For decades I’ve been creating “People-scapes,” oil, sculptured characters and applied objects on canvas, addressing cultural, political and spiritual issues facing society. By juxta-posing people in recognizable places and situations, each painting weaves together a story about contemporary life, filled with layers of detail, symbolism and humor.
Born in Bronx, New York, I attended the College of New Rochelle at age 15 to study painting and sculpture, after completing Bronx HS of Science. I am a certified computer animator, and singer-songwriter. I continue to make new work and regularly exhibit in solo and group shows.
I've also lived in Europe and Thailand, and traveled throughout the U.S., Mexico, Central America, Southeast Asia, India and Nepal while painting in plein air, which has served the development of my painting style and sharpen my understanding of the cultural and spiritual diversity of the world landscape. I have come to realize that art is truly a universal language.
"Plane slashing” is the latest progression
of my 3D technique building up the canvas; lately I’m tearing, cutting and manipulating the plane of an existing painting,while integrating it with one or more finished canvases, then adding sculpture and found objects.
As this work evolves, the experience is liberating, moving from chaos to destruction and on to an intuitive composition somewhere between abstraction and surrealism. Everyday, I take the brush to canvas and, although I am confronted with fear and insecurity, I also tap into a limitless source of imagery. In those moments, time falls away and it seems that the work creates itself.
"Nancy Calef's landscapes of
people are a real challenge
to any figurative painter,
by portraying humanity en masse
with all its sad happy faces."
Lawrence Ferlinghetti - Award
winning poet and painter;
co-founder - City Lights Bookstore
Nancy Calef, Jack Levine, Lawrence Ferlinghetti
photo by Christine Torrington
"When I first saw Nancy Calef's paintings I thought, 'Now here's an original idea.' As a traditional, old workhorse, I don't have much use for and don't believe in classifying contemporary art. I do think a picture should say something and Nancy's subject matter and palette express a view of the world beyond her years."
Jack Levine -- former President of the American
Academy of Arts and Letters, New York
"Think Hieronymus Bosch meets George Grosz meets Zap Comix."
Edward Guthmann -- San Francisco Chronicle
“Her Peoplescapes are a must-see!" Nicole Meoli -- Where Magazine
“This is art with an attitude!” Willie Brown, former SF Mayor
My Story From Purging To Painting
“This memoir tells the story of how Calef ingeniously transformed her mother’s ravenous ambition for Nancy to be a “star” -- through much childhood and young adulthood suffering -- into a world stage where the audience becomes sensitively and beautifully executed human beings, evoked with irony, humor and pathos in a painting style uniquely her own.”
Susan Barton, eBook Review Gal
Prisoners of Truth
by Jody Weiner
Council Oak Books
Nancy Calef cover art
Nancy Calef - cover art