As graduate of both Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in 1968 and Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program in 1967, artist Dona Nelson’s education reflects her passion for art. Even so, her passion cannot be pinpointed or marked.
Born in Nebraska, Nelson currently lives in Pennsylvania and is a teacher at Temple University. How does a teacher of painting instruct when she says herself that her paintings do not take on lyrical meanings, even if those meanings belong to her?
Perhaps that is the beauty in her work and what makes it so unique. It, like color, is everything and nothing. It is the word or feeling just out of reach from words and impossible to describe. It’s feeling and emotion, but not constrained by words.
In her paintings, Nelson describes her focus on that of the imagination mixed with quality and trueness. She currently creates two sided paintings. Stretching and painting one side, before reversing and then painting the opposite side of the stretched canvas, help to achieve the finished result. These two sides are connected, yet separate. They are different, and yet share a physical plane. This duality is interesting to both the observer and the artist. In a way, it is the essence of life and the human experience.
While the paintings are often showed featuring both sides for observers to see, each could feasibly be hung or displayed showing only one side—just as individuals can choose to display the side of them they wish to showcase to others.
Dona Nelson’s work has been featured at several solo exhibitions, dating back to a 1975 exhibition at the Rosa Esman Gallery in New York City. In total, her work has been feature in as many as 17 solo exhibitions and as many as 25 selected group exhibitions.
Most recently, her work Phigor was showcased at the Thomas Erben Gallery in New York City from April through May 2014.
Nelson has also been selected as a recipient of four grants and awards, the latest in 2013 as the recipient of the Artist Legacy Foundation Award.
While her resume is certainly impressive and speaks for itself, her work is breathtaking. It’s simple, yet profound and complex. It invokes emotion that words cannot possibly convey. It’s a testament to the simplistic yet complex power of art and the human mind.
On paper, the concept of a two sided painting may seem gimmicky, but when witnessed and performed it is art and art theory at its finest.