TUCKER NICHOLS


Design Matters podcast with Debbie Millman, 1/2016

SFGate, Tucker Nichols 'New Paintings’ exhibit in full bloom, By Kimberly Chun, 1/2015
Tucker Nichols’ worlds are colliding these days, in the most positive way possible. Since the Bay Area artist was diagnosed in 1998 with Crohn’s disease (a type of inflammatory bowel disease), now in remission, he has become well acquainted with the halls of UCSF, receiving a drug infusion every eight weeks. But his next big project, after his Gallery 16 exhibit, sees his art and health spheres aligned: It’s a commission for the UCSF Mission Bay Children’s Infusion Center of 40 framed flowers in vases that hover between abstraction and calligraphy.

“What I like about flowers and vases is they’ve been a vehicle for people to convey inexpressible ideas,” says Nichols, 44. “It starts with something on display and then drifts.” Uncommon blooms, unlike the ones that usually crop up in hospitals, these will pop up in unorthodox spots throughout the waiting areas. We spoke to Nichols from his home not far from his San Raphael studio.

Q: Has Crohn’s disease affected the work?

A: In a way, it certainly has. Dealing with Crohn’s disease has pushed me to dedicate myself to a career as an artist. I was always drawing and painting, but only when I was saddled with the disease did I realize I only have so much time.

Q: How did you come to develop your painting and drawing style?

A: I don’t know how I came to do this. I saw at a certain point the thing in any art that I respond to is a sense of purpose. This thing has to happen. Whoever made it, even if you don’t know who they were, you sense a sense of urgency. That’s so important to me when I can tap into a sense of urgency. As for my style, I couldn’t describe it any more than I can describe my handwriting.

I’m very prolific. I make a lot, a lot of work, and I do a lot of harsh editing. The drawing process involves destroying things, and the painting process is about painting over things. For the show, there are between seven to 10 paintings underneath each one.

Q: You’ve said these flower paintings are for people who’re too busy to nurture the real thing — do you fall into that category?

A: I’m definitely not a great gardener, which my wife will attest to, but I do like to care for plants in pots. It’s really about the ability or the attempt to freeze a moment. A moment in the studio can be so fluid or unpredictable, and if a painting can capture that or turn it into something else, that’s an element of looking at art or making art that I’m really fascinated by. The futility of capturing anything that’s of real substance.

Blow-up, Jonn Herschend, 2012