Portrait of the Artist

Nancy Storrow

The forest for the leaves

By Noelani Kirschner | May 3, 2021
Restless, 2019, pastel and pastel pencil on Bristol paper, 20 x 20 inches.
Restless, 2019, pastel and pastel pencil on Bristol paper, 20 x 20 inches.

“I have had a longtime affair with natural forms,” says Vermont-based artist Nancy Storrow. “This past year, I fell in love with huge windblown leaves. I began drawing them—re-shaping, distorting them.” In her recent series, Fragile, she takes the leaves on the forest floor near her home and transforms them into drawings featuring bright, loose, abstract suggestions of shape. Her interest in colorful foliage springs from the interplay of nature’s opposites—how fallen leaves signify the presence of life while also portending its inevitable decay. “Fragile captures that edge of physical deterioration and balances it with regeneration and growth,” she says. “And there is a bright, beautiful core of toughness in the remnants.”

  • Scatter, 2020, pastel on Bristol paper, 20 x 20 inches.

Storrow begins each drawing by marking a single line on paper. Then she fills in the characteristics of each leaf with pastels, sometimes using her fingers to smudge and add texture. The result is a transcendent metamorphosis, and a unique, ephemeral portrait. “In all the tenuousness of life, the leaves are what is left and what will return,” she says. “I want to mirror this in my drawings.”

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