Nancy Switzer uses a lavish paint surface and carefully modulated color to create dense still lifes in which the brilliant play of light threatens to dissolve the subject matter into a wholly abstract world. She paints fish, paper bags, blocks of butter, tin cans, spoons, and other everyday objects. Removed from any day to day context, her subjects are put to work as elements in purely pictorial arrangements, foils for her interest in transforming properties of light and the possibilities of paint.
“Design and shape, color and nuance. I’m guided by these principal elements when I paint. The use of a particular subject matter over and over again is something that happens in service to this basic focus, which is merely a painter’s way of seeing the world.
A can is a simple shape. It reflects everything around it, takes form and is defined by reflecting what it is not. The can is only visible because of what it reflects. Looking at a can for a time, one begins to see what is – not – there. I have studied cans in all sorts of arrangements – rows, small stacks. As I studied, the numbers of cans grew. Then grew some more. The reflecting effects, the endless variation and investigations kept dogging me.
Cans, fish, pillows, bottles…The more painting I do, the more the objects become the paint, and the paint becomes the subject. Each has begun to transfer its identity to something it is not, reflecting the other."
Switzer grew up in a musical family and attended the North Carolina School of the Arts as a music student. She later switched her major to art at Virginia Commonwealth University and received her bachelor’s degree from the Rhode Island School of Design. After graduation though, Switzer returned to music. In her 20s she played violin with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1993 she quit professional music, moved to Colorado and made a commitment to painting.