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Visiting Artist Louise Nevelson Discusses Sculpture And Life

By Judith E. Matloff

"Art is the transcending of materials and presence--it is the highest place we can go," Louise Nevelson, one of America's foremost sculptors, said to an audience of over 200 in Hilles Library yesterday.

Art students, local artists and curiosity seekers participated in what was billed as a "dialogue" with Nevelson on "The Artist and the Creative Process." Nevelson was a visiting artist in the "Learning from Performer's series sponsored by Harvard's Office of the Arts.

The 77-year-old sculptor spoke about her life's philosophy and experience as an artist.


"I never thought to question my art; it's like breathing to me. Without it I would have to cut my throat. It is what gives me my sanity, beauty and life," she said.

Nevelson's sculpture, displayed in museums throughout the world, has been influenced by Indian and African art, surrealism, Cubism and constructivism. She specializes in large sculptures called "assemblages" usually made out of wood and bronze.

Nevelson discussed her methods of creating. "I'm very unorthodox--sometimes I visualize a piece before it's created, and sometimes not. I don't like smocks and I don't like studios; all I need is a lot of different rooms to move about in."

"I love drawing; it's very close to the nervous system," Nevelson said. 'Drawing is the root to all art. I think Seurat's small drawings are the tops; they're masterpieces. Dali is another great artist in the way he crystallizes ideas."

About changes in her style, Nevelson said, "My life is getting easier, so my work is getting bigger and freer with more open forms. There's an optimism in the atmosphere in this country which it also reflects."

Nevelson said her art is unlike that of her male contemporaries. "Although I'm a feminist, I expect female art to be different from masculine," she said. "Our organs are different, so inevitably our approaches are."

Keep the Faith

The sculptor repeatedly stressed the necessity for artists to persevere and have confidence in their talent. She also spoke of the need for greater encouragement for budding artists.

"People should be very careful when they give birth," she said. "They should be willing to allow their child its own heritage--allow it the freedom to cultivate its artistic gifts."

Born in Kiev, Nevelson received most of her training in the U.S. She says her art is a synthesis of her experience in different disciplines, including acting, dancing, film and opera. One of the greatest influences on her art is Hans Hofmann, with whom she studied in 1931.

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