Christie Nuell’s Printmaking Liberation at The Arts Company
by Alyssa Rabun
Christie Nuell grew up within walking distance of Vatican City. While other children were learning to paint by numbers, Nuell was roaming the halls of the Sistine Chapel flirting with the works of Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Perugino. Accustomed to centuries-old marble statues and stained-glass corridors, by the time she moved from Italy to the United Kingdom in her late teens, Nuell had developed an insatiable taste for visual art.
She channeled this energy into a colorful career in the arts—teaching printmaking and design for thirty-one years at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and exhibiting in over one hundred shows internationally. Nuell is now retired and living on the Isle of Man but has returned to Nashville to show art she created here. Nuell’s mixed-media works will be on view at The Arts Company for the month of November in the show titled Visual Clues Across the Centuries.
Nuell began her career as a traditional printmaker in the 70s after earning her MFA from the University of Georgia. She worked with age-old techniques like screen printing and lithography, crafting countless striking pieces along the way, but in the early 90s found she was bored with the repetition of standard practice. Nuell began searching for ways to spice up her method.
Initially, members of the printmaking community turned up their noses at Nuell’s controversial, experimental styles, but she continued to stray from traditional techniques and is now recognized as being methodologically ahead of the curve. Nuell hoped to marry her fervor for the digital sphere with her passion for printmaking and succeeded when she started using a laser engraving technique to incise imagery onto sewed, stained panel surfaces.
“When I was a traditional printmaker, I’d plan everything out. I would use tight drawings and follow them very carefully,” said Nuell. “Now, I don’t. It’s very experimental.”
The laser engraving technique requires a computer graphics file to convert images into black lines against a plain white background to be engraved on the machine. Nuell then uses a photo-silkscreen process to create silkscreen stencils for shapes to print. After printing, to achieve visual movement, she sprays cleaning products and rubbing alcohol on the panel to break up stains into clusters and reticulated patterns that accent pictorial elements. The end product is a potpourri of non-objective, abstract images.
When working, Nuell creates and re-creates, adding and subtracting complex layers of color and texture by combining multiple techniques until she is satisfied with the development of the piece. By incorporating technological innovations, Nuell continues to contribute to the evolution of printmaking orthodoxies. With her appreciation for digital arts, Nuell has also explored sound and animation in her work, drawing from the same collection of forms and themes that she incorporates into her prints.
“The way that I can use multiple layers of visual information and make each one visible or invisible gives me the ability to try many different versions of an image before I make my final decision. If I didn’t have this freedom, I wouldn’t be doing art,” said Nuell.
Visual Clues Across the Centuries will be on view at The Arts Company beginning November 1. For more information visit www.theartscompany.com.