Lara Nickel was born and raised in New Mexico. She received her BFA in Painting with a Minor in Art History from the College of Santa Fe in 2007, after which she spent several years in Europe. Lara is an installation-based painter and is currently working on a project in homage to Jannis Kounellis which will be shown internationally starting in 2017. Lara is currently living and working in Santa Fe, NM.
My paintings are installation-based, depicting the full body of plants, animals, and objects. They are realistic, life-size, and relate to the spaces they are in (much the way the subjects would do so in reality - ex: standing on the floor vs. lifted up off the ground). The backgrounds are left white in order to reference and emphasize the neutral space which the gallery/museum wall provides. As a result of these tactics, the subject of the painting is pushed forward into the room, making the room itself the setting of the painting. This is backward to traditional, illusionistic painting where the subject is contained within the picture plane and the viewer is pushed inward to the setting of the painting.
My work is not just about how people perceive and experience plants and animals, but how people perceive and experience traditional wall painting (meaning stretched canvas, not murals/frescos). Painting has a lengthy and established history, full of expectations about how and where and what a painting should display. Without this tradition my work would be flat and boring. Rather than contradict these rules, I am interested in the ways in which I can play with these limitations and highlight the aspects of painting which are largely overlooked and yet have existed for hundreds of years. When painting addresses the fact that it is a 3 Dimensional object - when it addresses its own materiality - it has the ability to exist in our world while existing in its own. Objects are external, therefore a painting which acts more as an object (instead of as a window into another world) allows viewers to directly experience it in relation to themselves.
My work is, above all, about how the physical space of the viewer interacts with the pictorial space of a painting. This often creates a level of awkwardness, but it is this discomfort which keeps my paintings from becoming simply decoration and the wall simply a place to decorate. Instead, the space (created by the walls) activates the paintings and the paintings activate the space and the viewer experiences this rather than passively views it. In this regard, it is not always effective or appropriate for a painting to proclaim itself, to state its presence at eye level on the wall, or to even be seen by anyone - as tradition and expectation would suggest