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  • Writer's pictureShea Stanfield

The Significance of Small Things

"Even small and casual things take on significance if they are washed in space, like a few autumn grasses in one corner of an Oriental painting; the rest of the page is bare." Anne Morrow Lindbergh Artist Nancy Breiman is a master of balance, space, shape, and color within to borders of her lavishly vibrant canvases. She grew up in Massena, New York, a small town in northern New York on the Canadian border. The town was booming with new construction when Nancy was a child due to the Saint Lawrence Seaway, which connected shipping from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. The primary industries were Alcoa, General Motors, and Reynolds Aluminum, providing thousands of high-paying jobs to the local economy. Plus, the new hydroelectric power dam fueled the progress with inexpensive electricity. Nancy considers her good fortune growing up in an area that attracts a highly educated workforce and talented people.

The growing economy of the Massena had another benefit, outstanding schools and the most qualified teachers in the area. Nancy remembers, "In high school, I had an amazing art teacher, Vern Mauk, who was a professional watercolor artist in addition to his teaching career.” Mr. Mauk tutored students in painting techniques after school encouraging them to consider a career in the arts. Nancy and her best friend were two of his students that took the suggestion seriously. Nancy enrolled in the State University College at Buffalo, New York, to study art. She credits her mom, Mr. Mauk, and her best friend, who also followed her passion for the arts in giving her the freedom and confidence to pursue her creativity. Nancy states, "I knew I wanted to create; however, my practical side knew I had to support myself, so I studied to get my teaching certification as well." Her journey began as an art teacher, yet Nancy graduated with a degree in Industrial Arts Education. She explains, "Most people know Industrial Arts as 'Shop.' I found it both creative and practical and gave me a great foundation in materials and design."

Nancy accepted a position as an Industrial Arts teacher soon after graduation in Clarence, New York, teaching junior and senior high school students in wood and metal shop and graphic arts. Unfortunately, after two years, the position was eliminated due to budget cuts; Nancy found herself looking for a new job. In all things practical, she moved into a sales position with IBM. Her job was to work with customers in the manufacturing industry. Nancy credits her schooling with the knowledge that gave her the upper hand; she was already familiar with manufacturing processes and machinery, ultimately, spent 35 years with IBM before retiring in 2019.

Throughout her career with IBM, Nancy traveled the globe, allowing her to explore various cultures. She was fascinated with the unique design, art, and architectural styles, as well as the way color, space, and shape, were incorporated into everyday life.

Traveling with a camera as a constant companion enabled Nancy to record and file countless ideas for her future career as an artist. She admits to this day being bit by the travel bug; however, her camera has been downsized to her phone. "I can capture the beauty of the places I visit. Color draws my eye, which usually leads me to the flowers. Nature has a way of creating perfect color harmony." As she was preparing to retire, Nancy began taking painting lessons. Initially, she thought the Impressionist style appealed to her; however, when she found an oil painting teacher using bold colors and large canvases, she began to reconsider her style. Over time Nancy incorporated more realistic elements into her painting, creating her unique style. Classes and workshops offered by the Scottsdale Artists' School continue to introduce Nancy to new possibilities, techniques, and applications for her canvases. She likes to think of her overall approach as exploration in mixed styles capturing the concept and details of her subjects.

"I can capture the beauty of the places I visit. Color draws my eye, which usually leads me to the flowers. Nature has a way of creating perfect color harmony."

Today, with the support of her husband Matt, Nancy created a professional gallery and studio in her home in Scottsdale.

She teaches private lessons and group workshops which Nancy considers coming full circle returning to her teaching career. Nancy also teaches for the Sonoran Arts League’s Youth and Veteran programs housed in the League’s office space at Stagecoach Village in Cave Creek, Arizona. Nancy states, "I feel it's my responsibility to help others find joy through art." She is undoubtedly meeting that goal through her clients, long-time collectors, and her educational work in the community. On a larger stage, Nancy enhances her outreach with her work featured at The Fine Arts Gallery in Cave Creek, Arizona, The Desert Rose Gallery in Tubac, Arizona, and as a featured artist with Camelback Gallery, an international online gallery. She is a juried member of the Sonoran Arts League, The Arizona Artists Guild, the Arizona Art Alliance, the Oil Painters of America, the National Oil & Acrylic Painters' Society, the Arizona Artists Guild, and the Southern Arizona Art & Culture Alliance.


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