Nancy Schön

Nancy SchönWhen Nancy Schön graduated from the Museum School, she had married Donald Schön. Her senior sculpture was the lead piece in the graduation show at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. The sculpture was of a pregnant mother carrying a child on her shoulder. That set the stage for her early life as a sculptor which was intertwined with her life as a wife and mother.
Nancy has four children and she found group-interaction intriguing and provocative. It is natural for an artist to echo his/her surroundings and his inspiration came from her immediate family. As time went on, however, her children grew up and her sculptures represented more mature people and different themes. For some time these themes centered around groups of people- how they interacted and related. Nancy has spoken of this interplay of feelings as “frozen emotions” which tell a story and evoke a response from the viewer through the gestures of the figures. Another image that she pursued in her work was the metaphor of climbing. The symbolism of how we interpret and go through our lives is evident in climbing, which often implies struggle and effort. We do not climb in a straight line, but reach plateaus, rest, then continue on. Our lives are sometimes joyous, sometimes sad, but always in motion, hopefully upward. Her work also freezes that emotion. One other image that struck her as a constant was the fact that they spend great amounts of time waiting. They wait for the phone to ring, they wait for a friend to meet them, they wait in line to go to the movies, they wait in the doctor’s office; they wait for the next act to begin, the next musical movement; the list is endless. Her work also froze that emotion. This was her direction all the years that she showed in galleries, but in 1980 Brandeis University commissioned her to design a Benefactor pin to raise money for their library. This unusually successful venture became a turning point in her career. Nancy discovered that she could design small bronze sculptures, awards, donor walls, and jewelry to raise money for institutions.
She could help others, do what she loves to do, and earns a fee at the same time. Another part of her career: Some years later, when she first started doing Public Art, she noticed that people from ages 2 to 92 looked at sculptures in parks rather casually, and then went on their way. Then, one day, she saw a sculpture of a child with a cat. The child was not noticed, but the cat was patted, hugged, and smiled at. This gave her a profound insight. She decided from that event that she wanted her sculpture to be interactive and touched. Beyond the emotional, tactile interaction, she also tries to select subjects for her sculpture that teaches a lesson and has a connection to the sculpture site. Some examples: “Make Way for Ducklings” is about promises kept and family values. It is in the Boston Public Garden where the story takes place. “Eeyore” is from children’s literature and is installed at a library, and speaks to making something out of nothing ( the empty honey pot and the broken balloon).
The “Tortoise and Hare” is a metaphor for the Boston Marathon and is at the finish line in Copley Square. There is an important lesson to be learned from the persistence of the tortoise in this fable. And so it is with all her Public Art projects. Nancy has tried to teach some sort of a lesson, yet gives people the joy and delight of interacting with what people normally are told not to touch. The child in all of us responds to animals and the use of this metaphor reaches our inner most depths whatever our age. She uses bronze as a material to cast her sculptures as it is durable, practically vandal proof and blends with other materials that surrounding buildings might be made of. It has a wonderfully tactile quality and happily sparkles in the sunlight.

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