After working continuously for nearly a year to create 15 original oil paintings, Glencoe artist Nicole Gordon has an exhibit in Los Angeles.
“At first it was daunting, but the challenge forced me to come up with an entirely new idea,” Gordon said about the show, “Dehydrated Rainbow,” which is at the Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles from July 15 to August 12.
The series of paintings are dreamscapes, depicting black and white figures who inhabit a colorful world that appears both whimsical and sinister. A recurring theme throughout the paintings is a tea cup amusement park ride, as well as Alice in Wonderland characters, such as the Cheshire Cat or the Mad Hatter.
“It means something different to everybody,” Gordon said, noting that the artwork seemed to resonate with people attending the show’s opening.
Located in downtown L.A., Corey Helford is one of the premier galleries of New Contemporary art. The gallery has three exhibit spaces that display shows from different artists simultaneously. Gordon’s exhibit space is expansive — about 3,000 square feet — with impeccable lighting.
Gordon drew a lot of her paintings; imagery from defunct amusement parks that she researched online. She found an abandoned Alice in Wonderland park particularly inspiring, with its psychedelic and nonsensical motif.
Gordon frequently creates sculptures from images in her paintings to include in an exhibit. For this show, she decided on a giant, fully functional tea cup. “It was such a huge hit the whole night,” she said. Although Gordon usually creates the sculptures herself, for the first time she outsourced the project and oversaw the production. She found it was too hard to complete so many paintings in less than a year and create a sculpture.
The focus of the series is on introspection and the creative mind, what happens when over-programming goes away. In the paintings, the figures — who appear to be mostly children — explore imaginative landscapes that can be both beautiful and terrifying.
Gordon’s own life inspires her artwork. As a busy mother of three young boys, she often longs to find peace and quiet. This series of paintings explores what can happen internally when given the chance to completely unplug.
Gordon finds unplugging comes naturally to her as an artist. “I unplug everyday in my studio. I am just in it. It is incredibly peaceful to me,” she said.
She finds time to work while her children, twin boys age 7 and a third son age 4, are in school. When she moved to Glencoe three years ago, Gordon shared a studio with a friend in Evanston. But she found the commute took too much time away from her art, so she built a studio at her home.
While Gordon sometimes finds it challenging to compartmentalize her artwork from the daily responsibilities of parenthood, she would have it no other way. “It’s almost not a choice. It is a compulsion. If I didn’t make art I would be an anxious person. It is my therapy, my yoga, my meditation,” she said.
Gordon was always interested in art growing up in Glenview and attending New Trier High School. At the University of Michigan she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and after a brief stint at the School of the Art Institute for a master’s in art education, she decided instead to focus on painting.
Gordon describes a career as an artist as both tough and fulfilling. “It’s not a straight path. There are a lot of dips. You have to live with a lot of rejection,” she said.
But for now she is enjoying a summer with her children, after a year working late into the night to complete the “Dehydrated Rainbow” show. “It was a big year but I got it all done,” she said.
To view all of the paintings in Dehydrated Rainbow, go to www.nicolegordon.com.