Pendleton artist Nika Blasser’s work seeks out natural forms that result, sometimes unexpectedly, from the process of exploring her chosen medium.
“Some of the most mundane materials unfold in remarkable ways when given the opportunity,” says Blasser. “Charcoal powder becomes a sooty waterfall, carborundum discloses patterns of sound, and a reflective surface trembles to a visible heartbeat—all of which are able to transcend their ordinary origin.”
This curiosity toward her subjects and her chosen mediums—a range that spans from paint, ink, and charcoal to mixed media and photography—allows Blasser to turn art-making into a process of discovery. The organic forms that emerge from her investigations hint of the biological, like a collection of new life forms exploring their environment. In her most recent work, Blasser has honed her focus on landscapes. Recognizable features like rock, sky, vegetation, and water intermingle with the less tangible: the space between things, reflection and luminosity, even time itself.
Blasser is not a realist painter. Her images of landscape arise from the feelings and moods represented by a certain place in a certain moment of time. “These paintings explore the idea of landscape through layering and materials that are visibly impacted by time, much in the way that the world around us has been formed.” Time and creation appear in Blasser’s work as constructions. She achieves this by layering paint, silver leaf, and salt crystals over the topographical depictions she starts with.
Salt makes an interesting appearance in Blasser’s work. Not only does it provide a natural, elemental dimension, it makes time visible—literally crystallizing it. The final layer of many of Blasser’s recent paintings includes brush strokes of salt water, which forms salt crystals as they dry. The crystals add texture and interest, and act as a visual reminder of the natural processes that formed, and continue to form, the world around us.
Of her recent work, Blasser notes, “These images exist in a space simultaneously primordial and post-apocalyptic, with dark trees and mirrored water that have been present for many millennia and will linger for many more.” The world depicted in her work feels separate from the human world, a place more expansive and more permanent than our narrow understanding of it. While the images seem at times stark or foreboding, ultimately their message is one of hope, a vision Blasser sees as “the cyclical grace and persistence of nature.”
Blasser is originally from Portland, Oregon and currently lives in Pendleton, where she works as the Marketing Director for Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts. Blasser holds an MFA from the University of Alberta in Drawing & Intermedia, and a BFA from Portland State University in Painting, Drawing, & Printmaking.
Join Art Center East in celebrating her exhibit at our opening reception on May 4, 6-8pm.
Vanishing Waters (Series), silver leaf, ink, acrylic paint, and salt on panel, 16 x 20 inches