Nicole Chesney’s Mirari at Gallery NAGA, Boston
October 2014

Gallery NAGA is pleased to present our first major solo exhibition of paintings by Nicole Chesney, whose work is currently featured in a show at the Museum of Fine Arts, Landscape Abstracted.

Nicole Chesney: Mirari is on exhibition from October 10 to November 8.  A reception for the artist and the public will be held at the gallery on Friday, October 10 from 6 to 8 pm. 

Chesney is an abstract painter who uses flat sheets of glass as her surface. She began her non-traditional work with glass after having studied at the California College of Arts and Crafts, the Massachusetts College of Art and finally the Canberra School of Art at Australia National University. Never interested in sculpting glass, Chesney used the medium as a jumping off point for her paintings.  After taking classes in jewelry and print-making, she explored the material of glass for its ability to manipulate light.  “I didn’t study painting,” says Chesney.  “Like jewelry, my love affair with glass has to do with [its] precious, desirous qualities that really boil down to light.”   

In a 2014 issue of Glass Quarterly, Leah Triplett writes about Chesney.  “Her glass works are gesture-driven tableaus that explore the parameters of perception as well as the relationship of light and darkness to the human eye.  She expands this concentration by playing with the psychology of desire as it is manifested in materials, be they diamonds or cut glass.”

The title of Chesney’s show at NAGA is Mirari, a latin word meaning to marvel at or wonder.  Glass, with all its transformative qualities, is a surface onto which Chesney can add, subtract, and move oil paint around.  The difference lies in the reflective quality of glass.  Seen from one angle, her painting surfaces are matte and brushy, seen from another angle, they are reflective and elusive. Chesney is loading the surface with paint, then wiping away to reveal the layers beneath.  She does this multiple times to create sheer layers.  The glass itself is etched so that it has a tooth, or uneven quality that can grab and hold whatever oil is applied. 

Chesney’s paintings are divided between saturated, warm tones of purple, peach, and red, and cooler tones of blues, greens and whites.  Chesney uses her layers of feathery, light brushstrokes to create smooth gradients from thick to translucent and from light to dark.  Her brushstrokes leave traces of circular or criss-crossing paths on the surface of the glass.

Chesney recently completed large commissioned pieces that were installed at 7 World Trade Center in New York and the public space at the newresidence hall at Massachusetts College of Art.  Leah Triplett, in writing for Glass Quarterly, writes about Chesney’s commissioned work:

“In my work, I’ve deliberately chosen mirrors that have etched surfaces,” explains Chesney.  “There’s a lot of metaphor in that for me, about introspection, about not really being able to be objective about who we are.”  The “we” that constitutes Chesney’s audience is cut from a wide swath of the public and includes schoolchildren, bankers, construction crews, and elite collectors.  No matter their background, the visages of Chesney’s viewers shift with changes in light and perspective, which universalizes her audience as much as it particularizes the individual.  These works betray the artist’s hand in their heavily worked surfaces, but beckon the viewer past Chesney’s gesture and into a reflective plane in which the viewer sees themselves as meditated by the gaze of another.

Images of all work on exhibition can be seen at