By ELIZABETH GAUCHER ∙ For The State Journal
CHARLESTON — It's basic southern hospitality to ask your guests what they'd like to drink. Artist Nancy-Louise Mottesheard asks, "What color glass would you like your drink in?"
Mottesheard's Kanawha County home is nothing less than a rainbow. From her any-shade-of-everything Blenko glass collection to the vibrant paintings on the walls to her fiery red hair, everywhere the eye looks is aglow with color and light. The artist is living her life's mission.
"I believe our source, our spiritual source, is bright. Art is my modality to infuse this world with uplifting, healing light," Mottesheard said.
Mottesheard shuns traditional terms like "God" and "prayer," but she is a deeply spiritual person with a passionate desire to help others.
"We all have a beautiful, precious child at our center, but we grow up and forget about that part of ourselves," she said. "I want my art to help people take chances, to encourage them to get out of their boxes, and to reconnect to who they really are."
Mottesheard showed who she really is very early in life. Her kindergarten teacher told her mother, "This child is going to be an artist." Awards for her artwork began in grade school, and she won her first national award in seventh grade.
She grew up in Kanawha County, and with the exception of her schooling at Drew University and Ohio State University, Mottesheard has lived in West Virginia her whole life. She is a founding member of West Virginia's first art co-operative (Gallery Eleven, 1975), and taught art and art history at Morris Harvey College under artist Hank Keeling.
"Hank gave me total freedom in my teaching," she says with total satisfaction.
Her major art influences are abstract expressionism, color and a craving for translating mystical experiences onto canvas. Sharing those experiences with others is a primary reason she paints.
"Three of my teachers were students of Hans Hoffmann and nationally known artists in their own right," she reflects. "I was set on fire with the passion for color and space. My mind and heart have always been drawn to the abstract, mystical and philosophical side of things."
Her West Virginia roots show themselves in her most common subject matter: nature. Rather than depicting mountains, rocks, rivers and sky in a realistic way, she tends to communicate the ethereal aspect of nature in an abstract or semi-abstract way. She remembers a particularly moving experience in Beartown State Park in Pocahontas County. Walking alone through the park's enormous rock formations, Mottesheard found herself between two boulders. She was surrounded on each side by "the vibrations" of the living rock, and felt herself in the presence of another dimension. She took some small elements from the site of that mystical energy and used them in future work.
"I think you're probably not supposed to take lichen and rocks from state parks," she confesses. "But the presence of that life during my painting process is everything to me."
Her painting process is entirely self-created and self-taught. Using small, capped, plastic bottles, she mixes acrylic paint with gloss medium and varnish; sometimes she adds water. If she wants a "bubbled" look she avoids pouring medium, otherwise she adds that, too. She shakes the bottle to mix the custom color, and then spends some time getting in touch with whatever energy, spirit or thought that inspires her. Then, it's time to pour. Mottesheard launches paint across canvas with real vigor, the colors splaying and trickling in forms and patterns that she then finesses with the help of a hairdryer. The finished painting is far from over, with the first layer drying for hours before the next color is applied.
Her painting "Big, Big Heart" is a prime example of her pouring technique. It was purchased by the state of West Virginia and is in the permanent collection of the Cultural Center in Charleston. Mottesheard said she knew upon completion that this painting was special.
"It is about how in our lives we can feel our hearts get broken or are bleeding and in those moments we can decide to close our heart down and allow it to get smaller or be brave and open it up to love / to care again and allow it to grow larger and larger," she explained. "I knew this piece was not coming back to me. I knew it would go out into the world."
Visit the Nancy-Louise Mottesheard's website at http://artismystic.com.
She may be contacted through the Art Gallery at Tamarack (artgallery@TamarackWV.com, Mary Barwick at 1-88-TAMARACK, ext. 157), the West Virginia Division of Culture and History (Betty Gay, 1-304-558-0220, ext. 128), or directly at email@example.com.