by JB Hyppolite
Lafayette Hill residents Chris Cox and Nancy Neill, who are married, were chosen to be part of “215/610: A Juried Painting Exhibition of Regional Emerging Artists,” at Delaware County Community College this past fall. The two along with 17 other artists were chosen by renowned art critic Dr. Donald Kuspit.
“There was very few paintings that were selected,” said Chris, “so it was a really nice honor to be a part of that.” Their work was shown in a series of slides. One of the paintings featured was Cox’s “Split Rock,” which she describes as an abstract landscape. It was based on images of graffiti and markings that she deciphered from a wall she photographed along a bike trail between Valley Forge and Manayunk.
Chris’ paintings are informed and inspired by aging stone structures — walls, buildings, bridges and other eroding objects that she photographed in France, Italy and Spain. “My intention was to render in paint on canvas the texture and sensuous surfaces that I found in these objects,” she pointed out. “My discovery was that these objects had a story to tell. There was much more there than the texture of the surface. A whole world existed.”
Nancy had five pieces of art that were displayed at the Juried Painting Exhibition and at the 2013 Artists Equity Select show. As of now, all of her work is titled “untitled.” She explained, “My work is inspired by the urban or man-made landscape. I spent a number of years living in cities and also traveling to industrial locations in my first career as a pharmaceutical company CFO. I love the lines of old buildings, roads, bridges, abandoned train trestles and other structures. I compose my art with these lines and structures in my head. I find it oddly beautiful in its own way with very dramatic lines and contrasts. I love the sharp contrast of light and dark and the colors.”
Chris, 63, and Nancy, 56, both have artistic talent and passion but different processes of creation. Chris’ paintings are all oil on canvas with some as large as 60” x 48” or as small as 24” x 24.” She is all about texture and describes “scraping” away at what is in front of her until the piece takes form. She formulated her eye for texture during travels in Europe, viewing and creating visual stories from old stone structures into the paintings she does today.
Nancy paints on mylar, reflecting the industrial nature of the subject matter. She uses ink, oil and acrylic paint. She occasionally draws and uses oil pastel. Mylar is a form of polyester resin used to make heat-resistant plastic films and sheets. That style translates her vision, and she loves that it’s a man-made material. Both artists primarily use a palette knife as opposed to the traditional use of brushes.
For both Chris and Nancy, their artistic flowering comes in the form of a second act, due to the two having had major careers in business over the years. Chris was a co-owner of TCG Advertising and worked as a creative director. She began to separate herself from the business five years ago as she became more serious and passionate about painting, and she is now a full-time painter.
Similarly, Nancy was once Chief Financial Officer at two pharmaceutical firms, NanoSystems and Elan Pharmaceuticals. She helped start NanoSystems with a group of scientists, and she helped to sell that business in conjunction with the CEO and investment bankers. Elan Pharmaceuticals was sold a few years ago, allowing Nancy to pursue her art full time.
Nancy was recently asked to join a gallery in Old City Philadelphia as a member artist. She will have solo shows every two years and will also participate in periodic group shows. “My goal,” she said, “is to make art I feel very strongly about and that expresses my own creative vision and also to have the broadest possible exposure for my art. Being represented by a gallery in center city is a great next step.”
Chris has two upcoming shows in Harrisburg, an invitational show with the Harrisburg Art Association and an individual show at a place called Gallery at Second. Nancy has had much of her work shown at juried shows around the area, including Woodmere Art Museum in Chestnut Hill.
“Our goal is to ultimately someday be in a New York gallery,” said Chris. “You can’t think small; you have to think big if you want big things to happen.”
Chris and Nancy share a studio space with a dog named Lucy within the confines of their Lafayette Hill home, where they have lived for 15 years. Nancy, a native of Akron, Ohio, earned a Masters Degree in business at the University of Chicago. Chris, who grew up in Harrisburg, earned a Masters in Public Administration from Penn State University.