes were last on public view in 2006. “Seeing so many of Ingrid’s paintings brought together for this occasion reminds me of the previous shows organized in 2006—one held at the Humboldt State University First Street Gallery, directed and curated by Jack Bentley, and the other concurrently at the Morris Graves Museum of Art , curated by Jemima Harr,” Grant said. “The difference is that back then we were still mourning the tragedy of Ingrid’s untimely death. Now, in 2022, we are celebrating fifteen years of a magnificent, expanding legacy with the intent to acknowledge, validate and reward women artists.”

painting of a river bank exposed with green moss growing, trees and grass above the exposed bank


Artworks in this exhibition including “Tish Tang III,” “Mouth of the Klamath,” “Red Creek,” and “Poison Ivy, Blue Lake” display the artist’s characteristic technique. Surfaces in these works are built up by superimposing translucent layers that allow the painted ground to show through in places, lending the works a jewel-like depth. “Just as all the layers of paint affect the surface,” Ingrid wrote, “so too all the ways I relate to the site blur the boundary between myself and the place, and finally surface in the image.”

“The painting ‘El Capitan’ is one that is especially meaningful for me,” Grant continued. “Ingrid won first place with this piece in the Yosemite Renaissance VI National Art Competition. But it’s not the award that matters… it’s knowing that Ingrid believed at the time that this was her best work so far, the piece that would put her on a path to professional success and acceptance.”

The Morris Graves Museum of Art, located at 636 F Street, Eureka is open to the public noon-5 pm, Wednesday through Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults; $2 for seniors (age 65 and over), military veterans, and students with ID; children 17 and under free; Families with an EBT Card and valid ID receive free admission through the Museums for All initiative, Museum members are free. Admission is always free for everyone on the first Saturday of every month, including First Saturday Night Arts Alive!, 6-9 pm To ensure the safety of our staff, volunteers and visitors, we recommend that guests continue to wear masks inside the Morris Graves Museum of Art.


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