Self Portrait…

Nichol Marsch

Artist Biography

Nichol Marsch (she/they) is a Metis artist from rural Manitoba (Treaty 1). Working primarily in multimedia sculptural installation, her practice is self-reflective and explores concepts of social constructs, determinants of identity, place and invariability. Through abstraction and a focus on process and materials, her work represents lived experiences and observations of the realities of living within social structures and dealing with superfluous habitual/mundane acts. Marschs’ installations often combine traditional craft with contemporary practices; an example of which, Untitled (Creation), was showcased in Lens Reflex (2020)..

As a student, Marsch produced a site-specific piece for LandMarks2017, a Canada 150 Partners in Art national juried exhibition at The Forks National Historic Site in Winnipeg Manitoba.  After obtaining a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Hons) from the University of Manitoba, Marsch completed a year-long Preparatorial Practicum at the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativities Walter Phillips Gallery, MAWA’s Foundation Mentorship Program (2019-2020), and the Creative Manitoba Individual Youth Mentorship (2020-2021). With support from the Canada Council for the Arts, Marsch has completed,  a large-scale installation Subjects, which was featured at Centre[3] for Artistic + Social Practice in Hamilton Ontario (2023), a new large-scale installation Self Portrait… currently exhibited at the Nova Scotia Craft Council, Mary E. Black Gallery (2024), and she is completing a new series of works, Barrens. Marsch will be participating in a group exhibition States of Self, with the Winnipeg Pantsuit Collective at aceartinc. In Winnipeg Manitoba later this year.

Marsch is a 2023 participant of the Ós Textile Residency in Iceland, and the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity Thematic Residency: Rewilding the Body Eclectic. They were recently a participant of the Banff Centre for the Arts Leighton Studios and future participant of the PILOTENKUECHE International Art Program in Leipzig Germany, and Est Nord Est Residency in Quebec Canada.  Marsch is a founding member of the Winnipeg Pantsuits Collective (2020-).

Exhibition Statement

“Working primarily in multimedia sculptural installation, my practice is self-reflective and explores concepts such as social constructs, the body, identity and invariability. My work primarily represents my lived experiences, observations of living within social structures, and my exploration of identity. I investigate and attempt to understand personal and societal weaknesses, typically gravitating toward uncomfortable, paradoxical, or convoluted topics. Increasingly I am intrigued by habitual acts and mundane activities, and often find myself tracking day-to-day happenings, and recording events and physical processes related to reproduction and growth.  My intention is to encourage new ways of thinking and feeling by facilitating difficult discourse.

In my previous work Subjects, I explored the impact of statistical information and labelling of humans, as a society.  In Self Portrait… I moved beyond this wide view, narrowing in on more personal and emotional themes of the individual. My purpose is to provoke discussion about how lousy people often feel, the physical/mental pain and discomfort that impacts our lives, and to address the lack of discussion about negative emotions and experiences in society as a result of social stigma and the disconnection of people from their bodies. Each doll/work is constructed to embody lived emotions, states of mental health, and elements of body image which represent my experiences and reflect on the experiences I have observed in others and in society.

Diverse and accessible materials such as collected objects, construction materials, dryer lint, hair, and flower petals inspire me with their potential to engage viewers. Materials that carry signifying markers that point to masculinity/femininity and that elicit emotions such as those with confounding textures, colours, and meanings are particularly important to my practice.  Bringing into play colour psychology, the use of white or the absence of colour, helps convey notions of sterility, institutionalisation, and invariability.  In Self Portrait… I make use of nylons, stuffing, body contouring textiles/clothing, shoulder pads, bra wires, human hair (my own, collected over the last decade), lipstick, nail polish, rose petals, resin, ceramic components, and collected objects.

By understanding contemporary art processes, and traditional crafts such as embroidery, weaving, or woodworking I can combine processes and materials in unique ways. Regularly I make use of abstraction to engender new ways of exploring or understanding without the distraction of distinct representational patterns. Repetitive thoughts and actions executed while in the production stage of a piece or installation become a means of catharsis and form an essential element of my work.

Self-portraits often represent the most favourable image of an individual or the most appealing attribute to the audience. Attributes are enhanced and favour the image of the individual. We see this in historical paintings of men who are made to appear larger than their horses and enemies, and in images of women who have been enhanced or manipulated to cater to the male gaze. Fast forward to the contemporary selfie craze where self-portraits (even those meant to show the subject in an ‘ugly’ or ‘raw’ state) are highly filtered, and edited before release. My work intends to counter this toxic positivity whereby excessive positivity disallows or rejects true feelings and brings about states of denial and repressed emotions: genuine human emotions are contradicted.

The process for this work was inspired by a handmade doll found at a thrift store, and a collection of sketches in a visual diary. The doll is a grotesque cabbage patch type doll from the 80s  constructed of hosiery, human hair and unsettling stitching. I had been contemplating “(Self Portrait…)” for a few years, documenting my feelings and sketching forms randomly. Finding the doll by chance served as a spark for this work. After its discovery, I began exploring the idea of making dolls in one’s own image to bring this project idea into reality. This project and the concept feel relevant to the social context that surrounds me, and felt like a natural progression from my past work.

CONTENT WARNING

This exhibition is a sculptural installation composed of a collection of nylon dolls embodying emotions, states of health, and body image. Craft is often used to incite discussion around difficult topics. In this case, some viewers may be sensitive to content related to body image; portraying blood, medical procedures/reproductive health, menstruation, miscarriage, fatphobia, dysphoria and other societal beauty standards.

Acknowledgments

Published ©2021 by the Centre for Craft Nova Scotia All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. All photography courtesy of the artist unless otherwise stated.

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