ESSAY BY E. G. PENNET
""YPSI; NEW WORK"
NANCY FLANAGAN: a comentary
Ypsilanti Michigan, "Ypsi", as locals know it, is a small state university (EMU) working class town located 40 miles west of Detroit and 10 miles east of Ann
Arbor. A good fifteen percent of the city shelters Michigan's second-largest contiiguous historic district dating from 1830 boasting a wide variety of
architectural styles: Greek Revival to Gothic Revival, Italianate to Second Empire, Queen Ann to Richardsonian. Post-1900 architecture is also preserved
within the district from simple cottages to storied glass and steel apartment and business towers.
Nancy arrived in late Spring/early Summer 2012at the recommendation of a fellow artist and almost immediately set about town with her folding talble and art supplies. While some painters offer portraits of landmark buildings pachage as printed note cards, or matted lithographs, it was clear to me fro the outset tha Nancy wans not about any of that. Marketing, merchandising, product, production, packaging are not at the top of her mind. I doubt she'd entertain art manufacture or production over a studio staff. Nancy paints out in the world, in public, along the sidewalks amid passers-by, in alleys and on street corners, headphones on to factor out the bustle of traffic. To launch her new series, "Ypsi: New Work", she employed her downtown apartment as a supply hub and rest stop, and worked for months within a three block radius. Waiting only for good light, she recorded in wide, arching, panoramic overviews the colorful chunks of Ypsi's rear-most, facades, interrupted only by the vertical light poles, linked with phone and caable swags, while parked vehicles were edited as necessary, and they came and went hour by hour, day-to-day.
Yes, I have had several conversations with Nancy about her background, her artistic interests, and some of the influences, classic and current, that motivate her. But "Ypsi: New Work" speaks for itself. A large painting of her former home in Amherst, Massachusetts, currently hangs with the show at Bona Sera Cafe in the Mix Marketplace, 200 W. Michigan Avenue, Ypsilanti, Michigan. It says I was here. "Ypsi: New Work" says I am here. Even so, it is the same Nancy Flanagan brush from the "I was" to the "I am here." The only other link may be the car in her drivway now hidden in the rows of the new series.
What the "Ypsi: New Work" group provides is a straight-forward view of a time in one's life were the most necessary aspects of urban survival predominate.
Yes, these are parking lots, cars, alleys. Into the "feei" of the series these paintings say I've arrived. Now is my time to be practical, safe, maintain infrequent going and coming, focus on new friends, create a new home. "Ypsi". There's a quiet calm, an acceptance in each of these pieces. There is only implied action. The fefty, vaaried slabs of surrounding facades creates a pleasing and protective barrier, as if standing within a castle courtyard. One would have to scale the tall poles that poke to the sky to see beyond. The horizon is at our feet.
Nancy Flanagan is a fine painter whose innate painterlly energy is apparent in the "Ypsi: New Work" series. Albeit with a fish-eye perspective, each illustrative study and each canvas reflects classic composition and control. Each boasts a unique geometric energy that directs the eyes down one alley and up the other, or around one end of the lot and out some distant vanishing point, or implies and exit through either of two vanishing points! (One Way signs have been edited). All is at rest. No people. No suggestion of birds in flight. Only the viewers eye moves within, and, then, only under the experienced direction of this artist. I feel satisfied inside her work. I feel safe.