Retro Pop! Americana: The Art of Nouar
While seemingly warm and inviting on the surface, Nouar's paintings are anything but. In each work, she conveys multiple levels of delicious nuances and offers a sly commentary on society's increasing addiction to consumer goods. Neatly packaged in retro Pop! hues with highly stylized characters reminiscent of post-WWII Americana, each painting challenges our love-hate relationship with food advertising, production and consumption, a topic that has divided vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters for decades.
In her latest evolution of tasty treats, Nouar explores relationships of all forms and how we allow ourselves to get wrapped up in sticky situations. Here Nouar takes some time out to talk about working as an animator for Nickelodeon, dirty dishes and her upcoming exhibition at Copro Gallery: Consumed by You opening Saturday, October 16th.
Platinum Cheese (PC): Please tell us a little bit about your upcoming show at Copro, "Consumed by You!" What inspired you to undergo this project?
Nouar (N): “Consumed by You” furthers my desire to explore peoples’ relationships with one another and the ideas and objects we can become fixated with. I have always been interested in how sometimes people can allow their passions to overtake them and find themselves in unexpected situations. Sometimes what starts off seemingly happy and good can become a trap. In every relationship there seem to be elements of manipulation and subjection and this show is an exploration of how people can find themselves controlled by what they have allowed themselves to become too involved with.
As far as inspiration goes, I have tried to return to my love for animation and its element of visual storytelling. The new paintings are more narrative than in my previous show. I have created little vignettes and snapshots that tell stories about characters and their all-consuming relationships.
PC: Living in a culture where consumerism is practiced on a daily basis, do you ever find yourself swept up in the power of advertising?
N: Yes, of course. Consumerism and advertising are definitely elements that play into the themes of my paintings. Advertising exists solely to manipulate people into participating in consumerism. The psychology behind this interrelation is one of my primary sources of inspiration. Much of my work plays with what I see as an unconscious willingness of people to be manipulated by the promises of advertising. And of course, I don’t exclude myself from that number. I am inclined to shop all the time… but I think I am at least aware of the inclination.
PC: "Just Between Us" is a deliciously wicked piece where gorgeous dames are devouring the heads of tiny men. Is there a double entendre at play with the show title? And are you exploring a more personal narrative here?
N: Many of the works in the show have titles that are double entendres with the show title. And as far as the personal narratives, every one of my works has some personal element. Believe me, I could tell you some stories. But you’re probably safer just looking at the paintings.
PC: The color in your artwork has a great 1950s retro pop! quality. How do you choose your palette?
N: Pretty much I go back to my primary inspirations, animation and advertising art. Color plays a huge role in these media and I think that idea of commanding the viewer’s attention with the “pop” and visual dynamism of color translates directly into my work. Also, I primarily paint food. One would find it difficult to find a palette more bright and vibrant than the contents of the produce section of the supermarket.
PC: In addition to your solo exhibition you're curating a show in the second gallery as well. Some might say this is an overwhelming endeavor preparing both simultaneously. How was the experience and what can viewers expect to see?
N: Yes, I am curating a show titled “Bon A Petite” in the front gallery space. I invited artists to create works within a certain thematic concept: food. The artists involved work in a wide variety of media and styles and so the assembled show should be very exciting. I have seen some of the finished submissions and it promises to be a lot of fun. Some of the artists include Molly Crabapple, Miss Mindy, Scott Hove, Dan Goodsell, Tiffany Liu, Dan Barry, Dale Sizer & several others.
PC: Last December, you created an amazing three-dimensional piece titled "Uncle Jello" for Corey Helford's Multi-Plane Show that garnered a lot of attention. Do you have aspirations to create sculptures in the future?
N: Yes. I have a 3D show in the works with Corey Helford that is being planned for next June.
PC: What are some of the things you've learned transitioning into galleries from working as an animation artist at Nickelodeon?
N: With a lot of creative and personal freedom comes a lot of responsibility. As an animation artist at Nickelodeon I was responsible for just one part of a much larger project. As a gallery artist, I find myself responsible for every aspect of every project as a whole.
PC: Nouar is quite a unique name. What's the history behind it?
N: Nouar is the name of a mythological figure in Middle Eastern Folklore, and is my real name. That’s my mother’s fault. I’m not complaining, though. Let’s face it, I don’t really think I’d have been able to play up NoirSusie.com the way I have NoirNouar. This doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t still often get the question: “But what’s your REAL name?”
PC: Was anyone else in your family an artist and did they encourage your artistic talent?
N: My dad was an artist. There was always creative media available in my youth. Paint, colored pencils, paper that I experimented with as a child. However, I come from a long line of entrepreneurs, engineers, doctors, lawyers, and other "normal" people, so I could probably be considered a unique spot in my gene pool.
PC: What is your favorite food or dish? Your favorite food to paint?
N: I can’t stop eating tomatoes.
In painting, I like the challenge of rendering the wide assortment of textures and surfaces found in the world of food.
PC: Which contemporary artists do you most admire and/or are inspired by?
N: I am asked this question often, and all I can say is that with such a sheer number of advertising artists and painters that worked in the mid-twentieth century, it is virtually impossible to pick out any single artist. Nobody has ever been, or will ever be, able to paint and design like those overlooked masters. The need to create a unified, worked-towards aesthetic movement in the postwar period as exhibited by the visions of these artists possesses a power and energy that I find myself returning to again and again, a bottomless well of inspiration.
PC: If I were to spend the day with Nouar, what could I expect?
N: When there is a show on the horizon, I am usually awake when the sun comes up. A few hours of sleep may or may not be stolen during the daylight hours, but for the most part, my time is spent painting, and working out concepts.
When workload is lighter, I really like to go out and seek inspiration. I go to a lot of old toy and paper ephemera shows, museums, restaurants. I love Rockabilly and Roots music too, I go to a lot of music shows. I have a pretty normal social life otherwise.
PC: What's the one thing you can't live without?
N: Red lipstick!
PC: The one thing you can't live with?
N: Dirty Dishes!!
PC: What's next for Nouar?
N: I am going to be hard at work on my next show, and in the meanwhile I am working on a book project, something very different than your standard art book. It’s still in the early stages, but excited about the outcome!