Halloween is here!
And with the veil of the dark world being so thin, we ask you to prepare yourselves, because things are about to get otherworldy in the mind of Nicole Simpkins.
An illustrator, a sculptor, a book artist, and a true maker—Nicole Simpkins believes in ghosts, and logically believes in the existence of aliens. Paper Darts believes in her ability to twist our minds and affect our dreams. Simpkins learned how to read at a very early age, which now contributes to her narrative style. As a child, she had plenty of time to play outside with plants, dirt, and bugs. This combination of natural elements and literature can be seen throughout her body of work. Simpkins is from the coast of Massachusetts and now lives in South Minneapolis.
We're happy to welcome her into the OctoLady fold!
"I loved books, often ones in which young women had to decipher right action for themselves through trying situation. I loved books by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Tanith Lee, Cynthia Voigt, and Catherine Patterson. I read a lot about the New England witch trials, and found them fascinating and terrifying."
Today, Nicole Simpkins wishes she could tell her younger self to embrace her queer identity: "I wish I'd had the support to name and openly experience my queerness when I was young. It still feels like a secret, quiet, wild part of my identity that's hesitant to blossom."
Simpkins must often switch artistic mediums in order to feed her practice. The common thread is her early interest in ecology. She is strongly drawn to an animist worldview, and an intertwined fascination of mythology and biography:
"Just studying the design form of plants themselves is having a huge influence on me. I find them very challenging to draw, rigorous in their form and their commitment to being themselves."
While Simpkins currently works in a chilly, damp corner of her basement, she hopes to someday create in a large, sunny studio with high ceilings, giant windows, and high tables. Her ideal space would include multiple shelves, carts of supplies, and a community of artists working in close proximity.
Below are stills from her 2016 installation, "Link, Wrap, Tie, Build, Bind and Free." This interactive exhibit encouraged people to engage with the sculptures. She, and two fellow artists, were entangled in the strings. Audience members were then given pairs of scissors to cut the artists out of the webs, and the remaining strings were left in the gallery.
Simpkins utilizes many different materials and practices—collage, ink thread, books, etching, relief prints, and paper cutting. She believes in starting the mornings slowly by stretching in the sunlight, and enjoying her coffee. On her good days, she will mix it up, reading four to five books and taking notes. Then she will putter around her house, taking care of basic life maintenance tasks.
Simpkins is most creative between 6:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m., so nights are spent in the studio.
"Sometimes it's hard to balance work with getting enough sleep, being social, showing up to events that are interesting and important to me, and taking advantage of the amazing city I live in, but I try to do my best!"
Below are stills from Simpkins's full gallery installation "It Never Ends" at the White Page gallery in South Minneapolis.
This life-sized pop-up installation is filled with mixed-media drawings.
"You’re invited to enter: come meet monsters, hybrids and hyenas as they couple and disintegrate in a busted world of factories, basements, swamps, and the body of the earth. Find the thread that draws you down past your first glance, follow willingly and find your aches and pains, your sorrows and fears. Notice the crust along your wounds, and wake up your ability to heal."
"Lately, I’ve been trying to remind myself when I am feeling down, dejected, or doubtful about whether or not I will 'make it' as an artist that, actually, I am literally making it as an artist every day! I continue to teach, draw, think, heal, ask, make, learn, question, and open—and I need to remember that continuing in my commitment to these practices is the daily, genuine success I always dreamed of."
What is your favorite virtue?
What is your main fault?
“Managing my time.”
Simpkins's idea of happiness is centered in community, chosen family, growth, sharing delicious meals, queering the culture, and learning forever.
Follow Nicole Simpkins on Instagram to experience her neverending story.