Meet the artists: Jane DeDecker and Nancy Switzer join forces at Edwards’ Claggett/Rey Gallery
At first glance, there’s no obvious similarity between Nancy Switzer and Jane DeDecker or their work. DeDecker sculpts (oftentimes life-sized) human figures and animals out of clay. Switzer paints inanimate objects – cartons, cans, sacks and bottles – on canvas. However, DeDecker says there’s a directness and similar palpable energy to both of their work. Switzer describes their common ground as “ballsy.”
“Both of us enjoy simply handling the medium we are using, which is evident in the finished work,” Switzer said. “I think we have a similar gusto for the tactile experience of creating something out of a physically malleable substance. Neither of us erases or smooths out the evidence. While paint and clay are a means to arrive at depicting subject matter, in our work, paint and clay become their own part of the subject matter.”
Both women are based in Colorado and will be coming together for a special exhibition at the Claggett/Rey Gallery in Edwards, beginning with an artists reception from 5 to 8 p.m. on March 11.
DeDecker, who has six sisters and three brothers, was born in Iowa and moved with her family to Loveland, Colo., when she was 10. She has possessed a creative drive as long as she can remember.
“It’s always saved me,” she said. “I studied at the University of Northern Colorado, working in fibers and figurative drawing. A summer job opened up working in a sculpting studio. That summer job turned into an eight-year apprenticeship, learning the ins and outs of creating sculpture. I really love it. There’s so much problem-solving involved and each piece has its own challenges. Being raised on a farm, working together with family, it was really formative. Working with communities means being the eyes, hands and ears of how the community might want to represent their values. I like all of the interactive layers of sculpting.”
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DeDecker sculpts in clay and works with her team – mostly family members – through the multi-step process of engineering molds and casting the metal. Over the years, her work has depicted numerous iconic women such as Harriett Tubman, Amelia Earhart and Susan B. Anthony. Her newest collection largely features animals, which she views as embodiments of emotions. One new piece she is calling “Kindred” features a woman surrounded by numerous dogs. It was inspired on a walk she took while her brother was fighting a serious illness at Denver’s Kindred Hospital.
“One particular day he was having a really hard time. I said to my sister-in-law, ‘we are going to get out of here, go for a walk.’ There was a guy walking 11 dogs. We are both dog lovers. It was a much-needed release for us. It really lifted our spirits,” DeDecker said. “That’s the theme of my work, transcending the darkness. I did some creative purging pieces during Covid. It was a heavy time. These new pieces are about gratitude and lifting the spirit.”
Switzer, who grew up in a musical family and played the violin professionally for many years, works in an entirely different medium, focusing on entirely different subjects. Nonetheless, she charges her work with similar problem-solving focus. However, her approach involves more of a scientific rather than an emotional dynamic.
“I’m always attempting some idea that is a bit beyond my capabilities. I have to acquire the ability to achieve the results I want,” Switzer said. “I have been using reflective and transparent objects in simple constructions to get at transitions of large swaths of color and at the same time, break the surface down into pieces of paint that give off the same qualities as the objects themselves. The cans are especially excellent for this enterprise.”
Switzer continues to use similar objects in her work because she feels there is always something more – a tinge of light, a stabilizing curve – to capture.
“This process knocks me on my rear again and again,” she said. “But over time, I get closer to what I am going after, although I’m never satisfied. That’s the difficulty and the beauty of it … and why I’ll be back tomorrow.”
Claggett/Rey Gallery owner Bill Rey describes the combination of DeDecker and Switzer’s work “the perfect pairing.” He believes each artist strikes with their respective mediums with a resounding confidence and boldness he equates to a multi-piece musical performance.
“When I look at their work over the years, I would say that each are the conductors and creators of their own symphonies. There will be the deep, confident bass all the way through to the delicacies of a piccolo, where one plays off the other, but overall adds to the whole,” Rey said. “If you give yourself the freedom to observe and enjoy, they just might change your life for the better. There is nothing like living with the resonance of truly fine art.”
Meet the artists Jane DeDecker & Nancy Switzer
March 11, 5 to 8 p.m.
216 Main Street, Suite C-100
Edwards, Colorado 81632