In Seven Days…
Posted on 18 February 2013, 1:26
A feature I wrote on the artist Nicola Green was published in the Church Times this week. I visited Nicola, a portrait artist, at her north London studio a couple of weeks ago and had a fascinating conversation with her about her project In Seven Days… in which she shadowed Barack Obama during his 2008 campaign to become president. She created seven icon-like works out of the experience.
No one has ever been artist in residence to a US presidential campaign before. Nicola visited the campaign six times over the course of several months. She sat in the front row and sketched as Obama made speeches; she talked to staffers behind the scenes, citizens in the crowds and Obama himself at key moments in the campaign; and she collected magazines and ephemera along the way.
Throughout, Nicola took on a trappist-like vow of silence about the project, talking only to her husband and parents about it all. Back in her studio, after Obama’s inauguration in 2009, she distilled all those sketches, photographs and conversations to produce images which reflect on the impossibility of what Obama set out to do.
‘In Seven Days…’ is current on show at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.
I was especially struck by the first of the images, ‘The First Day, Light’ (seen above). It came from the moment in August 2008 when a crowd of 70,000 people was waiting in a giant stadium in Denver, Colorado, to see Barack Obama stride out onto the Democratic Convention platform and accept his party’s nomination as candidate for the US Presidency. In the moments before he arrived, the crowd, electrified by the significance of the event, erupted into a Mexican wave, with everyone leaping to their feet.
Nicola told me that she leapt up with them, but commendably, she kept her artist’s head in the intoxicating atmosphere. In the speeches leading up to this moment she had sketched the expressive hands of people around her. And as the wave cascaded through the crowd she photographed the hands as they waved, pointed or reached up in expressions of joy and praise.
Says Nicola: ‘The seven hands represent the 70,000 people, but also the fact that everybody around the world was watching this story. It was also a clock and about the timing of this moment.’
For more, see the Church Times piece (you have to subscribe to see it online). Or visit Nicola Green’s website. I’m hoping to talk to her again sometime when her next project is completed.