When I first came to Toronto in the late 70’s, I fulfilled my parents’ dream of a safe and secure life with an office job (dull…urgh!) which, thankfully, I walked away from in ’79 for a life in showbiz when I landed my first audition, the role of Magenta in the Toronto theatrical production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show! which obviously became my parents’ nightmare…LOL! I had been doing my 9 to 5 work at a renowned investment house called Wood Gundy, where I first met Nancy Bennett who, unbeknownst to me at the time, was also struggling with her own office vs. arts dilemma.
Skip ahead a few decades and one day I encounter the same Nancy Bennett at an art show exhibiting her fabulous vibrant work – we’ve been playing catch up ever since.
Nancy in her booth @ Toronto’s Riverdale Artwalk
I was thrilled to hear of her journey since I last saw her when we used to share office gossip at our favourite after-work cocktail lounge; she has since left her busy career in the financial sector to devote her life to creating art full-time. After securing her house, buying a dog and having a baby (whew, I’m exhausted even listing those), Nancy turned to her first love, painting, in 2008 when global finances took a very hard knock, impacting her career as well as most of those working on Bay Street. As Nancy tells it….“I first started collecting works by local artists as an antidote to my work life which had become increasingly toxic…then I began painting again.”
After being laid-off from her day job in 2013, Nancy immediately began painting full-time; her first show “Kiss the Sky” at the Women’s Art Association of Canada, featured paintings of skyscapes using a knife, brush and rollers on canvas and wood, in both large and small formats. It took a couple of years and a deep “Group of Seven” phase for her to cultivate a style that feels natural – layered knife paintings on large wood panels. I recently visited Nancy’s studio and saw this new piece (below) that’s still in the early stages – she showed me how she layers her work…
“My paintings combine skyscapes, which are universal, and landscapes, which are specific to each location. I’m passionate about sharing the appreciation for my urban home setting and emphasizing that we’re all under the same sky – a commonality that helps us talk and create art together. The sky is a constant in all our lives and is a source of unity, calm and wonder as well a source of endless variety. Through my work I encourage people to look up and know they are not alone.”
Nancy continues….”I paint with oil paints on wood. Through these materials, I feel a connection to the history of my craft. In the current world of social media, the relationships and communication are real but have a fairy-like quality, flitting around the edge of “real life” and fading away completely if not nurtured. All the new media art tools today have evolved through the work of artists over centuries. The textures of different paints are an inspiration for the hundreds of filters available on Instagram. My passion with oil painting is a homage to traditional creation and its interaction in the digital space is my acceptance to our technological evolution.”
In 2015, Nancy co-founded the Four Corners Studio Collective, a Toronto based group of four emerging artists working together, learning from each other’s skills and experiences and supporting growth in their respective careers. That same year, she curated #TwitterFirstFriday, a monthly art show conducted on the social media platform. The goals were to encourage networking between artists around the world and promote art through sharing across multiple networks. Throughout 2015, on the first Friday of each month Nancy gathered works posted by artists, evaluated them for suitability and adherence to the show’s rules and shared with an online community.
Nancy is a member of The Artists’ Network, CARFAC and the Akin Collective, and in 2017, she began volunteering at Art Heart, an arts program for vulnerable adults.
“I’m a social artist. I thrive in a community, share studio space and have an active online following on social media. Through my paintings, I bring the extended community into my world and transfer my physical space into their digital one. I share my views, interpretations and feelings as I work through a piece. I encourage my online community to observe their own surroundings with an artist’s eye and get involved in my work. I appreciate when they send me photos of scenes that inspire them or remind them of my work. Through this give-and-take, my audience is with me throughout as an active component of my process in addition to being a passive audience to the final piece.”UPCOMING SHOWS
August 2017 – Solo exhibit, Deer Park Library, 40 St. Clair Ave. East, Toronto
August 18- 20 2017 – ArtWalk in the Square at Shops @ Don Mills, Booth #24.
February 2018 – The Artist Project, Exhibition Place, Toronto
You can follow Nancy on Facebook.com/NancyBennettArts or visit her website: www.nancybennett.caAnd if you see Nancy at any of her upcoming shows, stop in to her booth, say hi and learn more about this multi-talented woman who (finally) got to follow her dreams….