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Nan Ring's Art on Display in Philadelphia

"Letetia with a Pearl Earring," by visual arts teacher Nan Ring

As part of its benefit exhibition for “Friends of the Rail Park,” The Bridgette Mayer Gallery in Philadelphia is displaying visual arts teacher Nan Ring’s painting “Letetia with a Pearl Earring.” If part of that title sounds familiar, that’s because it is—more on that below.

Ms. Ring’s painting was chosen (with several others) from a pool of 200 to adorn the show’s promotional banner. The exhibit runs until Friday, October 5.

Her statement on the painting:
I make work to address questions about feminism—commonly known as “women’s work”—gender politics, and the history of food and home. Part of my practice is sewing poetic garments that are sculptural objects and wearables. Most are meant to be worn and performed in by models, predominantly family and other members of my community. The garments are designed to communicate the emotions of the body, such as longing, desire, joy, and many others, and to address questions about how we fit in—or not—to our bodies, our clothes, our society, and the world. The models write about their experiences before and after wearing the garments, and then I funnel all of that process into paintings and drawings.

For this painting, “Letetia with a Pearl Earring,” oil on panel, 10" x 10", 2018, my friend Letetia performed in one of my hand-sewn garments. She happened to be wearing a pearl earring that glowed in the softly lighted room where I photographed her, and that became the focus of the painting, with a nod to Vermeer’s 1667 “Girl with a Pearl Earring.” The painting itself is created with the Flemish Old Master technique of placing many, thin glass-like layers of colored glazes on top of a monochromatic underpainting in grays, black, and white (called the “dead layer”). For instance, where there might be a green, it is actually made of layers of pure yellows and pure blues. The light passes through the layers, and the viewer’s eye perceives the color. As many as 20 layers of glaze can be applied to achieve the unique colors, and the result is a smooth, shiny surface almost like enamel.

This painting was exhibited and sold in Philadelphia with the Bridgette Mayer Gallery this month for an event that helped raise money for a new park in the Spring Garden District. I love using my art to help support charitable projects in the world, and I was thrilled that part of the money went to create more green space in Philadelphia. Since I went to graduate school in Philadelphia (University of the Arts, M.F.A., 2010), I have a warm spot in my heart for the city, and it will be lovely to walk in the park one day, knowing this painting helped build it.

Contact: Greg Waxberg ’96, Communications Writer,