Ellen Nanni-Vargas wanders through the golden-lit streets of Providence in fall: soaking in the muted blue sky flirting with wisps of white, the sweet, sharp hum of moving cold air, green maples turning brown under the waning orb of the orange sun. The sensory details of Rhode Island swirl through her soul and appear in her artwork – splashes of brilliant sea-greens peek out of triangular patches of blue, cotton-candy swirls of flowery pinks blossom from eggshell whites – these colors and aspects of her artwork are “part of your psyche. Something you don’t have to look for, they are just there.”
Nanni-Vargas grew up in Little Compton, where the vibrant flora and fauna allotted her plenty of inspiration. “Flowers and the sky are two gigantic influences on me; this is a perfect piece for me. It’s easy to connect the sky and flowers to all the different colors.” She surrounds herself with beautiful spaces, and the pursuit of beautiful things follows. From Syracuse to California, she has garnered an impressive resume that eventually led her back to RI to complete her MFA this summer at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. Her artwork strays from the traditional; she redefines boundaries and dreams with the use of mixed media to portray the various textures of reality mixed with imagination.
For this issue’s cover, Nanni-Vargas wanted to provide a connection to the theme of mysticism, astrology, and astronomy, without being too direct. “I wanted to do something that connected to the stars without it being a literal connection.” Much like her artwork, she wants you to work for it. “The piece is a deconstructed Rose of Sharon. The shape is of the flower, and the color and star-shaped sides on the outside are the color of the Rose of Sharon. They are the final bloom of summer, the final beautiful flower before we transition to fall. I wanted it to be connected to the land and the stars.”
Nanni-Vargas is concerned with perception and the multitude of layers that hide beneath objects upon their deconstruction. In the cover piece the Rose of Sharon may appear to be something small, but on closer inspection it reveals a wide expanse of sparkling sky; a tribute to a mysticism that dances within the defined lines of a starry night. Something Nanni-Vargas, with her enchanted eye, unsheathes through her mixed media dreamscapes.
You can find Ellen Nanni-Vargas on Instagram @enannivargas or enannivargas.com, as well as at her upcoming art show at Overlap. The Opening Reception is 4:30–6:30 pm on Saturday, September 23. The show runs through October 29. 112 Van Zandt Ave, Newport. overlapnewport.com. (backdrop: “Nothing but a Flower”)