Nancy Ungar - Artist


At the age of three I learned the word “artist” and announced my intention to become one. Naturally, my parents had different ideas, something to do with making a reliable income. So I entered college as a biology major (I lasted 3 weeks), changed to anthropology which led me to art history and then, of course, back to art. Still, the problem of making a living remained so, when I was offered a graduate school position as a curatorial assistant in an art history program, I took it.


Halfway through the master’s degree I dropped out, moved back to NYC and worked for the Pace Gallery. At night I made art. Once I had figured out that I had no choice but to be an artist, I quit Pace and transferred my credits to Hunter College where I finally earned my Master’s Degree in the History of Art, took a research and writing job for a small museum and, at 26, had my first New York gallery show.


The idea was for art history to be my day job. I wrote criticism, curated some shows and worked in arts administration while exhibiting my own work in NY galleries. I also put my skills to work organizing artists, writing for the New York  Artists’ Union newspaper and protesting government censorship.


At age 30 I had a solo show of mixed media works at a Chelsea gallery; and after many group and college shows I had another New York City solo of pastel paintings in Soho.


The 80s and early 90s were good years for me as I exhibited in top galleries and the Bronx Museum for the Arts. I also traded in my administrative position for motherhood and college teaching.


In 1990 I won a coveted residency in Ucross, Wyoming. From my first glance at the Rocky Mountains jutting up against the Great Plains under a deep blue sky, I was in love. I painted pastel landscapes of Wyoming for ten years, returning for three summers and teaching pastel at the local college.


In 1993, at the urging of my employer, the Dean of the Graduate Art Program of the College of New Rochelle, I finally earned a Master’s of Fine Arts in Painting. During that time I began a series of mixed media wall sculptures called “Broken Landscapes,” constructions which appeared to be salvaged sections of plaster walls tiled with landscape murals; they were apt expressions of my distress at having to leave New York for the wilds of Washington, DC. In Maryland (just outside the Beltway) I wrote criticism for the local paper for ten years and have taught studio art at Montgomery College for 16 years.


Eventually, I learned to deal with the multitude of Maryland trees which blocked the sky. I invested their expressive skeletons with colors of my own to create a huge series of 72 x 8” trees painted with oil and oil stick on plywood. As symbols of normalcy and nature, these trees soon formed the basis of several years of installations. They enabled me to express the disorientation felt after 9/11 and the horrors of our war in Iraq.


Since 2005 I have been crippled by multiple sclerosis and therefore unable to continue working in the very physical way that informed my past oeuvre. So I turned to Photoshop and discovered an entirely new way of expressing myself. I now create not only prints but large backlit works that allow me the scale, intense color and “wow” factor that I strive for.


With the support and encouragement of my husband, my son and my friends, I continue to make art that, I hope, informs, entertains and seduces.

my . artist run website