The rain had abated on the late morning in early June when I visited Nicholas Nyland’s studio. I entered the lobby of the stylish 1920’s office building in downtown Tacoma and rose six flights on an escalator to his airy light filled space. The door was open and Nicholas greeted me warmly.
Outside the windows on the right hand side of his studio the hilly city opened into a staggered series of blocky buildings and soft vibrant green trees. Across the room, space seemingly flattened as tall buildings loomed directly outside. The gridded geometry and prospect of the sloping city make the space feel urban and open.
I felt like I was looking at a series of cheerful installations as I panned Nicholas’ studio; shelves host bright knick-knacks, photos, hefty art books, and plants. Thrift store finds mingle with Nicholas’ ceramic sculptures as well as several local artists’ works.
There is an ordered anarchy in the room. Dozens of carefully labeled clear plastic drawers and tubs hold a mesmerizing array of materials such as shiny strands of beads and reams of ribbon. White plastic shelves burst with the stuff of future visions–batting, canvas, clay and more. Nicholas embraces crafty as well as more traditional art supplies with an open spirit that is vital and generous.
Nicholas Nyland’s colorful, playful work combines humor and discernment. His soft paintings hang on the wall, conjuring Oldenburg while deflating the weight of painting’s contested and lengthy history. Ceramic forms sit on tables and shelves evoking the sheer tactility and vibrant color of the most painterly of paintings. While Nicholas embraces multi-media, his direct manipulation of all materials is a constant that is central to his process and sensibility.
Nicholas knowingly traverses multiple languages and legacies but with levity. This is part of what makes his work so appealing. It’s smart and funny. Humor is important in Nicholas’ work. Not only does humor ward against taking oneself too seriously, it also allows one to say things that couldn’t be said with a straight face. Humor affords honesty from a slightly askance perspective. It can be powerful and liberating. Humor also defies assumptions and categorization; such questioning is integral to Nicholas’ work.
Nicholas studied painting as an undergraduate at the University of Washington and then received his MFA in painting at the University of Pennsylvania. After a few years on the east coast he returned to his home state, Washington. In addition to his studio practice, Nicholas is an active member of the local art community. He is a member of SOIL, an influential and long-standing artist run space in Seattle and exhibits widely in the Northwest. Recently he curated an exhibit at Pulliam Deffenbaugh Gallery in Portland that explores Modernism’s legacy and had a summer solo exhibition at Prole Drift in Seattle, Physical Speculations on a Future State. Nicholas has an upcoming solo show at Vox Populi in Philadelphia this November.
To learn more about SOIL and his work see the links below.