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Springfield Republican Article – Wednesday, February 03, 2010

 

 

Artist encourages a desire to create

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

By PATRICK O’CONNOR

HOLYOKE – Artist Dean Nimmer likes to tell a story about an atypical art opening. A few years back, Nimmer was exhibiting a series of his paintings, but instead of walking around and talking about his work, he chose to find a way to inspire his audience – and get them painting, too. So, he placed some brushes and paint and a few canvases on a table in front of his work And soon the viewers became the artists, as young and old began to paint and hang their work alongside his.

The event illustrates Nimmer as an artist and an educator, and the way he taps into a common need to make things. “What’s universal,” he said in a recent interview at his downtown Holyoke studio, “is a desire to create.”

For his work as an educator and an artist, Nimmer, professor emeritus at Massachusetts College of Art, was recently awarded the 2010 Distinguished Teaching Award by the College Art Association.

“As a teacher, I strive to energize my students’ desire to make things by giving them lots of ‘try this’ options and then in turn, I am inspired to paint and draw as I’m watching my students work,” Nimmer said.

And although he’s a retired professor, he continues to teach adults at Holyoke Community College and second and third graders at Curtis Blake Day School in Springfield.

Dean Nimmer - Map 29  Size: 15" x 11"  Method: Mixed Media on Paper  Date: 2005

Dean Nimmer - Map 29 Size: 15" x 11" Method: Mixed Media on Paper Date: 2005

He’s also the author of a how-to book on painting called “Art from Intuition: Overcoming Your Fears and Obstacles to Making Art.”

“I can’t stop,” he said. “I’m addicted to teaching.”

Nimmer said he has only received one criticism: “I like too much.” Yet, he added, “If someone is struggling, as a teacher, I need to help them get past that,” not criticize their work.

This method serves him as an artist, too. And his studio is a testament to how prolific and diverse one can be if they get out from under the discerning eye of criticism.

Walking inside the second floor rectangular room, you’re met with walls covered in paintings and collages of unusual associations: a photograph of a house wrapped in pink insulation, along with red bars, Chinese print and architectural scribbles; a photograph of a plastic snowman with a green hat and scarf isolated in the corner of the waiting area of a train station; a diorama of a Pinocchio figurine walking above a Barbie doll in an inferno.

“What attracts me most as an artist is when things are a little out of synch,” he said.

His work also reflects his impulse to collect random things. Flashlights, brushes, brooms, miniature pinball machines, antique book pages, an illustration of a transparent horse – they all populate his art.

“I wanted to apply my zeal of going to flea markets and connect it to my interest in collage,” he said.

The strangeness of this patchwork intrigues, teasing out curiosity. But people should not search for his intentions, he said.

Instead, Nimmer, who’s also a drummer who’s best known as a member of the ’60s psychedelic band the Baroques, suggested that you look at art as if you are listening to a song. In fact, Nimmer makes art as if he was a jazz musician in a jam session.

“The idea is to hear and respond,” he said, and his materials are his band. “My partners are the visual things I’m working with.”

And his viewers? They’re more than just an audience. They are students and collaborators.

“If what I make draws enough curiosity that it makes others feel like painting, then I succeeded,” Nimmer said.

To find out more about Nimmer, go to www.deannimmer.com

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