Works
Overview

By assembling natural materials, Marx slows the experience of perceived time insisting that the viewer study each tiny detail of iridescence or fragile edge of calamus.The over-all intensity of these minute elements joined together creates a greater whole. This understanding of the delicate balance of all things is central to Nicki Marx’s artwork. The meticulous constructions made from found and responsibly sourced materials demonstrates a deep relationship with time and space as well as the connection between art, our culture and the natural world.

As a self-taught artist, Nicki Marx has had the freedom to make her own rules and to invent new ways of art-making. Raised to be a wife, mother and achieve a PhD or MD, Marx rejected this conventional lifestyle in favor of living independently as an artist. To support herself, she turned to creating small wearable artworks of abalone and driftwood. However, Nicki Marx knew intuitively that another element was missing from these objects. It was at a sporting goods shop in Santa Fe where the artist discovered little packets of colorful feathers used for tying flies for fishing. At this moment, Marx reported that she had a vision of the world cracking open, and the interior was filled with feathers. In this vision, she saw “people dressed up In fabulous feathers and huge wall hangings of feathers.” To Marx, this was a collective conscious calling and feathers became a language for exploring painting and sculpture with assembled objects.

 

Nicki Marx is a master conjuror as her artwork is ritualistic, spiritual, and rooted in a desire to celebrate the perfection of nature.  In Marx's Center Series, colorful feathers (legally sourced) and Mica chips (quarried by the artist) are materials that are meticulously placed in order to create luxurious images and unique representations of thoughts, the cosmos and/or desires. The hypnotic patterns created by the hundreds of individual elements become a meditative practice on the part of the artist and imparts a sense of wonder for the viewer. These artworks are at once icons or portals to a higher spirit and also explore color field painting, substituting paint strokes with feathers and mark-making with sheer pieces of translucent stone.

 

As a sculptor, Nicki Marx has turned to the ruined skeletons of Saguaro cactus. Painting these dried natural forms with magnetized black sand, Marx creates a deep matte surface on the outside of desiccated cactus forms that evokes burnt and charred figures. The interiors of the artworks flash bright with brilliant feathers through their apertures reminiscent of a slow volcanic flow or a glimpse of a new life beyond.

 

The Soliphilia series refers to a concept presented by the environmental philosopher, Glen Albrecht that describes a deep advocacy for the earth that depends on human responsibility and stewardship. These abstract sculptures incorporate a fragility with delicate materials such as sea skeletons, Devil’s Claw, feathers and suede but merged together, these materials support one another and achieve visual strength. By assembling natural materials, Marx slows theexperience of perceived time insisting that the viewer study each tiny detail of  iridescence or fragile edge of calamus.The over-all intensity of these minute elements joined together creates a greater whole. This understanding of the delicate balance of all things is central to Nicki Marx’s artwork. The meticulous constructions made from found and responsibly sourced materials demonstrates a deep relationship with time and space as well as the connection between art, our culture and the natural world.

                  --- Kathleen Cullen, curator, critic and gallerist of 40 years in New York City

Biography

My work, in its different facets, is a cry for the environment, for Mother Nature, and a celebratory ritual of our connection to the Earth,” Marx said. “ I feel that I am merely a conduit of earth magic -- through my eyes, heart and hands to my work. It’s a very powerful act and that strength is hopefully reflected in my pieces. -- Nicki Marx

Born and raised in California, Nicki Marx attended University of California-Riverside and University of California-Santa Cruz. She became an early star of the art-to-wear movement in the ’70s and she created, exhibited and sold her pieces nationally. In spite of her wide travels, Nicki Marx kept returning to New Mexico, spending time in Santa Fe and Taos until she moved there permanently in 1985. The self-taught artist began to incorporate feathers into her jewelry when she found a packet of feathers used for fly fishing in a Santa Fe store. The feathers are legally obtained from birds raised for food or pets who shed their feathers. Marx’s name became well known in the artistic circles — Georgia O’Keeffe and Louise Nevelson have owned her work.

 

Once in Taos, Marx also changed the focus of her work, from wearable art to wall assemblages. Some of these highly detailed pieces were made of feathers, but she also used mixed media and encaustic paint.

 

“My work, in its different facets, is a cry for the environment, for Mother Nature, and a celebratory ritual of our connection to the Earth,” Marx said. “I feel that I am merely a conduit of earth magic -- through my eyes, heart and hands to my work. It’s a very powerful act and that strength is hopefully reflected in my pieces.”

 

Marx’s work, both wearable art and wall assemblages, is currently part of many private collections. It is also owned by public collections like The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Harwood Museum, the University Art Museum at Arizona State University, the Palm Springs Desert Museum, Stanford University, IBM and Bank of America.

Exhibitions
Events
Bibliography

MILLS, Rosie Chambers and TIGERMAN, Bobbye, Editors Beyond Bling: Contemporary Jewelry from the Lois Boardman Collection, with essays by Helen W. Drutt English, and Blake Gopnik, Benjamin Lignel, Rosie Chambers Mills and Bobbye Tigerman. LACMA, 2016 

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BURKHART, Dorothy, "Nicki Marx: Review," "Women in the Visual Arts," Visual Dialog Magazine, 1974

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Video