Wordplay in black and white Artist: By stringing quotes together, Elise Nicol created new thoughts, new statements.

October 21, 1998|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,SUN STAFF

I WILL SAY. The artist is Elise Nicol. She passed through Baltimore before leaving in May for Maine. She left with a degree from the Maryland Institute, College of Art. She is a printmaker. THAT THIS WORK. She left eight prints on exhibit at the Meyerhoff Gallery in the Fox Building at the institute, on display through Nov. 8. Her exhibition is called "Writing on the Wall" with quotes snagged from The Sun etched into many of the prints. IS NOT ABOUT. "I'm glad February is over. It's during this month that everyone is looking for me -- or anyone who can come and be black for them," reads the bold print in Nicol's "Black and (or) White" woodcut and etching. PROMOTING ANY ONE SOCIAL MESSAGE. Elise says her prints illustrate the power of words. "Each word has a different spin." Words reveal her. "You can see my bias -- screaming liberal here." INSTEAD IT'S ABOUT HOW. She wanted to see words for the first time, the second time around. Nicol, a 39-year-old Bostonian, was a local newspaper junkie. "I would start each day with The Sun. I read it cover-to-cover, including the sports section -- usually started with the sports section." NOTHING IS EVER BLACK OR WHITE. Certain quotes would stop her, while entire stories passed her by. Nicol stashed the orphan quotes in a notebook, waited a few months, and then dropped the quotes on their head. Enlarged them, shrunk them, stripped them of their old contexts. "God loves us all. White trash!" OR EVERYTHING IS. YOU PICK. Nicol picked this quote from The Sun in March 1997: "Our lives have turned into a grueling race toward a finish line we never reach." A year later, she read a story from Crenshaw, Miss. "It was raining in the kitchen so bad -- I said, 'Lord show me somebody I can go to and talk to about helping me." Marrying these quotes, Nicol created "A Grueling Race." NOBODY DOES LIKE TO READ. Early this year, an art dealer took a sincere look at her prints and said, Elise, no one reads anymore. He's a jerk, she said to herself. But he had a point, she said later. SO I WONDER. Because the subject of her prints is rather serious, Nicol decided, "I needed to lighten it up." So, she threw the college's "20/XX" exhibition a soft pitch. AT THE WISDOM OF PROVIDING. By patching together an e-mail between Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky --

"HHHEEELLPPP!!! MAYBE WE CAN HAVE LUNCH ..." and a line from some forgotten story -- "LOSE! MY! NUMBER! -- Nicol made her least favorite print in her exhibit -- "Earth To Monica." MORE WORDS ON WORK THAT IS NOTHING BUT WORDS. No more storing quotes in a notebook, Nicol swore to herself upon graduation, upon driving to Maine and finding a house on an island called

Deer Isle. "I'll never do it again." Been there, done that. "I want to read the newspaper without studying it." I KEEP THINKING. There's something about Ken Starr, though. Elise Nicol is working on another print, with a few choice words on the Starr man. He's too irresistible. I SHOULD DRAW A PICTURE INSTEAD.

Elise Nicol's "Statement," as posted at her "Writing on the Wall" exhibit:

"I will say that this work is not about promoting any one social message. Instead, it's about how nothing is ever black or white. Or everything is. You pick...

"Nobody does like to read. So I wonder at the wisdom of providing more words on work that is nothing but words. I keep thinking I should draw a picture instead."

Pub Date: 10/21/98

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