Though Nicomi Nix Turner’s subtle graphite work resembles an intricate examination of the natural world, one would be surprised to learn that the artist uses absolutely no reference material. The skinny, springy mushrooms and horned beetles that often appear in her drawings are not modeled after a particular species. Instead, Turner enjoys playing god, in a way, and seeing what an ecosystem of her own creation would look like. People often tell her the human characters in her work resemble someone they know, said the artist, but perhaps the beauty of their faces is that they can evoke different memories for each viewer.
We visited Turner’s quiet home studio in Oakland before she packed up her work and hit the road for her two-person show with Ajay Brainard at Antler Gallery in Portland, opening May 29. An avid collector, she decorated her work space with artwork from other contemporary artists as well as a smattering of taxidermy animals — tiny skulls in bell jars, dead beetles the size of fists, cow hides serving as carpets. Turner explained all these curiosities were procured in the most humane ways possible, picked up from flea markets or garnered from sources with sustainable, cruelty-free practices.
Her studio resembles the intention of her work: Her main source of inspiration, she said, is the idea of a return to nature. She depicts humans, animals and plant life as intricately intertwined, yearning for a world where a state of equilibrium between human activity and the planet’s ecosystems can be achieved.
Beetles for a window installation at Antler Gallery