July 2018, my mother died. I was with her during her final days at home. As her primary caretaker tending to her bodily functions and needs and keeping her as comfortable as possible had a profound impact on me. There was beauty and grace in this time together which offered a sense of completion and closure. Following her passing, in the Jewish tradition I recited the Mourner’s Kaddish, a Hebrew prayer recited daily for a year after the death of a loved one. As a daughter, I found solace and comfort in the regularity and sense of connection to my mother and an ancient practice.

As an artist and a deep-rooted chronicler of the significant and the mundane, I went to the studio and found my way back to printmaking.  Initially using a limited palette of blacks and grays, I created intimate monotypes on a tabletop etching press as a poem and prayer to my mother. I worked intuitively and viscerally eventually adding drawing with an inked brayer, graphite, paint, and collage. As I began layering gestural marks, cascading textures and fragmented patterns the work expanded and extended to become long vertical scrolls, 95”(h)x16”(w). 18 or so in number, the Waterfall Series is somatic, metaphorically extruded from my body like blood, tears, and other seminal fluids. Nanci Hersh - In The Studio

The series unfurled as a river of memory, love, and grief while I navigated the delicate balance between holding on and letting go.

Living with the work in my studio was a comfort. The process of working through my grief, and finding solace, and even joy, through the layering of images and materials and bringing the work to a larger scale. So when recently I listened to an interview with Pulitzer Prize winning author and art critic, Jerry Saltz’s with Miriam Schulman on her podcast The Inspiration Place, I was reminded of a statement from his book, How to Be an Artist, that “Creativity is a Survival Strategy”, I knew exactly what he meant.

Now 5 years, and one global pandemic later, the work is finding its way out into the world in beautiful collections and several exhibitions including Taking a Line for a Walk, a group exhibition curated by Mat Tomezsko for InLiquid Art at Park Towne Place in Philadelphia, PA.

There, two of my personal favorites, Fissure, which has never been shown before, and Drama Queen, hang in the North Tower Gallery in beautiful conversation with the work of Sharon Bloomfield Hicks, Taesook Jung, Caroline Lathan-Stiefel, Kate Stewart and Samara Weaver.

(Left) Drama Queen (detail), in situ North Tower, Park Towne Place, 2200 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA.

Taking a Line for a Walk, a group exhibition. May 27-October 1, 2023.

Open Reception: Wednesday, June 28, 6-8 pm.


For a VIP view of the complete collection from the Waterfall Series click here.

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