After a career photographing rock stars like Kiss, Prince, Santana, Stevie Nicks, Kid Rock and others, Nichol Skaggs turned her attention to the natural world.
Her upcoming show, “The Feminine Spirit in Nature,” which opened on Nov. 1, with an artist reception on Nov. 4, at Great Legs Winery – Brewery – Distillery – Art Gallery in Holland focuses on a body of work Skaggs created over the past six months as she delved into the intersection of nature and the feminine spirit.
The work combines the nurturing and caregiving instincts shared by nature, as personified by Mother Earth, and by women, as well as reminds people to reconnect with the world beyond their screens.
“Mother Nature is always working to achieve and maintain harmony, wholeness and balance within the environment,” Skaggs said. “Mother Nature heals, nurtures and supports all life on this planet, and ultimately all life and health depend on her.”
She added, “Women have inborn instincts to mother, nurture and for caregiving. Feminine qualities are important interior qualities of wholeness and balance within each individual, male and female.”
She said finding that balance of the masculine and feminine within individuals ultimately “creates greater balance in the world.”
“Intuitively, I am combining Mother Earth (nature), the Divine Feminine and a woman’s nurturing (human nature) in my paintings to inspire people to rekindle their connection to Mother Earth and fight to protect our environment from the many types of pollution we are facing.”
In her painting, “Free Spirit,” which is part of the exhibit, she explained, “visually you see a voluptuous woman lying in a bed of tall green ferns. Poetically and spiritually, I am showing the beautiful human spirit that is intrinsically connected to nature and in tune with earth energy. Lying bare as an infant, she is comfortable in her skin and embraces her femininity.”
Another painting, “Strength from a Resilient Willow,” visually depicts a woman hugging a willow tree.
“I am showing that the woman baring her soul is receiving strength and hope from the willow tree (nature). One of the most valuable traits of the willow tree is its flexibility and adaptability. The willow tree is one of the few trees that are capable of bending in outrageous poses without snapping.
“The trunk of the willow tree represents the strength, stability, standing firm and withstanding the greatest of challenges. The message of the willow tree is to adjust with life, rather than fighting it, surrendering to the process.”
Skaggs said becoming a mother was a catalyst for the work she is doing today and the pieces in “the Feminine Spirit in Nature” exhibit.
She said it was actually a spell of vertigo, while photographing a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert that lead her to discover she was pregnant and that ultimately led to her new artistic endeavors.
“I was kneeling, with my camera ready and aimed, then all of the sudden I became very dizzy, then full on vertigo, so much that I couldn’t stand and felt sick,” she said. “The security guards that I had befriended were kind enough to help me out of the stage barrier and to the Red Cross tent.
“After some tests, I later found out that I was pregnant. It was a shock because I didn’t think it would ever happen. My husband and I had tried for about four years before. I was 30 years old when I gave birth to our son and my whole world and perspective changed in that moment. I feel like the experience of pregnancy, birthing, nursing and motherhood was actually the spiritual catalyst and shift for me.”
Skaggs said like most women, she wanted to be “the best mom ever” so she began learning about organic, raw and non-GMO foods and toxins. “Which leads to learning about water and air pollution and what we are doing to our environment with pesticides,” she said.
Though her background was in photography, Skaggs turned to the canvas to convey her newfound interests.
“I started painting with leaves about six months ago,” she said. “My friend introduced me to a book called “Brave Intuitive Painting” by Flora S. Bowley. I was really inspired by what she wrote about spontaneous, bold and fearless approaches to painting as a process of discovery.”
Though she’d been painting trees already, Skaggs was looking for a more intuitive and fun way to do so.
“I began to remember when I was a child and I would collect leaves and lay them out on the table. Then I would place a sheet of paper over them and rub different colored crayons over them and watch the leaf take shape and its veins magically appear on the paper before my eyes.
“And that’s when the idea came to me, to literally paint with the leaves. So I went out and gathered some of my favorite shaped leaves and gave it a try. I loved the block print effect it was giving me so I just kept going. It was so fun. I felt like a kid again, it just brought back so much enjoyment to the painting process for me.”
Skaggs work will be on display at the Great Legs Winery – Brewery – Distillery – Art Gallery, at 332 E Lakewood Blvd #200, through Dec. 10. The Nov. 4 artist reception begins at 6:30 p.m. and includes a belly dancing performance and live music. Skaggs’ paintings and prints will be available for sale.
*Photos courtesy of Nichol Skaggs