Recently I had the opportunity to communicate with a local artist who enjoys creating large format artwork and to make the process “inclusive.” Nan Coffey, a contemporary artist, says she’s not exactly sure what motivated her to begin creating in such a large format, and to invite participation. However, she prefers the large format because it isn’t restrictive, and she can be in the space. Coffey has also enjoyed the audience participation aspect that makes the artwork constantly evolving, and it has energy.
Nan Coffey says she has connected hundreds of people by including their stories in her paintings, referring to it as “inclusion art.” To accomplish audience participation, Coffey utilizes Facebook. She invites them to share their personal stories on her Facebook page. Then she interprets their stories and creates the iconography in her large canvas paintings.
“I’ll post a status on my Facebook asking my followers what makes them happy or to tell me what they love, and I’ll get hundreds of comments and amazing stories,” said Coffey. “I’ve found that so many people are going through the same life experiences. I’m creating a space for people to connect and it’s through my art.”
Coffey paints large format paintings that span over hundreds of square feet. She refers to her art style as “art all over.” She utilizes the entire surface of her chosen canvas and is free to express herself on any object that inspires her creativity. In 2015, Coffey completed her first inclusion art piece, which included 172 people’s stories in her 10’ x13’ masterpiece. She’s currently working on her second inclusion art piece that is expected to be completed by mid-April and include over 200 people’s stories.
“The response I received on my first public participation painting was amazing—people reacted in such a loving and joyous way. It made me realize what my true purpose was—not only as an artist but in life,” said Coffey. “My art is now focused largely on inclusion. We should all work in this world to include, not exclude people. My art is about breaking down walls, not putting them up. It’s about learning more about each other, listening to each other, connecting with each other, recognizing each other and in the end, simply loving one another.”
Coffey shared with me that her husband, who she’s known half of her life, has also been there to encourage her be different and think outside the box as an artist. He runs the business side of the operation so she can concentrate on being an artist.
Coffey has a bachelors in animation from the San Francisco Academy of the Arts and her work is currently being shown at Skye Art Gallery in Las Vegas, NV. Coffey occasionally paints live at galleries or public events for people to view her process. Coffey has art hanging at the Bali Hai Restaurant in Point Loma and at Tender Greens in Liberty Station and downtown San Diego.
You too may decide to participate in Coffey’s latest project and see the outcome of your inspiration. For more information on Coffey, visit www.nanwashere.com or like her on Facebook at Facebook.com/ArtistNanCoffey.