The work of Nancy Thayer is included in numerous museum collections including the Detroit Institute of Arts, Muzeum Papiernictwa, Duszniki Zdroj, Poland, Foundation MINT ALAPITVANY, Budapest, Hungary, and in over 100 private and corporate collections throughout Europe and the U.S. She was recently commissioned to create nine major sculptural paintings for the city of Detroit, and 3 for major health care facilities in Michigan. Her work has been shown extensively throughout the U.S and in Italy, Germany, Hungary, Poland, The Netherlands and Korea, She is on the faculty of the University of Michigan, School of Art & Design, Ann Arbor and the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. She also is serving on the Board of Directors of Michigan Interfaith Partners of the Michigan Round Table for Diversity and Inclusion, an organization whose purpose is to bring leaders of many faith communities together in actively promoting peace, respect and mutual understanding. She is a Trustee of Japhet School, a national award winning school focusing on character development and strong academics
As a member of the Board of Directors of Interfaith Partners of the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, in 2008 she organized and co-curated a museum exhibition, Reflections of the Spirit. The exhibition included works by artists of diverse ethnicities, nationalities, religions, racial backgrounds and traditions. As a result many hundreds of faith leaders, students, artists and members of various community organizations came together to hear the artists speak about their work from their own spiritual perspectives and to see the visual interpretations. She has now been asked to organize another multi cultural, multi faith activity focusing on forgiveness.
In describing her paintings she states,” While the visual content refers to and suggests forms of nature, they are not meant to be representational. Working in studios in the mountains of Mexico, the flat farm fields of the Saginaw Valley and urban Detroit neighborhoods of crack, concrete and decay, I have expressed in my paintings a melding of internal and external environments and atmospheres. My intention is always to communicate an affirmation of life and hope even in the midst of what often appeared to be the opposite.
Most recently I have focused on sacred grottos, caves and stalactites to express a private place for contemplation and a sense of solitude deep within what has been formed by nature over long periods of time.
In a catalogue essay for her recent exhibition at the Marshall Fredericks Museum, Susan Bandes, director of the Eli Broad Museum wrote: “One is reminded of Mark Rothko’s chapel at the De Menil collection in Houston, a room of quiet, large abstract canvases whose cumulative effect is an enveloping atmosphere for meditation. There, the room is hushed and the glow of light emanating from the paintings that surround the viewer, becomes expansive. So, too, with Thayer’s paintings. Her grottoes are neither narrative nor site specific. Rather they are the total opposite: boundless, open-ended, and uncharted in their suggestion of physical phenomena. The discovery of the richness of their space is a subjective experience. Her intention is to create an opportunity for the viewer to listen to his or her own thoughts. They are also about spirituality without being literal or referencing humans.
Texture, edges and titles are significant. Tactility in her paint harks back to her work in other mediums; clay in graduate school at Michigan State University, and paper making that occupied her for over twenty years. The smaller grotto drawings are on tar paper. Several contain small bits of her handmade paper recycled from another project. She describes herself as a messy painter but it’s a carefully controlled technical exploration and thorough immersion in and mastery of the mediums she uses. As she points out, edges not just the centers of the paintings, are visually important. Colors reveal themselves at the lower edges of several of the paintings and thick ribbons of paint curl around the edges of others. Titles -- “Silent Grotto” and “Stalactite,”-- are clues to understanding the origins.
There are echoes of J.M.W. Turner whose 19th century churning seas of color were some of the earliest painted abstractions but always based in nature. Barnett Newman’s writings and his appreciation of non-objective painting also informs Thayer’s sensibilities.