By Laura Staples
George Nick sees the world as if it were really made of oil-based paint.
His artwork can be found in some of the nation’s most popular museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Hirschhorn Museum and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, both in Washington, D.C.
Rider University’s Art Gallery can now be added to the list as Nick opened the exhibition “The Upside Down Wind” on Thursday. Art Gallery director and Rider professor Dr. Harry Naar expressed his excitement over having such an esteemed artist visit and display his work at Rider.
“George Nick is a fabulous artist who is willing to paint everything the world offers,” Naar said.
When looking for artists, Naar said he seeks to find those who will be a real-life example of what is taught in the classroom. To him, Nick fits the mold. He is willing to paint anything to the best of his ability. His oil-based paintings cross platforms, varying from interior, exterior and still-life views.
“It is very important for the students to not only see the real-life examples of what they’re taught,” Naar said. “But also a variety of artists with different styles.”
Students and visitors will be able to see Nick’s exhibition until Dec. 11, with paintings ranging from his early career to recent ones.
Nick chose the title of his exhibition, “The Upside Down Wind,” after a Bob Dylan song. He associates the title with the beginning of his lifelong career in painting.
“I think of my painting like the title of this song because I never got any professional lessons in drawing and I always just felt out of it,” Nick said. “While learning, it was the beginning of abstract expressionism, so I was really just doing my own thing.”
As a Rochester, N.Y., native, Nick did not start his post-graduate school life as an artist.
He first attended the University of Rochester, where he studied physics, and he was drafted into the Army soon after graduating. After seeing his first museum in Washington, D.C., where he was stationed, however, Nick became convinced that he needed to become an artist. After his stint in the Army, Nick attended Cleveland Institute of the Art, thus beginning his era as a struggling artist.
He attended three more art schools after Cleveland, including Yale. Nick soon recognized his deep passion in teaching the arts, which pushed him to begin a career as a college professor along with painting.
Luckily, Nick is no longer a struggling artist, but rather an experienced professional with endless creativity.
Whether or not he was inexperienced in the beginning of his career is irrelevant now, after the level of success he has achieved throughout his life through training with esteemed artists such as Edward Dickinson. He says working with Dickinson helped him acquire many ideas and allowed him to get closer to what he truly loves — painting.
Though he is now a retired professor, Nick reflects on the many years he spent sharing his talents with students, referring to them as some of the most rewarding years of his life.
“I really liked [the students’] enthusiasm, innocence and seeing the fun they had while learning,” Nick said.
Naar looks forward to sharing the story of Nick’s work with students and guests, as the two worked together to create an exhibit that would be both educational and inspirational.
“You can see the change from his early work until now,” Naar said. “The earlier paintings are more rigid, whereas his more experienced work shows more freedom in strokes and style.”
Nick is also excited for students to see the work from all different time periods of his life.
At 80 years old, Nick says he is still painting his way to a conclusion.
“I don’t know if I realized it yet, but I’m getting close,” Nick said.
However his story ends, though, students will be able to study Nick’s work and take away knowledge from a respected artist devoted to his career.
“Whether it’s liked or disliked, I’m looking forward to my work being seen,” Nick said. “Otherwise it just stays in the basement.”