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Artist Crush: Nicole Berard

September 12, 2009

You probably know Nicole Berard as keyboardist and singer in Mercy James Gang, but you may not know that she’s a collage and assemblage artist exploring mass-media, death, toys, and the human body, among other territory, using ancient relics scoured from thrift and consignment stores, pictures snipped from mid-20th- century ladies’ magazines, and items that have come to her through pure serendipity, such as the entire inventory of a defunct dentist’s false teeth. With such things, she creates lush atmospheres redolent with suggestive imagery.

Nicole’s assemblage pieces are often set within drawers, boxes, dollhouses, jars, rusted tins; microcosms within very definite boundaries. By placing the viewer so specifically outside of those walls, she encourages one to think about the rules and tensions at play within them, and to examine our own relationships with the objects and contexts she selects. One comes away from her work with a sense of memories evoked, icons reconsidered, and assumptions questioned; art that affects the emotions and the mind.

Lately, Nicole has been working on a series of collage pieces that isolate and juxtapose images from 1950s advertisements against bright and simple acrylic paint backgrounds in a way that seduces one with humor while pointing up the cynical, purposeful decisions made in the images’ original choice and arrangement. In doing so, her work triggers a recognition of, and connection with, that vaguely comforting nostalgia for a dream of America that never was, then takes one further to an awareness of the dream’s somewhat sinister building blocks, once again encouraging critical reflection.

Nicole Berard’s art combines images sixty years old, images we now treat in popular culture as “classic,” with modern ideas and a baroque love of embellishment, in ways that rarely fail in humor, intention, and execution. That’s the good news. The bad news is that she rarely shows her work publicly, nor does she have a website for it at present. I’ve posted a few pictures here that I took at her home studio in Brighton, and you can see a few more at Picasa.

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2 Comments
  1. Nicole rox! She's one of the most creative people I know!

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