Firehouse Art Center’s winter artist in residence Nancy Eastman spent her whole life on the Front Range. Her connection to her home state inspired a multimedia body of work that’s deeply rooted in Colorado history.
During Eastman’s creative career, she built a body of work with distinct style, yet never confined to one material. Past projects incorporated paint, metal, wood, papermaking, printmaking, photography, thread, books and found objects in nature. Some of her work portrays the shrubs, cacti and foliage familiar to Colorado. Others are abstract, but created with the vibrant earth tones that define the state’s landscape.
Eastman’s work is chaotic yet rhythmic, just like nature. It’s a love letter to Colorado.
“My work has always been about the land. That's what inspires me,” Eastman said. “And growing up on sort of the plains of Longmont and Sterling, were very small. You noticed, you know, just very few elements on the land and the beauty of it and that's what's always inspired me.”
For the duration of the Artist Occupied program at the Firehouse Art Center — running from mid-November to Feb. 1 — she continued her homage to her home state with projects focusing on the people and places that developed Colorado’s history. By the end of her residency, Eastman will have a solo show in the Firehouse Main Gallery.
As Eastman works on her residency, some pieces are up for display in the Firehouse South Gallery including a photography and paper collage of the now shuttered Great Western Sugar Factory in Longmont. The collage layers together photographs of the broken down factory, metal skeletons and crumbling brick. The photos sit on top of hand drawn and cut dirt and wild grass.
The sugar beet plant ran from 1903 to 1977, as is significant to both Longmont and Eastman’s personal past.
Eastman has called multiple cities along the Front Range home. She said while she was growing up her father served as superintendent of Great Western Sugar Factory, and transferred to different locations. Eastman, who is currently based in Gunbarrel, lived in Denver for 50 years, moved to Longmont for high school and lived in Fort Collins while she studied at Colorado State University.
The sugar factory collage joins other residency projects focused on Longmont. Eastman built a 5-by-5 foot collection of small square watercolor paintings stitched together. The miniature paintings are depictions of Longmont. Among the paintings are a patch of grass, a car driving and a family home.
Utilizing the workspace in the Firehouse, Eastman is working on large-scale 2D and sculptures.
“I was interested (in the residency) because it's about taking risks. You have a larger studio and it gives me an opportunity to work bigger and do something different than I have done in the past,” Eastman said.
Eastman built sculptural abstract pieces symbolizing the farming and ranching in Longmont. Among those pieces are metal objects wrapped with yarn in the color of cows and six feet of chicken wire wrapped with yarn with colors representing the different seasons to represent farming.
A sculpture series Eastman created a jewel-toned yarn wrapped tightly around found branches. The piece is just as much about the process as it is the final product. Eastman said the meticulous practice is an homage to the colorful woven work of the Ute Tribe.
A tall wooden structure of the wrapped branches already stands in the corner of the South Gallery. But Eastman plans to create more pieces and has involved the local community. On Dec. 17, Eastman hosted a workshop, inviting community members to join her in finding sticks and wrapping them in yarn.
Other community projects include a collaboration with a local poet whose work is collaged into Eastman’s visual art. She will also host another workshop on Jan.14, asking Longmont residents to bring in photos of their homes to be stitched together.
Community involvement is a key element to the Artist Occupied program. As Eastman works on her projects, the gallery is open for visitors to see the works-in-progress and meet her.
“I look forward to what surprises happen with the work that I create and I also look forward to the people coming in and talking to me about what I'm doing” Eastman said. “It’s been interesting with the few people that have come in and how much they love Longmont and they've recently moved to Longmont from other states and they show real interest in what's happening in the gallery.”