Cutting Her Own Path, 1996–2011
Jean Smith writes about her relationship with Nikki McClure and McClure’s influence on Smith’s life.
Carrie Brownstein, formerly of Sleater-Kinney, writes about growing up around Nikki McClure and watching her art take shape.
Writer and musician Lois Maffeo reflects upon the work of Nikki McClure and their friendship.
CraftPerspectives Lecture: Nikki McClure
Nikki McClure, CraftPerspectives Lecture, October 2011.
A Conversation with Nikki McClure
Listen to a three-part podcast conversation about the exhibition between curator Namita Gupta Wiggers and artist Nikki McClure.
PART ONE: MUSIC
PART TWO: CALENDARS
PART THREE: BOOKS
Watch an interview with Nikki McClure and read an accompanying article on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s website.
August 18, 2011 – October 29, 2011
Curated by: Namita Gupta Wiggers
Nikki McClure works with daily life as her subject, black paper as her medium and an X-acto blade as her tool. Her intricate papercuts form the foundation of a self-made career that now spans self-published calendars, books, t-shirts, posters and more. In each medium, McClure’s message is clear: take action by making your own life. It is a message McClure models every day.
Born in Kirkland, Washington, Nikki McClure was drawn to The Evergreen State College by Olympia’s independent music scene. One of the more prominent visual artists involved with Calvin Johnson’s K Records, Kill Rock Stars and linked to the Riot Grrrl movement of the early 1990s, McClure embodies the independent spirit that brought national attention to creative activities in the Pacific Northwest.
Her delicately sculptural papercuts document her life, family and community. Made with simple tools and telling everyday stories, McClure’s images show real people engaged today in activities that have happened for thousands of years: picking berries, eating meals together and swimming in a river. The first museum exhibition to focus on the artist’s fifteen-year career, Nikki McClure: Cutting Her Own Path, 1996–2011 reveals how one artist uses a simple craft and graphic language to show how to be a maker, and how McClure models a self-sustained life on her own terms.
Papercuts, publications, calendars and a limited edition silkscreened print co-produced with PNCA students are available for purchase in The Gallery at Museum of Contemporary Craft.
The music scene in Olympia, Washington played a big role in Nikki McClure’s decision to attend The Evergreen State College, where she earned her degree in 1991. Music released through independent record labels, such as K Records, co-founded by Calvin Johnson and Kill Rock Stars, was part of the initial draw. Coupled with the Riot Grrrl movement of the early 1990s, Olympia offered a creative
environment where McClure found role models for how to live independently and began experimenting with performance as well.
In addition to her own recordings and performances, such as Godzilla, McClure created album covers for Sleater-Kinney, and toured with Lois Maffeo and Kicking Giant in the late 1990s. A number of bands, musicians and performers, including Nikki McClure, Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney, Lois Maffeo and Kurt Cobain made Olympia their home during this period. McClure’s studio in the mid-1990s was located across the hall from Calvin Johnson’s recording studio; her couch became a frequent place for many to hang out. A one-time resident of the legendary Martin Apartments, which housed many creative musicians and artists through the decade, McClure bought a house in 1996 and began to turn her focus to her family, her home and her art.
In 2009, McClure explained her transition from the performing to the visual arts in an interview in Giant Robot as something that “happened gradually. More and more of my ideas were presenting themselves visually, less and less orally. I could also disguise myself more. A bird is not me; it is harder to sing stories and not be understood as the instigator. I could hide more and disclose more about humanity than just my own struggles. Plus, how many heartbreak songs does the world need?”
McClure produced her first hand-bound and Kinko’s-printed calendar in 1998. Since then, the structure of working in a twelve-month series of images continues to guide much of McClure’s work. The success of her calendar feeds her family (along with food she trades with local farmers). Today, her self-published annual calendar print run is 17,000.
The first calendar was created to meet needs for an art show that was one month away. McClure explains:
“I focused on things that could be foraged for during each month, McClure explains, It provided direction plus I liked the idea that it would be utilitarian. A calendar also ends up in kitchens and I like thinking of all the kitchens they are hanging in and all the goings on and good food they are witness to…
As far as ‘calling out to the world’, the calendar does that in two ways. The first is, ‘Hey, I’m here! I make pictures!’ and it has opened doors for me and adventures have been offered because of that call. It is my calling card and portfolio. The second call is, ‘Wake Up!’ I have no way of knowing how that message is received and acted upon. Sometimes people write and tell me how the image and word resonated in their life in a meaningful way.”
—Nikki McClure, excerpt from Last Hours, Summer 2008
In addition to self-published books, McClure has published with Sasquatch Books, Chronicle Books, and is the writer/illustrator of four children’s books published by Abrams Books, including The New York Times bestseller All in a Day (2009), on which she worked with Newberry Medal award-winning writer Cynthia Rylant. Papercuts from this and her most recent publications, Mama, Is it Summer Yet? (2010) and To Market, To Market (2011) are on view alongside examples from her earlier hand-printed books.
EXHIBITIONS AND PUBLIC PROGRAMS ARE SUPPORTED BY:
We are grateful for 75th Anniversary Anchor Support from the following
PNCA+FIVE Ford Institute for Visual Education
The Collins Foundation · The Ford Family Foundation · The Robert Lehman Foundation, Inc · Meyer Memorial Trust · James F. & Marion L. Miller Foundation · Western States Arts Federation · National Endowment for the Arts · Whiteman Foundation
Cynthia Addams · Ginny Adelsheim · Bank of America · John & Suzanne Bishop · Mary & Brot Bishop · Virginia Campbell · Maribeth Collins · Truman Collins · Sue Cooley · Anne & James F. Crumpacker · Czopek & Erdenberger · Carol Edelman · John Gray · Ray & Jere Grimm · Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation · Ronna & Eric Hoffman · Sue Horn-Caskey & Rick Caskey · HW Irwin & DCH Irwin Foundation · The Jackson Foundation · Selby Key · Connie Kiener · Anne Koerner · Sally & John Lawrence · Dorothy Lemelson · Doug Macy · Mary Maletis · Linda & Ken Mantel · M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust · Widney & Glenn Moore · Linda & Bill Nicholson · Oregon Cultural Trust · Oregon Potters Association · Paul G. Allen Family Foundation · PGE Foundation · Regional Arts & Culture Council · Dick & Deanne Rubinstein · Luwayne “Buzzy” Sammons · Arlene & Harold Schnitzer · Bonnie Serkin & Will Emery · Manya Shapiro · Joan & John Shipley · Ken Shores · Carol Smith-Larson · Al Solheim · Cornelia & William Stevens · The Standard · Susan Thayer Farago · US Bank · Vibrant Table Catering · Larry & Dorie Vollum · Steve & Tisha Vollum · Wessinger Foundation · Wyss Foundation · ZGF Architects LLP · ZIBA
With special thanks to: Portland Monthly