Articles about George Nick


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Born and raised in Rochester, New York Nick's early career ambitions first swung between physics (he wanted to build an atom-smashing cyclotron) and music (he studied composition at the Eastman School of Music, where he also played violin, double bass, and the tuba). In the one case, there seems to have already been in place a desire to break matter apart to investigate its essence and form; in the other, was a desire to put things back together. And if the bass and the tuba are any clue, Nick has always been predisposed to the underlying, foundational parts.

Raised in an environment where "there wasn't a book in the house," Nick would come across one of those "100 Greatest Books" lists methodically sit down to read every one of them. This appetite for knowledge has persisted throughout his adult life. I recall that in my first introduction to Nick (when I was an undergraduate at Massachusetts College of Art), he came into the classroom and, without even asking our names (he has never been one to stand on formality) began reading the entire "Postscript" to Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain. The "Postscript" took the full class hour. Nick expressed his appreciation for Mann the artist, and then dismissed the class.

In 1948 Nick enrolled at the Cleveland Art Institute. From the beginning, his reason for painting and, to some extent, the reason for what and how he still was his desire to know the world. "I went to study art," Nick once reflected, "because I was interested in the world, and art seemed like a good way to learn about it." This curiosity about the world, about what makes it work visually and how it is put together, has always underlain Nick's painting, and has always it investigatory, and somewhat confessional, by nature: one paints as an admission that one does not know. One paints in order to find, to borrow Richard Shiff's term, as distinct from painting in order to make that which is already conceived, or known. When Degas told Valery that drawing was "a way of seeing form," he was defining the activity of drawing as a way of seeking, of opening the eye to what was otherwise closed to it. One draws to see and, by extension, to find and, hence, to know.

Nick left the Cleveland Art Institute in 1951 after three years and traveled to New York at the urging of a friend and fellow artist who was going there to study with Edwin Dickinson. To Nick's initial query, "Who's Dickinson?" the friend responded, "He's the greatest painter in the world." In the crucial years that followed, first at Brooklyn and later at the Art Students League, Dickinson was to become for Nick the most important figure in his education.


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