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2013 Retrospective show features work of WCSU art professor Plonia Nixon

Still life image by Plonia NixonDANBURY, CONN. — New Fairfield artist Plonia Nixon’s remarkable collection of works created over the past 50 years will be shown in a retrospective exhibition opening in October at Western Connecticut State University, where she has taught and mentored several generations of students as a member of the Department of Art faculty for the past 32 years.

An opening reception for the show, “Plonia Nixon: A Retrospective,” will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, in the Gallery at Higgins Hall on the university’s Midtown campus, 181 White St. in Danbury. Nixon also will be the featured speaker at an artist’s lecture in the Higgins Gallery at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 29, offering personal insights into her life and artistic work. Admission to the reception and lecture will be free and the public is invited. The gallery will be open for viewing of the exhibition through Nov. 21 on Mondays through Thursdays from noon to 4 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.

The exhibition will feature selections in diverse genres including drawings, paintings, pastels and collage. The works represent the restless and eclectic creativity of an artistic career that began during the 1960s in Nixon’s native Netherlands, and has continued to mature and evolve with her exploration of new media for expression during the 42 years since her emigration to the United States.

During the 1970s, Nixon was a member of the United Art Group, a group of foreign-born artists who exhibited their works in New York City. In 1975 she began a decade-long association with the Summit Gallery in midtown Manhattan, which was the site of two solo exhibitions staged in 1977 and 1981. She also participated in a 1977 all-women show in New York titled “Contemporary Women: The Contemporary Spirit,” and presented a solo exhibition in 1983 at WCSU. Her work has been exhibited and is part of collections in the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Monaco as well as the United States.

Since joining the Western faculty as an adjunct professor of art in 1981, Nixon has earned a reputation as a demanding and dedicated teacher with a passion for sharing her knowledge and appreciation of art history and for motivating her students to develop their own artistic skills. She currently offers courses during the academic year in drawing and in the history and appreciation of Western art, as well as summer classes in watercolor painting. She set up a collection of more than 1,200 slides of significant art works still used for instruction in the Department of Art. She has taught watercolor classes at the Washington (Conn.) Art Association and has lectured widely in the area about Dutch art.  

Born Apollonia van der Hoeven in the Dutch town of Kampen in 1930, Nixon studied biology and art history at the University of Amsterdam and graduated from the Fashion School in Amsterdam, where she gained her first teaching experience as an instructor of drawing and design. She earned her master’s degree in art appreciation in 1962 from the Academy for Art Teachers, and held positions in the Netherlands during the 1960s as an art instructor and member of a government board administering art student examinations.

In 1971 she married retired American advertising executive Richard W. Nixon and moved to the United States. The couple settled in a lakeside home in New Fairfield, Conn., where her husband renovated a barn on the property into a studio that for the past four decades has become her creative space for artistic work as well as a classroom for teaching art students. Her biographical notes observed that, after the death of her husband in 1991, “she stopped making artwork for several years, and only her passion for teaching kept her going. As she says, ‘Teaching is in my blood.’”

Recalling the artistic legacy she inherited from her ancestor Jan Steen, the renowned 17th century Dutch painter, Nixon observed in the artist’s statement for an exhibition of her collage works that their “snippets from the past and present” mirrored her fascination with the history of art and its influence on the present. “Art is expression; art makes people and their environment come to life long before the written documents describe it all,” she said. “I never know where I will go next, but the past will always play a role and take its place in my personal contemporary world.”

In addition to her collages, Nixon has produced a richly varied body of works including watercolor still lifes, acrylic miniatures, pastel paintings and drawings. In notes for a Summit Gallery show, she wrote, “Everything has within its being two worlds enclosed. There is one that everyone can see with the eyes, the visible reality. The other is a reality that exists in a form, a line, a color — its relationship with other things, space and light.”

For more information, contact the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.

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