The work of a retired Whidbey art teacher has found its way into yet another off-island gallery, one of two currently on display.
A survey of the work of Richard Nash opened earlier this month at the Perry and Carlson Gallery in Mount Vernon and will remain on display through Jan. 29. The pieces in the gallery, which are for sale, showcase decades of artistic experience in sculpture, painting and printmaking.
Nash has been an artist his whole life. His style is abstract; he said that while studying art as an undergraduate, he realized the critical role of composition and design in creating a piece.
“Just representing things, drawing them so that they look real, doesn’t necessarily make it art,” he said.
This principle has guided the way Nash has created art for decades. He equated it to learning a language. In the early stages, a student of a language will build up a vocabulary, then learn how to string sentences together. Once he has mastered these basic elements, the language learner can then play with new ways of phrasing thoughts until fluency is achieved.
Similarly, once an artist has mastered the fundamental skills of his medium, he can then become “fluent” in the language of art.
This framework for thinking about art guided Nash in his interactions with students over his 30 year teaching career.
Nash estimated that he taught over 5,000 students during his three decades in Oak Harbor middle and high schools. He said one of the best parts of teaching was when his students began to see art as an intellectual pursuit. Once they learned this and began to hone their skills, Nash could have more in-depth conversations with them about art.
“It’s up to me as a teacher to find those strengths that they have, and use that as a part of how I talk to them about their work,” he said.
His own style requires the participation of the viewer, he said. Stefano Catalani, the executive director of the Museum of Northwest Art in La Conner where Nash has another exhibit on display, said that Nash’s sculptures and two-dimensional pieces “talk to each other.”
“It’s also work that demands a little bit of attention,” Catalani said. “It requires that you have a conversation with each piece so that you can see the references to the other pieces and at the same time, see what is different.”