Wild Connections

By on June 27, 2018

Artist Nicole Hicks captures the common threads between animal and person

Nicole Hicks’s animals are ‘beautiful and monumental and moving.’

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Created from plaster and straw, Nicole Hicks’s wolf sculpture somehow “has a complete presence,” said Sophie Schwabacher, manager at Tayloe Piggott Gallery. “It feels very much like it’s alive.”

Hicks’s ability “to transform something that is so still and make it feel so vibrant is incredibly unique,” Schwabacher said.

The wolf is a 71-inch long sculpture called “Grey,” that will sit in Tayloe Piggott Gallery for Hicks’s newest show, a retrospective of work from 2005 to the present. And that sense of conscious feeling Hicks brought to the wolf is emblematic of all her art.

The British artist is known for her passion in illustrating human-like emotions of animals and beast-like qualities in people. Tayloe Piggott Gallery hosted its first Hicks show in 2014. Her last Jackson show was almost entirely sculptures, Schwabacher said. This new exhibit features 28 pieces and includes a mix of sculpture and works on paper and gives a deeper look at Hicks’s range as an artist.

Hicks brings animals to life in both mediums, Schwabacher said. Her subjects have anthropomorphic traits and expressions.

“They feel so human even though they are obviously not,” she said.

For her works on paper, Hicks uses charcoal, chalk and pastel. She works in large formats. (One piece in the show is 70 by 65 inches.) She works on craft papers and her choice of materials convey a sense of impermanence.

Even though two-dimensional, her paper works have “incredible stance and stature and they steal a room,” Schwabacher said. They are “beautiful and monumental and moving.”

The gallery has several of Hicks’s portraiture work featuring nude models that are not part of the new exhibit. But looking at that work, you can see that her approach to rendering humans is similar to animals, Schwabacher said. “She approaches the animals like she’s doing the portrait of a human.”

In doing so, she is able to convey their mortality. Her work is especially intriguing because she isn’t interested in creating exaction representations of her subjects in the wild, Schwabacher said. Often her work omits a background so the viewer focuses on the animal.

In her piece “Red Bullock,” she gesturally drew the animal’s form, but left the feet unfinished. They aren’t crucial to conveying the essence of the animal. That essence she creates in the facial expression.

“You have this incredible emotional connection that she’s intending to be part of the work,” Schwabacher said. “There is a real connection with the animals in her work you don’t always get when you are looking at a wildlife scene.”

Hicks’s work in the new exhibition primarily features animals, but there are several human busts and works that explore mythical creatures like minotaurs, Schwabacher said.

Hicks grew up in London, the daughter of two artists. She studied at the Chelsea School of Art and the Royal College of Art. Her sculptures and drawings have shown in numerous museums and galleries around the world. For years, her work has been inspired by animals.

She’s known for reinventing animal figures and vividly depicting both realistic and mythical creatures. Her work is rooted in the study of anatomy and observations.

“All of her work has this pure and emotional aspect to it,” Schwabacher said.

Hicks works quickly no matter the medium. Her materials are selected to expedite her process—straw and plaster for sculptures and large sheets of craft paper for her drawings. A few sculptures she’ll cast in bronze, but mostly she works in a way that lets her set aside work that isn’t right and allows her to keep moving.

When, according to a press release, her work feels “terribly finished and a bit dead,” she throws it away and starts again.

Hicks will appear at an artist reception 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 3 at Tayloe Piggott Gallery.


About Kelsey Dayton

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