I was never meant to be an artist. I was born to poor Appalachian farmers who didn’t even graduate from high school. I spent my youth working in my father’s fields and sawmill. My unique hardships growing up poor in the dying agricultural landscape and culture of Appalachia has profoundly shaped my vision of my own country and world. I have been able to tap into a deep vein of suffering produced by being chronically poor, isolated and disrespected. My work focuses on the struggles of women and other underrepresented groups.
It was highly unlikely that a child, especially a girl, born into this environment could ever find the resources and opportunities to study art. My experiences, however, showed me that being an artist is not always afforded through affluence, opportunity and privilege, even though those advantages may help tremendously. Being an artist was written into my DNA. I strived and fought for the ability to make my work throughout my entire life. It was like a weed that couldn’t be killed. No matter the circumstances that tried to strangle and starve my desire to make art, that desire always survived and grew anew. Like a shadow, it has followed me throughout my life, never leaving me, never forsaking me.
As an artist, I have explored many different styles and media. Printmaking, book arts, collage, drawing and painting are my preferred means of expression. My working process involves creating numerous sketches for each work, including numerous layers of drawings on tracing paper or vellum. Sketching initial ideas quickly and spontaneously has become an essential ritual in my working process. I believe that creative ideas are unique and powerful, sometimes even magical, often only appearing once. It is, therefore, the artist’s responsibility to capture these inspired phenomena while still vividly alive in the mind’s eye and commit them to paper. If not, these creative bursts, suddenly conceived within the artist’s mind, may disappear forever, never to return.
Artist Nancy Steele-Makasci was raised on a farm in rural southeastern Indiana in a family and community with strong Appalachian roots. From an early age, she worked in the fields, cared for the farm animals, stacked lumber in her father’s sawmill and helped her father and brothers make pallets and furniture. She firmly believes that her farm upbringing greatly influenced her artmaking by showing her that making objects by hand was an integral way of life, as well as, a means of livelihood.
Nancy earned an MFA in Fine Art Printmaking from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Additionally, she completed a MA in Art and a BA in Art Education from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She has traveled extensively including studying art and languages in Germany, Italy and Turkey. Nancy exhibits her creative works regularly and teaches fine arts courses in the Department of Art & Design at Utah Valley University in Orem where she is an Associate Professor of Art.