The Heroine’s Journey of Nikki D. May

What is the best thing that I love about my work? I love my use of line and the figure combined with patterns of plants and animals. I love working with encaustic, a beautiful sensual medium that is perfect for tying together my collections of found papers and objects, drawings and photographs into deep mysterious pieces that tell a story I can’t tell in words.
What is my idea of perfect happiness? Having a long period of time stretching out before me with nothing to do but make art, read books and talk with good friends over wine and great food.
What is my greatest fear?  That I won’t be able to support myself with my art and design work and will have to go back to a “regular” job.
What is the trait that I most deplore in myself? Procrastination and my inability to complete things without an external deadline.
Which living persons in my profession do I most admire? Swoon. Aside from her beautiful and meaningful art, I admire how she lives her life and experiments and takes on new projects and challenges and paves her own way.
What is my greatest extravagance?  My greatest extravagance would be travel. I love going to new places and staying long enough to feel as if I am living there. In my lifetime I have spent 6 months in Cortana, Italy, 3 months in Mazatlan, Mexico, 6 weeks in Paris, 6 weeks in San Francisco/Oakland and a month in New York. I’d love to do more of this kind of travel and maybe spend one month a year in a foreign country or at the very least, a part of the United States that is very different from where I live.
On what occasion would I lie? To avoid hurting someone’s feelings.
What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work?Sometimes I feel that my work is not complex as my ideas are and that I should push more and develop it more visually. I also feel that my 25 years of working in graphic design have made it more difficult for me to loosen up and be more free in my work – it can feel too tight at times.
When and where was I the happiest, in my work? I’d say when I was in grad school I was the happiest, because it was basically my full time job to experiment with new media and explore new ideas in order to develop my work and find my direction.
If I could, what would I change about myself?  My self-motivation. I put everyone else’s deadlines above my own and put my own work on the back burner.
What is my greatest achievement in work? The opposite of my greatest fear – that I am able to support myself using my creative skills through art and design without working for someone else full time. That I have the freedom to design my own days.
Where would I most like to live? I don’t have a specific location in mind, but I have visions of several different kinds of spaces I could be happy in. The first is in an urban area in a large open loft-like space that was converted from a building designed for another use – an old schoolhouse, fire station or church – with one huge room with high ceilings, old worn wood floors and huge windows. Mostly studio space, but with a small living space in one area. The other is in a more cabin or cottage-like space in an isolated woodsy area near water with a big studio space and a wall of windows that opens onto a large deck overlooking the water. But this should be within an easy drive of a large city with all the cultural and culinary options I crave!
What is my most treasured possession? My collections – art and jewelry that I’ve collected by people that I know and/or admire. Natural objects such as plant materials, bird nests, bones and insects. Books. And more books!
What is my most marked characteristic? My curiosity about new things and ability to figure things out for myself. And sarcasm.
What is my most inspirational location, in my city? The neighborhood I live in, the LowerTown Arts District, which is full of working artists in houses and studios they built or renovated.
What is my favourite place to eat and drink, in my city? I don’t go often, but we have the most amazing farm-to-table restaurant called Freight House with a menu that changes based on what’s seasonally and locally available and a very unique cocktail menu in a beautifully renovated old building. Also the coffee shop in my neighborhood, Etcetera Coffeehouse.
What books influenced my life and how? Illusions by Richard Bach and Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman. Both explore different versions of alternate realities. Illusions is about a biplane pilot who is a messiah, but becomes disillusioned and quits then teaches another pilot how to perform miracles.
Who are my favorite writers? Margaret Atwood is my favorite author. I have a fascination with dystopia and am in love with  the worlds she creates and how they make you think about what we are doing to our society and planet.
You Only Die Once. What music would I listen on my last day? Beth Orton is one of my very favorite musicians and would be my choice to listen to on my last day. Specifically her newest album,Sugaring Season. Her voice and lyrics are very ethereal and slightly haunting and express feelings with lyrics that are poetic and imply emotions without being very literal, which is also what I try to do with my art.
Who is my hero or heroine in fiction? Toby, one of the main characters in Margaret Atwood’s Year of the Flood, for her adaptiveness and ingenuity.
Who are my heroes and heroines in real life? Amanda Palmer is my hero. In addition to loving her songs, I admire the way she lives her life on her own terms, bucking the music industry and supporting herself through Kickstarter and Patreon so she can make the art she wants to make and that her fans want while living a life she chooses for herself.
Which movie would I recommend to see once in a lifetime? Frida, for the story of her strength and perseverance. What Dreams May Come for the beautiful visuals – especially of the main character’s paintings coming to life and being an environment her husband moves through.
What role plays art in my life and work? It’s the most important thing in my life. A day doesn’t feel right if I haven’t, at the very least, drawn in my sketchbook. Ideas for new things I want to make pop into my head at all times of day and night.
Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime? My sister is my greatest fan and sponsor – she’s not an artist, but a great supporter of the work I do and my biggest collector. She understands my need to create and helps make it possible in any way she can!
Whom would I like to work with in 2017? I have a project that I’ve been thinking about for over a year that I want to work on with a printmaker and a writer/poet.
Which people in my profession would i love to meet in 2017? Artists I’ve longed admired, Mary Daniel Hobson, a mixed media photographer and Judith Kindler, another artist who works with mixed media and photography, but was working in encaustic when I first discovered her work. Both have richly layered images of womens’ bodies and tell stories you can almost understand.
What project, in 2017, am I looking forward to work on?  The project I mentioned above that I’d like to work on with a printmaker and writer. It’s a book, but I’d like to keep the contents to myself for now. But I envision a small edition of hand-printed, hand-bound books and then a published version.
Where can you see me or my work in 2017? I’m located in Paducah, Kentucky and have shown my work quite a bit locally. I am currently looking for new venues to show my work outside of my local area. In July 2017 you can see my work in Maker’s Magazine, in their latest issue entitled Women.
What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me? I don’t think artists ever retire. If you are passionate about something, you may slow down, but you never stop thinking about it, planning it, working towards it…
Which creative heroines should Peter invite to tell their story?
Catherine Nash:
How can you contact me?
On my website: nikkimay.com
By email: art@nikkimay.com
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