Some call me a Memory Artist
a Private Mythologist
a Creative Practitioner
a Prescriptive Artist
The list gets long.
But when we work together, really I’m happiest when you think of me as a trusted friend. Unlike many artists, my work begins when I set my ego aside as Nancy Gershman (the “this” or “that”) and listen to you tell your story. Whether it’s for celebration, legacy or healing – my digital art-making is entirely for your sake. Bring me your most precious memories, stories and epiphanies, and I’ll bring new meaning to your photos in ways that will emotionally transport you and open doors.
Who am I?
A third generation painter, only this time the canvas is digital. Lola, my Viennese grandmother was known for her Chopin and the hyper-realistic water droplets she could paint in oils. My father was a weekend painter whose style was more Fauvist, but whose day job was psyching out CEOs as a management consultant. His provocative line of questioning undoubtedly got me started in my first career in advertising and market research, teasing “the truth” out of interview subjects as a copywriter. In my free time, I’d cut and paste to keep my sanity. But it was only when I created a tender series of photo collages for my firstborn’s barmitzvah that I made the cognitive leap that celebration, legacy and healing all lie along the same timeline. In the absence of the “right photos” (that is, endearing shots of my eldest engaging with close family members or friends), I created these myself by cutting out family members from multiple photos and collaging them together into one picture.
The result was that these photo collages appeared to amplify the pleasure each subject gained from each other. Using this method, I was able to reunite Sam with his great-grandma who would have been overjoyed by Sam’s piano playing which mirrored her own.
That one perfect picture
When the dotcom bust came, I tipped my hat to the great conceptual art directors of Madison Avenue and said to myself: “Nancy Gershman, it’s time to teach yourself how to use Photoshop.” I learned how to seamlessly manipulate photographs on the computer. Then I opened Art For Your Sake as a mecca for digital photo enthusiasts seeking that one perfect picture. I quickly discovered that other people’s raw photos and especially their back stories just floored me. In shoe boxes and photo albums I’d see imagery that rivaled that of the MAGNUM photographers of the 30’s; images that the collage artists Jacques Prevert and Peter Beard would have killed for. I realized what I wanted to do more than anything was to explore how suspending one’s disbelief – by playing with people, places and meaningful objects inside a photo – could promote happiness and healing.
Real life was my training ground
During my lifetime there have been mental health crises that shaped my empathic listening skills. Multiple deaths taught me about taking baby steps and the importance of seeking out at least one good thing every day. The ever-looming specter of my Obsessive Compulsive mother kept me grounded so I’d never confuse mental health flaws with evil. And it was a relative’s bout with anorexia nervosa that taught me what a fine line exists between dying happy and wrestling back control over one’s sanity.
I had never heard of narrative therapy, the imaginal experience or memory reconsolidation when I created my first Healing Dreamscape. But once I did, I recognized that I was an artist who loves solving creative problems through the act of companioning, asking impossible questions, employing a dark sense of humor, and yes, cutting and pasting.
For those who seek meaning but cannot find it; for those who found meaning and can’t wait to gift it – it’s my privilege to work with you.
– Nancy Gershman (New York City)