Copper in the Arts

June 2011

Copper Collage: The Multidimensional Work of Nancy Scheinman

By Michael Cervin

Nancy Scheinman at work in her studio Nancy Scheinman at work in her studio.

Photo by Robert Creamer Photography
Nancy Scheinman knew from the age of five that she wanted to be an artist.

"My grandmother was a painter and sculpture and she taught me how to use perspective," she says. "Her studio was the most fascinating room in the world."

Not many elementary school kids can see their life path, but Nancy understood.

"I took private art lessons, ceramics, painting, and printmaking---art was a feeling of necessity," she says. "It wasn't something I just liked, it was something I needed to do."

Today, collage is her medium of choice, mainly in paper form. But while at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York looking at a Dutch floral exhibition, she noticed something that changed her art forever.

"As I walked around the room, the paintings I was most attracted to were on copper panels," she recalls. "There was this incredible luster in the way the copper caught the light."

It was a surface she had never given much thought to before, but she quickly she realized that the slick surface of clean copper sheets allowed her to wash her detailed forms off more easily than conventional paper.

Pollard's Dream Pollard's Dream, Mixed Media collage on copper.

Photo courtesy of Nancy Sheinman

Today, she uses both acrylic and oil paints on her copper based collages to tell stories of life and family. She begins with copper sheet in roll form she purchases from Sax Arts & Crafts in Wisconsin. Widths range from 12 to 36 inches and are 36 gauge.

"I hand emboss the sheets for a physical texture, lightly sand the copper, and then acid wash it," says Scheinman. In her open air studio she lets the sheets cure for a week there they develop natural patina. Occasionally she will torch the copper sheet to derive unique color combinations.

"I like copper because it's soft and pliable and I can nail tin, pieces of found copper, brass nails, as well as copper wire cloth onto the sheet," she says. She further embellishes her work using canvas, vinyl and wood and paint to create textural stories and images. "I consider my work to be like hard quilts," she says and indeed there are similarities to cloth by means of crafting by hand and detail. I'm very much a storyteller. Not many artists are using the composition and combination of materials I use." And whereas her copper costs have nearly doubled over the last few years, it does not dissuade her. "It's a surface I can not give up."

In addition to solo and group shows, her museum exhibits have included the Portland and Tucson Museums of Art, the Civil War Museum and Library in Philadelphia, as well as museums in Venezuela, Italy and Costa Rica. And she's fortunate that she sells most everything she painstakingly creates. "A collector from Egypt was in Santa Fe and as they were unpacking the crates of my work he bought everything," she mentions.

Her forthcoming show, Ripped: The Allure of Collage, will be at the Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington New York, October 29, 2011 through January 8, 2012.


Resources: Nancy Scheinman, Baltimore, MD, (410) 847-7505

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