Nancy Abens Artworks | About

About my work

I have been studying,  practicing, and teaching a variety of  art for over 4 decades.  I love the process of making art.  I don’t like to define myself as one type of artist-painter, photographer, printmaker, jeweler, etc.  I use whatever medium  or process expresses my ideas.  For the most part, however, my work has a photographic base.  I really like the mixture of new and old technologies such as using IPhone images to create cyanotypes or photo intaglios.   I use photography and the camera as a tool for gathering images to create something else.  Whether it is analog, digital, photo transfers, alternative processes, or printmaking techniques such as intaglio and lithography, the photographic image is the start.  I love how a camera can capture things that we are not seeing-making the invisible, visible.

 I have turned my attention predominantly, but not exclusively, to the natural world.  The forests, seascapes, flora and fauna never cease to inspire me.  There is a beauty in those places that is sensual, mysterious, and spiritual in a most profound way.  Water, rocks, shells, birds, and plants have been a powerful pull to me as study and inspiration.   The categorized insects, gems, botanical studies found in drawers at various natural history museums have always intrigued me.  The prints and paintings of birds by John Gould, Martin Johnson Heade, and Audubon and the way JMW Turner, Mark Rothko, and George Inness used light, color and texture have inspired me.  

While the natural world is still the largest focus of my work, I have lately been exploring the concepts of grief, poetry and loss.  My father passed away in 2015 and my mom lives in a little house in my backyard now.   After my dad died, I found that poetry, particularly some of Mary Oliver’s work, was extremely comforting.  I started taking photographs that illustrated some of the concepts in her poems.  The poem, “Bone” really exemplified what I was thinking about while I worked through the grief of his death.  Watching the decline of my mom’s memory and vision actually brought me back to work I did many years ago that was inspired by the music of Radiohead.  I started looking at those images and seeing how they related to what I imagined my mom was experiencing everyday.   I started working with those images and taking new ones.  This is an ongoing and evolving portfolio of work that is titled “The Poetry of Loss”.  I am not sure exactly where it is going or what form-book, installation, or a standard portfolio-it will take.     

I hope that people look at my work and are encouraged to stop and observe the world around them--That they start to perceive the hidden mysteries and see the beauty that is everywhere, even in the most unlikely of places.


About me

I live in Portland, Oregon with my husband, Scott and my mom, Maggie along with her dog and 3 cats.  I have two sons and a daughter in law, Charlie, Wilson and Cecily, who are living their lives and figuring out where they fit in the world.  I have a wonderful studio and a beautiful garden.  I am filled with gratitude everyday for my loving family and being able to share life’s journey, with all the joy and pain it brings, with them.

I teach the fine art of photography to juniors and seniors at Lincoln High School in Portland.  Teaching has had a tremendous impact on my life.  Being around young people and sharing their life experiences has taught me so much about patience and compassion and has brought me much joy and inspiration.