Born 1958, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Lisa Nankivil’s family raised Appaloosa horses on a 360-acre farm in Winona, Minnesota, on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. By age fifteen she was competing in top U.S. and Canadian horse shows, always riding a chestnut mare named Colida’s Lynn. Nankivil and her two sisters, also avid equestrians, were invariably in the winner’s circle. When not traveling, she could be found cleaning barns, mending fences, and, she says, developing a work ethic. In 1979, she traded horsemanship for draftsmanship and entered the Academy of Art College in San Francisco to study illustration. When an instructor recommended her for a position directing photo shoots at a California department store, she took the job and left school. Later she applied those same skills in Minneapolis, working freelance for Dayton’s and Target. In 1991, she began taking printmaking and painting classes at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and subsequently finished her BFA, in painting, at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (1993–95).
Nankivil is known for her stripe paintings, abstractions inspired by the land she grew up with and “the rhythms and colors of the growing seasons,” she says.1 Using brushes, drywall taping knives, squeegees, strips of cardboard, and a T square with wheels that moves on a track, she layers, drips, and smears bands of oil paint, attentive to the play between surface and perceived depth. She wants to create space for the viewer to enter. The writer Matt Morris commented that Nankivil “has discovered a world of endless personal feeling between the lines.”2 Her striped Highpoint print Equinox (2008) (cat. no. 208) called for layering fourteen colors—nine of them screenprinted, five lithographed. Eventually Nankivil moved toward a more tonal palette influenced by early photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, intrigued by the grainy “netherworld,” somewhere between black and white, in their photographs.
For nearly thirty years, Nankivil has been integral to the respected Minneapolis artists’ cooperative Traffic Zone, located in an 1886 limestone warehouse built to store farm equipment. Today she splits her time between Minnesota, California, and a forty-two-foot sailboat named Escape Artist on the Puget Sound, in Washington. In addition to drawing, filmmaking, monoprints, and digital prints , recent efforts include soak-stain painting, a process in which thinned acrylic paint is poured onto raw canvas. Nankivil has received both a Minnesota State Arts Board grant (2011) and a Jerome Foundation Fellowship for Emerging Artists (2004–5). Her exhibitions include “Source Material” (2016–17), McCormick Gallery, Chicago; “Delta National Small Print Exhibition” (2016), Bradbury Art Museum, Arkansas State University, Jonesboro; “Biennial 2015,” New Hampshire Institute of Art, Manchester; “2014 Minnesota Biennial,” Minnesota Museum of American Art, St. Paul; “Lisa Nankivil: Recent Work” (2013), Spanierman Modern, New York; “Art by Choice” (2013), Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson; and “New Prints 2010/Autumn,” International Print Center New York.
—Marla J. Kinney
Lisa Nankivil, phone conversations with the author, May 2020. ↩︎
Matt Morris, “Review: Perle Fine and Lisa Nankivil/Thomas McCormick Gallery,” Newcity, May 26, 2014, https://art.newcity.com/2014/05/26/review-perle-fine-and-lisa-nankivilthomas-mccormick-gallery/. ↩︎