Local artist Nancy Clark Lewis brings pop-up gallery concept to Menlo Park

by Sheri Baer on September 20, 2013

The sign in front of 110 Constitution Drive says Communication Arts, an internationally recognized graphic arts journal that’s been published in Menlo Park since 1999. Drive around the backside of the building to the magazine’s warehouse space and a propped-open door leads to something quite different – an artist’s studio and more recently, a pop-up gallery exhibiting the work of Nancy Clark Lewis.

Nancy’s exhibit, Speaking in Whispers, is a collection of drawings, collages and assemblages of common, found and reused materials. In other words: “I really like to make things out of things that are kind of nothing. Things that are trash or that intrigue me.”

To clarify matters, there’s a direct connection between the front and back of 110 Constitution Drive. Nancy’s husband, Patrick Coyne, is editor and designer of Communication Arts magazine. About a year ago, Nancy and Patrick partitioned off some of the magazine’s unused warehouse space into a 20 by 20 studio, which made a lot more sense than the outside space Nancy had been renting. “Everything is built out of old furniture that was cobbled together from his old office,” she said.

Based on Nancy’s chosen form of artistic expression, her studio is as eclectic as one might imagine. “I have all my tiny stuff organized by color in zip lock bags,” Nancy said, showing off little stashes of green, pink, red and blue. Plastic zippers. Drop outs from cutting mats. Envelope windows. Candy wrappers. Sushi grass. Even toothpaste boxes: “They’re really sparkly” and little bits of plastic: “Those are plant ties from when you buy a taller plant at the nursery.” To summarize: “It’s just random, kind of what attracts me. Everything is fair game.”

When it comes to turning these random tossed away bits and pieces into art, Nancy says her inspiration “comes from little, subtle things I see in nature, like spider webs, little bugs, and things that happen out in the garden that you might not notice unless you were sitting there really looking for them.” She added: “The natural world and that kind of delicacy is my main inspiration. Delicacy isn’t a weak statement, it’s a quiet statement.”

Pop Up Exhibit for InMenlo

Thunderhead and the Clear Blue Sky is one of her works. Hundreds of envelope windows — in gradations from white through darkish gray, layered with corrugated plastic for dimension — create the illusion of tumultuous clouds. Another, Poppies in Spring (shown above), is an assemblage of wires and bead work while Mine (Beloved) is a delicate threading of wire, pearls and pistachio shells.

After a year of huddling “underground” with her art, Nancy decided it was time to exhibit her work — and that same said warehouse space could be converted into a makeshift gallery. The project entailed rigging up lights and transforming carts the magazine uses to store competition entries into 80 linear feet of wall space. “We bought quarter inch sheet rock which we painted and hung off the carts with cable ties,” said Nancy.

The exhibit space plays back to Nancy’s credo of making something out of very little: “It’s a good example of how an artist with resourcefulness and not too much cash can create a pop-up gallery. You can create a real intense one-time event and have the potential of selling quite a bit of work.”

Nancy launched Speaking in Whispers with an opening party featuring 22 pieces and a selection of cards. The pop-up exhibit is open for viewing by appointment through September 30. Contact Nancy Clark Lewis at 650-743-6715 or through her website.

Photos by Irene Searles

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