Former roommates and ACU alumni Nancy Boren and Jill Maxwell are the featured artists at the ACU gallery in downtown Abilene.
The gallery is located at 1133 N. 2nd St., behind the Grace Museum, and is open during the week from Wednesday to Saturday 12-3 p.m. The show, titled “Iconic Figures,” will run Oct. 3 through Nov. 5.
The downtown gallery features senior shows that exhibit student work, but it also features bigger shows like the current one, said Jack Maxwell, ACU gallery director.
Maxwell was already familiar with Boren’s work and selected her to be featured in the show. Boren creates American regional art with a focus on the Southwest. She grew up on a ranch and her father, James Boren, was a nationally famous cowboy artist so it was part of a family tradition for her to become an artist, Maxwell said.
Recently, Boren was featured in an article for the October edition of Southwest Art Magazine. This particular magazine focuses on western-themed art, and Boren was one of two artists featured this month.
Jill Maxwell, wife of Jack, was chosen to show alongside Boren. Both Jill Maxwell and Boren thought it would be especially fun to do a show together since they were old roommates, but the two have never shown their work together.
“It had been a real delight to plan a show with my former roommate from 1977,” Boren said. “We were both art majors and good friends at ACU.”
“It’s an honor to be showing with Nancy since she is so accomplished, with her being featured in a national magazine,” Jill Maxwell said. “I was thrilled when she asked me to do it. It is a lot of fun to work with Nancy.”
The two friends have kept up with each other through the years even though they each led separate lives, and they each kept the passion for art.
Boren began her career as a self-supporting artist and has been one for 38 years. Jill Maxwell began by teaching for 33 years before becoming self supporting.
After deciding to do the show together, they titled the exhibit “Iconic Figures.” The name was derived from the two types of work and styles present in the show, including oil paintings and assemblages, which are sculptures created from found objects. These assemblages are the “icons” and are reminiscent of altered pieces that have been put together, Jack Maxwell said. “Figures” comes from the paintings of figures done by each artist, the two largest being self-portraits of each.
“We independently developed similar interests over the years: figure painting, the symbol of the spiral and a fascination with icons and assemblages,” Boren said. “People in many cultures create icons, shrines and special places for items that represent important or sacred objects – two of mine in this show have taken the form of elaborate frames with mirrors.”
Each artist incorporates spirals into their work with similar meaning behind each. Jill Maxwell uses the spiral to represent the journey to the divine, while Boren describes it as the journey to the center.
“The phrase ‘the journey of the people in search of the center’ brought to mind an artistic journey, searching for the essence of a subject, that little kernel of truth that spells authenticity,” Boren said. “In every painting, I’m aiming for the truth of the matter, the essentials as I perceive them.”
It’s notable that they each came up with this separately, and yet the ideas mesh well together.
However, there are still differences between their two styles, as Boren mostly did figure and portrait paintings, while Jill Maxwell worked on something to represent vulnerability by painting babies on canvas. Like many pieces of art, the inspiration came from a touching and personal story which allowed her to realize how vulnerable human beings are. While both artists like icons of the medieval Renaissance and European churches, Jill Maxwell uses objects around her and those she finds to create a sculpture, but Boren makes her items from scratch, with material such as wood.
Students and members of the community had the opportunity to view the show for free Oct. 8, the same time a zombie walk was hosted downtown. The zombie walk is the Halloween version of the decade-long tradition of the local art walk, an event hosted every second Thursday of the month. During an art walk, all galleries downtown are open free to the public, and many shops and restaurants in the area are also open for business. Individuals were encouraged to show up in front of the train station at 6 p.m. dressed in zombie attire to participate in the walk.