By Rachel Werner

One man’s trash is coveted, collected and converted into a remarkable woman’s gems. Thus is the life of artist Natasha Nicholson. Nicholson’s fascination with collecting began as a young child growing up in a chaotic environment, needing to exert a measure of control upon the world around her. She began to assemble personal “treasures” on a bedside table— found stones, splices of ribbon, doll clothes—special objects Nicholson forbade her siblings to touch

“For me, it’s about containment and boundaries, I need both to create clarity, no matter the number of pieces I might be working with,” she reflects.

With little formal art training during her teen years and early adulthood, Nicholson would eventually achieve notice on the modern art scene as a printmaker and collage artist, Collage is a medium she naturally gravitates to since “there are a lot of places to hide in big spaces,” Nicholson explains, “I work in small spaces; there is no place to hide,”

Melding her fascination with collecting and a keen eye for detail, Nicholson drew inspiration from the Renaissance precursor to museums, the “cabinet of curiosity, ” which held extensive collections and objects of wonder, Nicholson’s own meticulously crafted enclosures of vintage trinkets and scavenged debris are arranged purposely into a haunting display of immense proportion. “I have great afFInity for things that have been loved, cherished and saved. And, the very best kind of art invokes memory,” the artist muses.

Her participation in the group exhibition “Cabinets of Curiosities: Four Artists, Four Visions” at the Elvehjem Museum in 2000 eventually gave birth to her reconfiguring the entire FIrst floor of her home into a seductive anomaly—her fastidious collection transformed into four distinct rooms. All four rooms are on display now at MMoCA in its exhibit of her personal curations and contemporary work, “tte lin k in g Room is the gateway of all items into Nicholson’s private museum, which is also comprised of the Bead Room (ethnic jewelry and bead enclave), the Strata (sculpture, collage and photography workshop) and the Studiolo (the nucleus of the cabinet),

For Nicholson, the frames, bases and platforms that display her work are just as important as the pieces themselves, “thus, every object is carefully placed and arranged in a specific context to tell a story. “It’s the contradiction that makes something interesting, not the sameness, Magic comes from not seeing the strings.”

Get a look into the artist’s world at “Natasha Nicholson: The Artist in Her Museum,” on display at MMoCA through Nov. 8.

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