Nicole Chesney

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Nicole Chesney, whose new projects include large commissioned pieces at 7 World Trade Center in New York and the public space at the new residence hall at Massachusetts College of Art, works with glass in much the same way an artist uses canvas or paper. Glass is the surface onto which she paints. But Chesney’s work exhibits an aura or space in front of the surface, almost a glow, which is rarely seen on canvas or paper. Her colors vibrate off the wall.  

Nicole Chesney is inspired by the writings of French philosopher Gaston Bachelard who once described himself, "not as a philosopher so much as a thinker who grants himself the right to dream." While Bachelard explores many types of dreams, he says "the space in which we shall spend our nocturnal hours has no perspective, no distance. ...And the skies we soar through are wholly interior - skies of desire or hope..." Later, the reader is invited to "measure the distance between that which is seen and that which is dreamt."

Chesney's oil paintings on etched, mirrored glass explore the sources of "sky water" - the fog that hangs in the air and the clouds that drift through the sky. The literal moisture and humidity that gives water to the air also obscures the "mirror" of the sky. These elements, air and water, often join to create an infinite, seamless "unsilvered mirror" where the horizon ceases and the beyond continues.

"Chesney paints on glass backed by mirrors, creating an effect of endless, light-filled space, which she occasionally obscures with feathery brushstrokes, as in "Ever Farther (blue and white)," explained Cate McQuaid of The Boston Globe in her 2012 article titled "Surprises in common." Bachelard proposes a sequence of reverie, contemplation and finally representation, to lead us to his notions of a meditative 'colorless sky that has infinite transparency and unifies the opposite impressions of presence and distance.' He quotes Coleridge: "The sight of a profound sky is, of all impressions, the closest to a feeling. It is more a feeling than a visual thing, or rather, it is the definitive fusion, the complete union of feeling and sight."