A native Washingtonian, Nancy Bocek began her artistic journey with a bachelor’s degree in art history from Reed College. At work in Palo Alto, California, after graduation, Nancy accelerated her craft as a studio potter with a love for throwing on the wheel and a passion for functional design. Back in the Northwest at last, she expanded her practice at Pottery Northwest with increasingly sculptural pieces, often melding the functional with the ornate utilizing molded elements to create art vessels.
Nancy took time away from her practice to raise her family in Seattle. In 2012, Nancy entered Gage Academy of Art and began sculpting in earnest under the instruction and mentorship of sculptors Michael Magrath and Tip Toland. As Atelier monitor she gained valuable experience working with artists and models. Nancy graduated from the Magrath Atelier in June 2019 having completed an extensive set of benchmarks and capped by an independent project.
From the study of anatomy, to mastery of the materials and processes, to artistic expression, Nancy finds figurative sculpting spellbinding; a hands-on, intellectual and emotional exploration. Its demands are riveting at every turn, whether it’s constructing, firing, molding and casting or fabricating.
Nancy sculpts the human figure from life as a way to closely observe and engage with our humanity and to express the feelings we harbor of our personal and societal realities. She feels nothing may be more enjoyably challenging than translating a living person into an artwork with a life of its own while creating an accompanying visual language by the exploration of the meaning of form and allegorical narrative.
In many of her works, Nancy finds a new context for the human subject through an interaction with a form that has a function in human daily activity. Questions develop a visual language of metaphor and symbolism as a new context for the possibilities and complexities of our humanness. As our civilization’s mundane tools (hinge, spike) interact with the individual, we wonder: What does the form symbolize? How does it inform the artwork and interact with the subject? Why do we have a visceral reaction to it? Can it mean different things in different contexts and to different people? This investigation gives rise to questions regarding modern myths and mythologies and meaning for each individual viewer as well as the artist.
In other works, Nancy is considering feminism through allegory. As people face threats to the rights to their own bodies and the struggle for equality continues, she is curious about Lilith, mythological “first woman,” said to be Biblical Adam’s first wife: who Lilith was then and who is she now, and how she is relevant to modern times. Lilith is an interesting vehicle for Nancy’s questions about gender roles, and current political and social issues, also how art history is filtered through her contemporary viewpoint.
In her self-portraits Nancy experiments with thinking outside of the ceramic artist’s box. These works are of a fragile and temporary nature, rooted in her bond with clay and its expressive nature. Flipping a switch on her classical training to make a blind first print on her face versus representation by careful observation and modeling, she plays with breaking assumptions about self-portraiture conventions and an interesting exploration of self-expression by following a spark of an idea and making something “odd” and pure without fully understanding the motivation.