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12 Questions: Nichole Gronvold Roller

1. What are 1-3 books that have influenced your life?

One of the first books that influenced my life was The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen. I remember reading this book as a child and was horrified by the illustrations and the story. It was my first introduction that life could be sad and unfair, even for children. Another book that stuck with me beyond the initial reading was the Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. The novel is a wonderful reminder of how arrogance and pride can be incredibly destructive. I love the writings by Toni Morrison and have many favorites written by the author. Beloved is the book that influenced me the most, so I guess that would have to be my favorite.

2. What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on a series of shaped canvases that are modular tangrams. I am excited about this body of work as the canvases may be combined to create large works, or separated into smaller clusters depending on the space that it is installed and exhibited. I like the idea of the paintings being flexible and having a new life depending on the space it occupies.

3. How has failure set you up for later success? What was your favorite failure?

I can be a little superstitious, so if there happens to be a rejection or something that does not go my way, I don’t fight it too hard and try to be positive. I have had so many things happen in my life for the better if I just let it happen. Life has not always been easy but it is really good now so I am incredibly thankful. I think failure helps you be humble and appreciate the days when everything is going well.

4. What is your most unusual habit?

I tend to hide things and forget where I placed items. My husband calls this habit of mine – “squirreling,” things away. I have lost many anniversary cards, Christmas and birthday presents and recently where I squirreled away our elf on the shelf (don’t repeat to my daughter!). Luckily my husband knows me well enough and can find my hiding spots recovering lost items.

5. If you could have any painter, living or dead paint your portrait who would it be and why?

Hilma af Klint. I would be interested in her painting my portrait as an abstraction, a spiritual representation. I am fascinated by Hilma’s paintings, drawings, and journals. I would have a lot of questions for Hilma af Klint.

6. What is the most indispensable item in your studio/workspace/office? What is your studio like? Could you share an image?

I have a nomadic studio art practice. My art travels with me depending on where I am at the moment. Sometimes I work at the kitchen table so I can be with my family while painting; the sunroom if I need natural light, or the basement if I need a large wall. I have an artist-teacher philosophy and I take my art with me to the high school where I teach to work alongside my art students. My work goes back and forth to Bradley University where I am a student.

My indispensable item in my studio at the moment would be tape…lots and lots of tape for my hard edge-paintings.

7. When you feel overwhelmed or uninspired what do you do? What do you do to get out of a funk? What questions do you ask yourself?

I go for a walk and listen to my favorite music. Being outside and exercising often releases my tension. Unfortunately, I am unable to make much time for this activity outside of the summer months.

Additionally, I am fortunate to have a close group of artist friends. We all go through times of frustrations or feelings of being uninspired. Having a community of artist friends can be comforting while going through times of insecurity.

8. Who/What influences your work?

Currently, I am working on my MA in Studio Arts at Bradley University. I have a wonderful, talented painting graduate group and professors in all areas of study. We have weekly critiques and I enjoy viewing the work of others and hearing about their inspirations and suggestions for my art. We share many ideas and support each other.

Equally influential in my art are my observations. The Midwest, taking in the sights of bridges, signage, pockets of industrial and agriculture centers; my backyard that is surrounded by farmland. I am constantly contemplating the push and pull of nature versus human-made objects and it is reflected in my artwork.

9. Do you collect anything?

Art! I love to collect art but I’ve been told by my husband we are running out of room for my collection. Money is also an issue but there is so much affordable art available and it is incredibly fulfilling to acquire an original work of art. I have found a way around this addiction and I am now buying art as gifts. If it were up to me our entire house would be a collection of art and everything else would secondary.

10. What words of advice would you give to your younger self?

It’s not a race.

11. In the last five years what new belief, or habit has most improved your life or studio practice?

I go back and forth about why I am a painter; why I put so much pressure on myself to produce. I have joked with others that I wish I had another passion, something that could benefit my family more, like enjoying cooking and/or baking. I think I have finally concluded that being an artist is who I am and I just need to stop fighting it. I need to work on providing a balance in my life but my decisions I have made up to this point are ok.

12. Share an inspiring image.

Nichole's work is available on ARTSY and on view at James May North as a part of the exhibition: SUDDEN CHANGE OF WIND.

Exhibition dates: December 6 - January 25

James May North

219 State Street

Algoma, WI 54201


Thursday- Saturday 10-5



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