Nancy Legner Biography
Propelled by a thirst for fantasy, detail and a retreat to a bygone world, Nancy Legner owes her artistic direction to her environment and family. She is from a family of artists and educators. Her parents, both teachers, taught her to follow her 'dreams' and to be a curator of the past.
As a child, Nancy found her passion for surreal and narrative art. As a little girl, Nancy Legner grew up in a 25-unit family-owned apartment building in Evanston, Illinois. The building was like glue that held the inspirational fragments together--her aunts, uncles, their stories--and housed their interior relics of a time gone by. However, Nancy felt trapped and longed to be free. Not being able to change the more urban setting where she lived, she escaped by painting and writing mysterious stories about her very real surroundings.
At Evanston Township High School, Legner developed her love for design, pattern, composition and detail. She began her fascination in recycling the past. Apartment building salvage was painstakingly arranged into dynamic works of art. She, also, created tapestries utilizing the applique technique, a 'deja vous' to her present mixed-media works. Tiny stitches became her adhesive that layered, joined and pieced felt shapes and cord into an arabesque ballet of movement.
After graduating from high school she attended Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri. Ironically, she ended up living in a Southern antebellum-styled dorm. 'Sibley Hall,' complete with its veranda, Victorian parlor furniture and ghost folklore became a symbolic vessel of freedom and fantasy. Just stepping through the doors the young artist could transcend back into time. This atmosphere past became a refuge from the turbulent social and political times of the day. Through dreams, writing and art, Nancy felt the pull from the past to a future artistic destiny. Her success at Lindenwood gave her the confidence to last a lifetime and launched her careers as an artist and educator.
Nancy Legner's artistic direction came together as a graduate student at Northern Illinois University. Through unconscious osmosis and conscious articulation, the artist combined the elements of her life with an eerie foreshadowing of her future! Dolls became trapped in the box-like chambers of Victorian dollhouses and were attacked by evil, terrifying creatures. Her art grew into surreal, whimsical fantasies of her highly-personal narrative themes.
After graduate school, Nancy moved into her own 'dollhouse,' an 1892 Victorian in Sandwich, Illinois. The past artistic themes of restraint and confinement seemed to echo in her personal life. Once again the lure of the vintage mood of her home was a shelter from reality. Distress was vented in the creative expression of its renovation. During these years there was an absence in art making due to child rearing and a return to teaching. Then, postgraduate work in painting made her go 'full speed ahead' into a world she couldn't live without! In her paintings, the dolls broke free and became strong heroic icons in imaginary landscapes.
Realizing it was time to follow her passion, Legner left her fabulous career as an elementary art teacher in Batavia, Illinois to become a full-time artist. Her home, local antique stores and flea markets became her field of inspiration. She would gather vintage images, then piece, overlap and applique them onto the backgrounds in her mixed-media or acrylic paintings. These forgotten images of long ago were resurrected and given a new life.
The paintings began to mirror a contrasting reflection. At first glance, the quaintness may resemble the 'proper' or 'charming' qualities of the Victorian period. Yet, at a closer look, the artist adds a cutting edge, which reveals a bizarre and humorous surrealistic twist. Nancy's paintings can remind one of a juicy romance novel, a playful children's story or expose tales of a private life. She understands that people may interpret her art in different ways. All importantly, her skies are always symbolic playgrounds of activity. People, animals, objects and spoons fly, float, dive and cascade into the compositions. This movement represents freedom for the artist to go anywhere in her 'dreams' or 'reality.'
Nancy Legner's exhibitions frequently have been in the Chelsea and Greenwich Village art districts of New York City as well as colleges, universities, and galleries throughout the United States. Documentation of her show at ARC Gallery in Chicago, Illinois is housed in the permanent archives at the Chicago Art Institute. She is also represented by Rollins Fine Art of St. Petersburg, Florida.