Nancy N. Erickson passed away peacefully on February 7 in the Pattee Canyon home that she loved for 51 years. With her were her two daughters, Chris and Terrell, her husband Ron, and in spirit her granddaughter Avery, who is in Africa.
Born in Ohio in 1935, Nancy grew up in the 1940s on her parents’ cattle ranch and in the town of Livingston. A move to Billings preceded four wonderful high school years. After two and a half years at Carleton College, she transferred to the University of Iowa where she met her future husband, Ron. After graduating with a B.A. in Zoology, Nancy briefly was in a graduate program in Pharmacology but soon moved back from Seattle to Iowa where she pursued an M.S. in Nutrition and married Ron. They moved to Germany for a year while Ron worked on a NATO postdoctoral fellowship.
When Ron got a teaching job in Buffalo, New York, Nancy started to return to an old love, art. (She had always drawn and painted, witness County Fair prizes in Livingston). This resulted in the acceptance of one of her paintings in a major show at the Albright-Knox Museum in Buffalo.
They then moved to Missoula where Ron taught in the Department of Chemistry and Nancy earned a Master of Arts and later a Master of Fine Arts.
In Missoula she soon became involved in numerous political causes – such as GASP and the Missoula Women for Peace. And she met and formed strong friendships with a group of women who loved to draw – they formed a drawing group (the Pattee Canyon Ladies Salon) that hired models and had drawing sessions for more than 33 years in her studio. Her artwork brought her in contact and friendship with a wide group of art quilters (Studio Art Quilt Associates) and to numerous meetings in the East.
Over the course of her long career, she exhibited her artworks nationally (over 500 solo and group exhibitions) in most states, and internationally in Canada, Japan, the People’s Republic of China, Germany, Cape Verde, Niger, Burma, France, Costa Rica, and the United Kingdom.
“The sense of the ranch, and the wild, has permeated every quilt or painting I’ve done,” remarked Nancy. Her painting, drawing, and quilting evolved over time in remarkable ways, earning praise throughout the creative world:
Nancy was “a pioneer in contemporary textile art, making soft sculpture, art quilts, and organic, free form quilted paintings that express her concerns about humanity, the animal world, and the planet. Her work stands out as unique among artists who utilize the quilt as a mode of expression, not only for her signature organic shaped format, but also her chosen subject matter and painterly approach. All of her artworks present pictures of complex animal/human interactions, even when the human presence is only implied.” (Brandon Reintjes, 2021)
Nancy “made an impact as an experimental artist in the field of textile art, which in the 1970s and 80s was emerging from its insular role as a “craft,” typically taught in Home Economics departments rather than art schools. Her quilted work was among the first to break away from the rectangle, and to display recognizable imagery rather than just pattern. She was among the first artists to paint on quilts, and most notably, to convey political, feminist and environmental content.” (Beth Lo, 2013)
“In mature, wise, and loving work Nancy Erickson invites us to embrace the color, light, physicality, and varieties of lived existence. She calls on us to imagine the otherness and dignity of non-human beings. She invites us to embrace and fully inhabit our place in the long, long history of mammalian life on earth.” (Margaret Kingsland, 2010)
“Dignity and beauty do not exist in the abstract. Dignity and beauty belong to individuals, and this is as true of nonhuman animals as it is of human beings. In Nancy Erickson’s work, each animal is honored as a unique individual with her or his own facial contours and expressions, body language, activity, [and] ‘attitude’”. . . . (Deborah Slicer, 2011)
The University of Montana recognized Nancy’s creativity in an Odyssey of the Stars event in 2013.
If you wish to have a glimpse of her work, check out nancyerickson.com
Nancy loved home, art, friends in Pattee Canyon and elsewhere, cats, and family. All of us will miss her dearly.
A Celebration of Nancy’s Life and Work, will take place Saturday, MAy 14th at 2:00pm.
Remembrances may be made to the Nancy and Ron Scholarship in Art (U of Mont. Foundation), the Ron and Nancy Scholarship in EVST (U of Mont. Foundation), MEIC, or the Missoula Art Museum.