In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Textual Portraits
  • Leslie Nichols (bio)

In the series Textual Portraits, I am interested in visualizing the historical context of women’s lives and conveying a sense of social heritage. This work starts with an image of a contemporary woman, often a scholar, artist, or student, who has made an impression on me. I select a classic social text that has relevance for the woman’s life. With image and text prepared, I begin typing on a manual typewriter. I have a small collection of typewriters, but my studio workhorse is an Underwood with an extended carriage, named Gwen after the British painter Gwen John.

The titles of these works reference my source materials. For example, Lois (Woolf 1929) is a portrait of artist Lois Dodd created with Virginia Woolf’s 1929 essay A Room of One’s Own. I met Lois during a studio visit at Vermont Studio Center. I chose this text to create her image because, in 1952, she was a founding member of one the first artist-run cooperative galleries in New York. She created a public space for artists to share their work. A Room of One’s Own was written only two years after Lois’s birth, and therefore partially describes the time period in which she was born.

By interlocking the historic words and the contemporary image, I hope to convey the context of time and place. I create portraits with text to emphasize the weight of words and to allude to the idea that our lives are the creations of our minds and social constructs.


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Leslie Nichols’s Underwood typewriter with Pia (Butler 1988) in progress

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JESSICA (IRIGARAY 1977)

Excerpts from Luce Irigaray’s essay “The Sex Which Is Not One” are layered to create a portrait of Jessica Kreutter, a contemporary ceramic artist based in Houston. 9.5″ × 9.5″, created on a manual typewriter.

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JENNIFER (MAATHAI N. D.)

This image portrays Jennifer Sheffield, an educator and educational consultant passionate about fostering creativity and innovation in students. The image is typed with the story of the hummingbird often told by the environmental political activist and Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai. 12″ × 12″, created on a manual typewriter.

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EBONY (WELLS-BARNETT 1900)

Portrait of artist and educator Ebony Marshmann, typed with words from Ida B. Wells’s speech “Lynch Law in America,” delivered in 1900. 12″ × 12″, created on a manual typewriter.

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LOIS (WOOLF 1929)

Portrait of New York artist Lois Dodd typed with words from Virginia Woolf’s essay A Room of One’s Own. 12″ × 12″, created on a manual typewriter.

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SIOBHAN (GRIMKÉ 1837)

Phrases such as “My Dear Sister” from Sarah Grimké’s “Letters on the Equality of the Sexes” make the background for this portrait of New York-based artist Siobhan Liddell. 9.5″ × 9.5″, created on a manual typewriter.

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TIFFANY (TRUTH 1851)

Words delivered by abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth in her 1851 speech “Ain’t I a Woman?” are legible in the background of this image depicting art student Tiffany Jackson. 9.5″ × 9.5″, created on a manual typewriter.

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Leslie Nichols

leslie nichols uses found and original text to create visual imagery. A recent NEA Studio Residency Grant from Women’s Studio Workshop supported experiments in letterpress printing. Her work has been recognized with additional grants from the Elizabeth Green-shields Foundation, AAUW, the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and the Great Meadows Foundation. Her studio is in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2165-2651
Print ISSN
1553-1775
Pages
pp. 114-120
Launched on MUSE
2017-12-15
Open Access
No
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