Nantandy was an American painter, muralist, sculptor, gallerist and educator who was active/lived in Texas, California and New York City. Nantandy is known for watercolors, mod figure, sculptural canvases, murals and abstract expressionist paintings.
Nantandy was born in Abilene, Texas in 1927. Her family moved to the small ranching town of Ozona, Texas in 1932, where she attended public school and graduated in 1945. From the age of 10, she sat at the lap of several West Texas regional artists learning her craft from such notable artist/educators as Helen King Kendall, Margaret Tupper, Xavier Gonzalez, Toni LaSelle, Ruth Tears, Michael Frary, Julius Woeltz and Kelly Fearing.
At their encouragement, she became a professional artist in 1948 after winning awards around Texas in watercolors, oils and drawings. After a group showing in 1958 at the Ligoa Duncan gallery in New York City, where her abstract oil, “Moses in the Bullrushes” won 1st Prize, the Prix de Paris, Nan realized that she had to broaden her horizons and follow her dreams, no matter the cost.
After her divorce in June 1960, she moved to southern California with her daughters, working in animation at the Disney Studios by day and studying nights at the Otis Art Institute with Paul Lauritz and Joe Mugnaini. She then studied at the University of Southern California with Frederick Taubes, Keith Crown and Kero Antoyan, receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Art Education in 1964.
During this period, she and her partner, Harold Ronson, opened the Tanar Gallery and Art Studio in West Hollywood. Some of the notable friends and mentors who exhibited at the gallery/salon in the early 60’s were Rolph Scarlett, Paul Lauritz and the sculptor, Walt Allen Smith. She taught high school and junior college art classes while working on her Master’s Degree from Cal State Long Beach which she completed in 1967, with her Master’s Thesis Exhibit, a prolific exhibition of figurative oil paintings titled “Paintings Interpreting the Adolescent Years”.
By this time, she had invented her unique style of structural canvasses and was sculpting in various media (bronze, wood and clay). She reopened her Tanar Gallery/Art Studio in Laguna Beach, California in 1976, exhibiting both her and her peers pieces while there. In 1978, the State of California’s Art in Public Buildings program awarded her a public commission to produce a historical mural for the City of San Bernardino. The mural was 72 feet long, in 12 canvas panels of sprayed acrylic over mylar stencils, and was placed in the EDD Building in San Bernardino, CA.
After her husband/agent Harold Ronson passed in 1980, her primary childhood mentor, muralist Xavier Gonzalez, encouraged her to make the move to New York City in 1981. Once there she joined the National Society of Mural Painters (NSMP), and began painting a series of autobiographical murals (1982-2006) the first of which, “Born in Abilene”, won 2nd place at the NSMP Competition in 1983.
While living temporarily back in Texas from 1989-1991, Nan’s ten year old application for studio/living space in Westbeth Artist’s Housing in the West Village was approved in 1991. She returned to New York City, living at Westbeth for the rest of her days. She continued to show in NYC group and solo exhibitions through 2008. Over the course of her career, she has had two pieces included in the permanent collection of the Vay Adam Museum in Vaja, Hungary after spending a summer teaching at an art camp there in 1998.
Nantandy’s paintings span seven primary genres:
1) watercolors (1948-2010);
2) mid-century abstracts (1949-1963);
3) figurative oils produced for her Master’s Thesis exhibition (1964-1966);
4) abstract structural acrylic canvases (1966-1976);
5) canvas murals (1978-2006);
6) abstract expressionist pieces (1991-1993) and
7) spiritual exploration pieces (1990-2007).
She began signing her art as “Nantandy” in 1964, but her previous pieces from 1948-1964 were signed as either “Nan Tandy”, “Tandy”, “Nan Tandy West” or “West”.
1927 Abilene, TX - 2016 New York City, NY
New York, California
Abstract, Figural, Landscape, Sculptured Canvases
Helen King Kendall, Margaret Tupper, San Angelo, TX; 1937-1945
Xavier Gonzalez, San Angelo and Alpine, TX; NYC; 1950-1959
Kelly Fearing, Michael Frary, William Lester, Julius Woeltz; Univ. of Texas, Austin, TX; 1960
Otis Art Institute, Paul Lauritz, Joe Mugnaini; Los Angeles, CA; 1960-1962
USC, Frederick Taubes, Keith Crown and Kero Antoyan; Los Angeles, CA; BFA; 1962-1964
Painter, Sculptor, Muralist
Who’s Who of American Women, 1971
Who’s Who in California, 1972
Exhibition Record (Museums, Institutions and Awards):|
1951: Texas Watercolor Society, Witte Museum, San Antonio, Joskes of Texas Award; “Emergence of 2 Forms”
1957: San Angelo Art Museum Open; San Angelo, TX; Honorable Mention; “January Landscape “; watercolor
1958: Ligoa Duncan Gallery, NYC; 1st prize, Prix de Paris; juried group exhibit; “Moses in the Bullrushes(Forest)”; oil on panel; signature “Nan Tandy West”
1959: Texas Fine Arts Association, Austin, TX; Honorable Mention, “Night in the Oilfields”, watercolor
1962: All California Show, Laguna Beach Art Museum;Honorable Mention, “Pounding Surf”; watercolor
1967: Long Beach Art Association, CA; Honorable Mention, “E=MC Square; sculpture
1967: All California Exhibition, Laguna Beach Museum of Fine Arts; Honorable Mention; “Aunt Bertie’s Garden”; oil on canvas
1969: Muckenthaler Museum, Fullerton, CA; Honorable Mention awarded by Roger Kuntz; “Bi-Circle Red”, structural canvas
1974: Orange County Art Association; Honorable Mention, “White Dome”, structural canvas
1974: Santa Paula 38th Annual Art Show, CA: Honorable Mention, “When I Was a Child”; oil on canvas
1976: Laguna Beach Fine Arts Museum Open Competition; Honorable Mention awarded by Henry Seldis, L.A. Times, “My Father’s World”, tryptich structural canvas
1978: California Art in Public Buildings Commission; $5,000 award for San Bernardino historical mural placed in EDD building at Mountain View/5th St., San Bernardino, CA
1983: Keane-Mason Gallery, NYC; 1st Prize, “Airport", structural canvas
1983: National Society of Mural Painters Competition, NYC; 2nd Place, “Born in Abilene”, canvas mural, 1st of 4 panel bio series titled “Growing Up in Texas”
1990: Creative Arts Club Art Competition, Civic Center, Abilene, TX; Blue ribbon, "West Texas Wind Sprites", watercolor
1991: Big Country Art Association, Abilene, TX: 2 Honorable Mentions; "Spirit of Cochise", abstract expressionism; "Bi-Circle Red", structural canvas
Exhibition Record (Galleries and Art Shows):|
1954: Sul Ross State College, Alpine, TX; solo invitational
1957: San Angelo Art Museum, San Angelo TX; solo invitational
1967: CSULB, Long Beach, CA; solo master's exhibition, "Paintings Interpreting the Adolescent Years"
1968: Security Pacific Bank, Westminster, CA; solo, figurative oils
1970: Fullerton Library, Orange County Art Assoc. Gallery; solo; structural canvases
1972: Port Coquitlan Cultural Center, BC, Canada; solo invitational
1975: Beyond Baroque Gallery, Venice, CA; Bruce Brown, director; solo, structural canvases
1977: Tanar Gallery, Laguna Beach, CA; 3-part solo retrospective, "Response"
1978: Womanspace, Los Angeles, CA; 2 person exhibit
1982: Citi Bank NYC, 57th/Park Ave.; solo, structural canvases
1983: Keane-Mason Gallery NYC; solo exhibit
1985: Federal Building NYC; solo retrospective
1989: Artists League of Texas, Abilene, TX; solo retropective
1993: Westbeth Artists Gallery, NYC; "Survival Art & Visual Energy"
1997: Westbeth Artists Community Room, NYC; solo retrospective, 1965-1997
2005: Westbeth Artists Gallery, NYC; "Lifetime Achievement", solo exhibit
Other Selected Juried Group Exhibits:
1952: Creative Gallery, NYC;
1953: National Art Exhibition, Goodland, KS
1954: Texas Watercolor Society Annual, Dallas Museum of Art; "Texas Dust Storm", watercolor
1957: Sun Carnival, El Paso, TX; Peter Hurd, juror; "Vaquero", oil on panel
1962: Rossmoor Annual Art Exhibition, Los Alamitos, CA
1963: Barnsdall Park Annual Art Exhibition, Los Angeles, CA; "Night in Paris", oil on panel, stolen from exhibit
1964: All California Exhibition, Laguna Beach Museum, Laguna Beach, CA
1968:Long Beach Art Museum, Long Beach, CA; Clement Greenburg, juror; "War Map", structural canvas
1972:Orange County Art Association, Fullerton, CA
1973: St. Petersburg Art Exhibition, FL; Lithographs and watercolors
1982: Rizzoli's Gallery, 5th Ave, NYC; "Airport", structural canvas
1985: Nederlandsche Middenstands Bank, NYC: 1-year board room exhibition of "Shine It On" (aka "Patrick's Sunshine")
1985:Rockefeller Center NYC Benefit invitational exhibit in memory of Marionne Campbell; "Mama Cass", "The Big Beat", structural canvases, "Head of a Guru", pastel drawing
Avay Adam Museum, Vaja, Hungary, since 1998
Texas Watercolor Society; Member; 1949-1960
Women in Communications (Theta Sigma Phi); Member; 1964
Long Beach Art Association; Member; 1966-1968
American Federation of Teachers; Los Angeles, CA(Member; 1967-1971
Orange County Art Association; Member; 1972-1974
Artists for Economic Action; Los Angeles, CA; Member; Publicity Chair, 1973-1975
Womanspace; Los Angeles, CA; Member; 1977-1978
National Society of Mural Painters, NYC; Member, Secretary/Treasurer; 1982-1992
Westbeth Independent Artists; Member; 1991-2012
Magazine and Media References|
Ultra Magazine, NYC, 1983; Exhibition review
Abilene Reporter News, TX 1989; Feature article, Sept. 17
Abilene Reporter News, TX 1992; Exhibition review
ArtSpeak, NYC; Martin Parsons "Exploring the Columbus Myth"; Nov 1992
Manhattan Arts, NYC; Nov-Dec 1993, Reviews & Previews
Artist's Proof, NYC, Winter 1996; NSMP Centennial, pg.6
The Week, NYC, 2001; Exhibition review
Westbeth News, NYC; June 2005; Hedy O'Beil review
Artists CV files, exhibition programs and write-ups.
David Dike Fine Art, Dallas, TX
Nantandy Artist’s Estate, Lubbock, TX
Hedy O’Beil review in Westbeth News, June 2005
There is a breadth and scope of art and life that run through the paintings by Nantandy. Her deeply felt personal vision was displayed in her retrospective exhibition, “Lifetime Achievement”, at the Westbeth Gallery (April 4 to April 24, 2005). Whether in murals, abstract paintings, landscapes or shaped canvases from 1962 to the present, Nantandy’s absorption and love of nature are evident. That has been a part of her from early childhood.
Growing up on a farm in Abilene, Texas, she was fascinated by land, sky, flowers, and animals. As an observant, curious child, she wanted to understand how things grow. She aspired to be a scientist so that she could understand nature. But after a series of private art lessons, she was hooked. From then on, there was nothing but painting and drawing that she wanted to do, despite her father telling her she would be absolutely on her own as an artist. A feisty, adventurous young woman, Nantandy packed her bags, kissed her family goodbye and moved to California, where she attended Otis Art Institute and U.S.C., receiving her B.F.A. in 1964 and an M.A. in 1967.
Soon she was working on a mural commission that led to the creation of many others. Moving to New York in 1981, Nantandy joined the National Society of Mural Painters. Her impressively large murals, like Born in Abilene (1982), are autobiographical and include vignettes depicting her life in Texas. In the mural, Becoming a Woman (2004), she has come a long way from the little blonde girl with her dog. Now a sexy young woman, she is the main figure in the painting, while surrounding her are remembrances of her life: an embrace with a lover who cradles her on his lap below and a portrait of her father above.
The Jungle Fantasy (1996) is a huge display of animals, 18-ft. long: birds, trees, vines, flowers, a kind of Peaceable Kingdom and Henri Rousseau’s The Dream come together in a joyous display of nature, brilliantly integrated. Experimenting with abstraction, the artist began to use unorthodox tools to create the kind of spattering and drips she wanted. No, they’re not like Pollock’s, although one can’t help thinking of his work. Nantandy’s abstract paintings have a mystical quality that expresses her feelings about life: the universality of all beings and nature. She calls these abstract paintings the “fling/sling” canvases. In the work The River, there is a luminosity that transports the viewer to a higher plane. This is pure visual poetry that makes the viewer want to stay and enter that wonderful space.
Throughout her career, Nantandy has produced landscapes in watercolor, whether in Central Park, Washington Square Park, the Catskills or on her travels to Europe and Costa Rica. These paintings are lush, dense with endless tones of greens and yellows.
An artist who likes the challenge of trying different things, Nantandy has made shaped canvases as well. In Patrick’s Sunshine, a spiritual emblematic painting, a yellow butterfly form is placed against a red background where tiny mirrors circle around the center. There is something very special about the watercolor painting The Messenger (2005), the latest work in the show. Here a hummingbird stretches its wings forward, reaching out to the beauty of the surrounding forest. Swirling white lines add additional expressiveness to the work. With a yellow light behind the bird, he appears like a spirit being, a protector of the immense beauty of nature.
In an exhibition that is so variable, during a lifetime commitment to making art, it is difficult to single out one period. The artist’s creative life, including the figurative and the abstract, has touched upon so much. Yet one might say the abstract painting The River (1992) says it all in the way Nantandy simplifies in pure paint and gesture the essence of her love for all life and, in particular, her love for painting.
(The following are the Artist’s words written for her “Lifetime Achievement” exhibition brochure, Westbeth Gallery, 155 Bank Street, NYC, April 2005)
I have been a professional artist since 1948, but I have worked in art ever since I was a baby and could hold a pencil in my hand. My mother had to put craft paper up around the house as far as I could reach because I was always drawing on the wall. But I never thought of being an artist because there were none around. There were no role models, way out there in the sticks of West Texas . It wasn’t until my second year of college when I gave up on medicine and being a doctor that I realized art was something I’d always loved to do and should do.
I found a very fine teacher , an older lady, who taught at Texas Women’s College. She introduced me to modern art. She had to bring me into it kicking and screaming because I told her, “I don’t see anything about it. I’d never do anything like that.” She said to me, “Well, you have to take this course and pass it in order to graduate in art”. I accepted the inevitable and soon got all tied up in Cezanne’s designs and I loved it.
Painting for me is like working out a puzzle – like art and math coming together – and you’re putting in some of your own creativity and the final outcome just blows you away. The best painting I did in her class won me my first award from the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs . I still remember it: a construction scene with trucks and big machines digging out the earth. There were skeletons of some buildings and others that seemed to be being knocked down. It was really like something being reborn out of the earth, completely new, and was semi-abstract.
Since then, art has totally captivated me. I can be feeling so rotten that I can hardly hold my head up and if I sit down and start to sketch or paint, I forget all about it, totally absorbed in the art. I think that’s true of every artist: once you start to work, that’s all that exists. And if you don’t have it, and don’t do it, you fall apart at the seams. You can’t eat, sleep, don’t get along with everybody – You’re just out of sorts.
My greatest influences include Duchamp. I love his Nude Descending a Staircase and that came straight out of the Cubists. Michelangelo was always my love. And Redon- I love his beautiful color and expression, and much of the very simple things he did were just full of poetry. And then, Pollack. I didn’t understand him at first. But after I read that wonderful biography that was published on him in 1990, I had a completely different attitude towards viewing his work.
When people view my work, I don’t know what they’re thinking, but I’ve sat outside the room and watched people going in and out. They go in, and stand there and just look and look for a long, long time. That includes children, who are absolutely engrossed in them. If you ask people, “How did you like the paintings?” they would say, “Oh, well, I thought it was great”. Sometimes they can’t explain why, but they know they liked it. And I’m pleased.
I see that as a purpose of art. An original painting by an artist brings something to the space that it inhabits and will often speak to the people who are looking at it, if they look long enough. They no longer put their idea of what it is or should be, but they look and listen to the painting and then they’re enriched by what it says to them.
My body of work is very varied. Take my autobiographical murals . They have absorbed my time and talent for over 20 years. They are my attempt to remember my life and the people who have been a part of it, and events that speak to others who have never been there. Some early ones had the flavor of the 1930s. Some of it I invented from stories that my parents or relatives told me, and sometimes even strangers who talked about that certain time and history. Putting it all together, I created works of art that are a painted biography. Instead of making a film or writing a story, I’m painting my life, which covers a lot of other lives and events that happened at the same time.
My watercolors are strictly of the spirit and mostly my response to nature, which has always been an important part of my life. Many of the watercolors reflect what I was seeing and feeling at the time. Some of them I’ve thrown away, because a watercolor doesn’t always succeed. And if it doesn’t, you’ve got to get rid of it. The most difficult ones to succeed for me are the oceans. And I love the ocean, but it’s just so difficult for me to do justice to it.
What can I say about my figurative paintings? You’ve got to know the figure to work on anything that has to do with life and history. I see a lot of work today, however, where the figure looks like an invention, like a cartoon. You never see anybody really look like that.
And then there are the expressionist pieces. They’re more my finding out about myself. I’m dancing with the paint and completely immersed in the paint, and what’s happening on the canvas. I also like to fool around with perspective and shades and lines and colors and everything that have nothing to do with reality; they just enhance what I’m working on. They express my essence.
I hope people approach my art with an open heart and mind. I want them to react on an emotional level and that the painting will be something they never tire of. My art is not something that is bought on impulse. Many of the things I have sold, people have looked at three and four different times. When they saw it framed right and in a gallery show, they said immediately, “I want that”. It’s a wonderful thing because I love to see when people react to my art in a way that they want to buy it. It’s the same thing I used to see how students responded when they caught something I was teaching. It’s like a light bulb went on in their head. You could see it in their whole body. And that was wonderful. People can approach art without knowing anything about it. Even little children, their art is just wonderful. A lot of famous artists wish they could paint like children do.
I live in New York City. Seventy-seven years ago, I was born in Abilene, Texas. When I was five, my family moved to Ozona, Texas and lived there after I married and started my family. Later, I was divorced and moved to California. When my next husband died in 1980, I moved to New York. At one time, early in my career, I worked as a jewelry designer and later as foreman of the paint lab for a television studio.
I learned a lot about painting from doing it, along with private instruction. In California, I got my teaching credential in art and then a Masters. After that, I didn’t study with anyone. I just cut loose and did it. Art has given me a sense of security. I know where I am with it, and who I am. I used to say I was a maverick, an original. But I don’t feel so much like a rebel. I just feel I want to do whatever is in me and cover all the bases I can before I leave the planet because I’m having a great time with it.