It only seems fitting that collage artist and storyteller Nancey B. Price (b. 1992) moved into the ON::View Residency space at Bull Street’s ARTS Southeast on the wettest day of the month. The rain-drenched afternoon ushered in her monthlong stay during which she plans to expand her ongoing series “Water Signs,” a mixed-media exploration of the ways in which water has contributed to the overall story of Black people in the African diaspora.
A self-taught artist, Price’s collages have been featured in such prestigious publications as O, the Oprah Magazine, Garden & Gun, The Bitter Southerner and Black Collagists. She has shown her work in diverse venues including the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Yale Divinity School, and Savannah’s Cultural Arts Center where she was included in the recent “But Some Of Us Are Brave” show, so beautifully curated by Antonia Larkin.
Price grew up in Girard, population 156, in rural Burke County outside of Augusta, and holds a BA in Women’s & Gender Studies from Mercer, and an MPA in Nonprofit Administration from Georgia Southern. Originally, she went to college with plans to become a doctor. “I was on a pre-med track but changed my mind about applying to medical school in my senior year.” After undergrad., she took a job at Georgia Southern while continuing work with her own humanitarian project to supply feminine hygiene products and education to women in the southeastern African country of Malawi. That work led her to her 2019 MPA degree, but she says, “After graduation I knew I no longer want to be an executive director of a nonprofit!” and she has now fully committed to make her living through her art.
“I’ve always had an appreciation for the arts and humanities. One day in 2016 I was on Etsy and found the work of Haitian American Mirlande Jean-Gilles. I was really drawn to her collages and that analog style of artistry.” Price created her own Etsy account and started making vibrant collages using papers from books and magazines in the old-school fashion, working with scissors and glue. While in Malawi during her sophomore year of college she received an email from an art director for Oprah Winfrey’s magazine.
To her surprise, she was commissioned to illustrate the November 2017 Oprah Magazine’s story on Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s recently published book, 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro. That piece gave her validation and confidence as a collage artist and year by year more commissions followed, due in no small part to her robust social media presence. She regularly hosts educational Instagram Live sessions and has her own podcast “Dreaming in Color with Nancey B. Price” which, she says, “is about Black people, dreams, and the lessons we learn from them” and was originally inspired by Anthony Shafton’s book Dream Singers, The African American Way with Dreams.
Always a storyteller, today Price realizes that her collage art is an extension or a visualization of her storytelling. “I’ve performed all my life. I would be at home telling Mama what kind of dream I had or be listening to family stories. It’s in my genes. The concept behind my “Dreaming in Color” podcast is to explore and highlight the especially important relationship Black people have to their dreams and how they apply to our lived experiences. For example, there is a lot of lore in our family…if you dream about a fish, someone is pregnant; if you dream about a wedding there will be a funeral. It’s a whole thing!”
The artist and storyteller’s social media presence led to her being discovered by the Black land justice nonprofit Acres of Ancestry. This organization strives to address the steady erosion of the African American agricultural land base and intergenerational wealth while solidifying support for Black farmers and preserving the associated arts and cultural history. “They found me on Instagram after I posted a Black farm piece called ‘Celestial Harvest’ that referenced the magic of growing up in a farming environment. It goes back generations in my family, and I wanted to incorporate that part of my identify into my work and explain the world I had the pleasure of growing up in.”
“Water Signs,” her current residency at ARTS Southeast, alludes to both her being a Scorpio, a water sign known for being intuitive and emotional, and to how water frames the Black experience . “I was thinking of how to incorporate the ocean into the farming piece commissioned by Acres of Ancestry after they sent me to Charleston to do archival research at the Avery Research Center. I thought about sweetgrass baskets and how that technique survived the transatlantic slave trade, carried over from Africa.” That inspired her piece “Things we Carried” where she transforms a sweetgrass basket into a boat, and motivated her to explore other representations of water and the African diaspora…
…“I’m thinking about the transatlantic slave trade, I’m thinking about baptisms in the river, family ponds on homesteads…I’m thinking about growing up on the Savannah River…about “The Little Mermaid” [to be portrayed by Black singer Halle Bailey in next month’s Disney live-action movie] ….and about how all these things coalesce into who we are as Black people. Savannah is so deeply rooted in Black history and the slave trade. I grew up on the fringes of Gullah Geechee culture, so I try not to embody that, but I’m also always trying to think of ways to pay homage to it or reflect it.”
As part of her “Water Signs” residency, Price will offer an interactive workshop on April 29 where she invites artists of all backgrounds to ponder how identity and storytelling can enhance their practice and encourage collaboration. “How to engage and be more interactive with their audience; how to incorporate more of their own identity into their work. For me, that was being a farmer’s daughter, and thinking about my mental health. [She created a series of work around what triggers her anxiety issues.] A natural teacher, she looks forward to welcoming all interested creatives; no prior registration is required.
The public is also invited to create miniature collages with her during her remaining open studio days of Friday, April 28 and Monday, May 1 between 3 and 5pm,. The “Interactive Identity” workshop is on Saturday, April 29 at 2 pm, and the closing reception for “Water Signs” is on Friday, May 5 between 5 and 9 pm at ARTS Southeast, 2301 Bull Street. The ON::View Residency Program is presented with investment by the City of Savannah and sponsorships from Green Truck Pub, Starlandia Supply, and Starland Yard. Find out more about Nancey B. Price at nanceybprice.com, follow her on Instagram @nanceybprice where there is also information about contributing to her residency-incurred expenses.