Nicki Shockz combines physical and digital with an optimistic palette


In a small business like the Hardy Gallery in Ephraim, the staff end up doing a bit of everything, said Sarah Zamecnik, the gallery’s executive director. For example, she had spent time that morning fixing a safe.

Nicki Shockz. Submitted.

Such an environment has been a good fit for Nicki Shockz: someone who likes to try new things, has a mixed approach to their own art, and has practically completed her fourth summer working at Hardy.

Shockz studied in the BFA program at St. Norbert College and worked in its art gallery under curator Shan Bryan-Hanson. There, Shockz learned to hang shows, including intricate ceramic installations, and to design the graphics for the explanatory text on the gallery walls. After graduating, Shockz took a year off to apply for graduate school, and with no school schedule she could work all season.

“She was such a good employee, I asked her to come back,” Zamecnik said.

Although Shockz is now in his sophomore year at California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco and Oakland – MFA’s freshman year was online, and COVID-19 has taken its toll with the schedules – Zamecnik was happy with the find for an unprecedented fourth season.

With her grandparents Joe and JoAnn Havel in Southern Door, Shockz has been visiting Door County for years from her home in Elgin, Ill., And even has a working studio that her grandfather helped her set up. create in a century-old barn.

“When I decided to be an artist, I was like, ‘Oh, I need a studio,’” Shockz said. “It’s big and so is Door County.”

Her grandparents continued to encourage her artistic pursuits when she asked to use an old shed on the property as an oversized canvas for a spray painting.

Shockz painted this shed on his grandparents’ property, where his studio is located. Submitted.

“I wanted to try a mural, and they said, ‘Sure, go for it,’” Shockz said.

“My whole family is a great support system for me and my artistic career, and they are encouraging and helpful. “

Although she did her undergraduate studies in graphic design, Shockz also took many fine art courses, and fine art is her priority in graduate school. Nevertheless, she intends to take full advantage of CCA’s interdisciplinary approach to combine her digital work, textile and paper cutouts and traditional painting with acrylic and spray paint. And Shockz won’t stop there either: she’ll be taking a film class, being the teacher’s assistant for a textile class, and eagerly awaiting the odd-titled class, Anti Closing Down the Machines.

“I heard it was a great class to change the way you think and the way you work,” she said.

This can come in handy as Shockz prepares for the Alumni Exhibition, which will combine all of his artistic approaches.

Some of her pieces have combined stencils that she designed on a computer and then produced using a Cricut machine that can print or cut the designs. Then she prints a page or two of the code as text and combines that with the design that the code produced.

Shockz is working on a room inside his rustic barn studio. Photo by Katie Hopkins.

“It’s a way to make more sense and show different ways of painting – contrasting the computer with the human eye, the digital and the handmade,” Shockz said. “I really like layering things up, hiding things under things and creating images to be super dense – borderline sensory overload.

“I like the precision you can get with digital work, but I also like being messy and using real paints,” Shockz said. “I like happy accidents with spray painting or using acrylic paints.

These qualities lend themselves well to her bold, super-saturated color palette, which she noticed brightening up over the winter in Illinois.

“Midwestern winters are so long, cold and dreary,” Shockz said. “I just want this bright color in winter when the sky is gray and there is snow on the ground.”

A avowed optimist, she looks forward to working in the art world: in a gallery, as an artist, as a teacher, or in a combination of all three. For now, she’ll be returning to Ephraim to set up Hardy’s final show of the season, which features landscapes.

“The Hardy is a great place and a great connector for all the artists in Door County as well,” Shockz said. “That’s how I met a lot of artists.

And as a graffiti art lover, she finds the Hardy, with its exterior walls heavily painted in graffiti, to be the perfect place.


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