Tucker Nichols is sketching the green leaves for the stem of a flower on a small painted-red board during a visit to his Marin County studio in the recently-released documentary film Tell Them We Were Here. He shares his point of view on the therapeutic benefits of making art with the interviewer, as well as the joys of sending art by mail, tiny portraits of flowers to people who are sick.
Nichols’ Flowers for Sick People project made CNN News during the pandemic. Inspired by his own illness 25 years ago and his experiences when his own parents died, the popular distilled-down floral bouquet illustrations seem to demonstrate intention while leaving perception up to the individual giver and receiver.
Nichols’ flower-themed art demonstrated in Tell Them We Were Here is currently included in SFMOMA’s current exhibition Close to Home: Creativity in Crisis (through September 5, 2021). The SFMOMA will also sell four flower-themed scarves the Nichols created in partnership with Tessuto Editions starting in July.
Full disclosure — UPTAKE’s contributor Jennifer Wechsler owns Tessuto Editions and collaborated with Nichols to create the scarves. Wechsler created Tessuto Editions this past year to support artists by providing art editions. She is a Marin-based curator and an advocate of the arts who has collaborated with local artists for over 20 years, designing and manufacturing art-related merchandise internationally for museums and design stores.
Wechsler sat down with Nichols to discuss his life as an artist in Marin County and their collaboration on the scarf project.
* * * * *
Jennifer Wechsler: What brought you to Marin County?
Tucker Nichols: My wife. And the deep California way of living you can still find tucked away in the hills here.
JW: How long have you called Marin County home?
TN: Since 2001.
JW: What inspired the Flowers for Sick people project?
TN: That’s a long story. Here’s a summary: I got very sick 25 years ago. It was disorienting. I noticed how nobody knew what to say to me. Same thing when my parents died. When hardship comes our way—and it’s a given that it will—we don’t really know what to say to one another. It’s a strange failure of human interaction. I’ve been painting flowers for years. This year I restarted this project, a free service where I send small flower paintings to people struggling with illness on behalf of a loved one. No message, unannounced, just flowers. They are a time-honored stand-in for all the things we don’t know how to say.
JW: The film “Tell Them We Were Here” shares stories about what it is like to be in the art world from the SF Bay Area. What are the pluses of being based in Marin? What are the challenges?
TN: The Bay Area gives a particular kind of permission to creative people to ignore how things are done elsewhere and forge your own path. Marin has a great legacy of music in particular. But it’s harder and harder to find the weirdos these days.
JW: How do you normally stay connected to the global art world?
TN: I don’t particularly care about the global art world, but I like looking at art almost as much as I like making it.
JW: What projects are you working on right now?
TN: I’m getting ready to make some big mural paintings for Tin Works in Bozeman this summer. I’m also working on a couple book projects and making paintings for various exhibitions. The best is when I’m not really thinking about projects, just painting and listening to music, losing track of time.
JW: Why did you decide to do the scarf project with my company Tessuro Editions?
TN: I like seeing what happens when something I make on paper gets transformed into something else. Silk is an especially great material because you really can’t draw or paint on it and yet it holds imagery really well. When I see people wearing clothing made from my paintings I often want to go talk to them, but it’s usually better just to let them walk by. Those conversations don’t usually go very far anyhow.”
* * * * *
Close to Home: Creativity in Crisis
SFMOMA through September 5, 2021
Tucker Nichols exhibits along with six other Bay Area artists ― Carolyn Drake, Rodney Ewing, Andres Gonzalez, James Gouldthorpe, Klea McKenna, and Woody De Othello ― expressing their deeply personal responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and social upheaval of 2020.
Griff and Keelan Williams follow eight artists and interview curators, writers and gallerists to probe makes the San Francisco Bay Area art scene so unique. The new film is available to stream via the Berkeley Art Museum’s Pacific Film Archive.
Four new TUCKER NICHOLS 100% silk scarves (38” x 38”) are made in Italy and will be available in July through SFMOMA.
Jennifer Wechsler is Curator for FAULTline Art Shows promoting and exhibiting emerging and established artists in unique spaces. She serves as an Art & Cultural Commissioner for Marin County and serves on boards at UCLA ARTS and The Oxbow School in Napa.
Pamela Coddington is a writer and editor. Full disclosure: She is a big supporter of the arts in Marin County and has done work with Youth in Arts, Image Flow Photography Center, di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art, Smith Andersen North, and Headlands Center for the Arts. Pamela is a graduate of New York University with a B.A. in Art History, and holds a post-baccalaureate degree in writing from U.C. Berkeley. Pamela lives and works in San Rafael with her family.