Wild Pigment Project: Nancy Pobanz

November 4, 2022
Nancy Pobanz at Form & Concept Gallery
Nancy Pobanz, Stratifying, 2016.

Nancy grew up on the edge of Oregon’s high desert and rediscovered the joys of the desert palette on a visit back to her childhood home in 1996. She’s worked with colors from over 300 high desert sites and continues to find more. The artist's work appears in Wild Pigment Project, a group exhibition that's on view at form & concept through early December.


The international show (and the project that inspired it) promotes ecological balance and regenerative economies through a passion for wild pigments, their places of origin, and their cultural histories. Read an interview between Wild Pigment Project curator Tilke Elkins and Pobanz here, and check out more words from the artist below.


Artist Statement

The drawings in this exhibit are a product of my participation as the artist-in-residence with Rimrock Draw Rockshelter, an important prehistoric archaeological dig in SE Oregon that is changing the way that we look at Paleoindian emergence in North America. This project is in collaboration with Patrick O' Grady, archaeologist with the UO Museum of Natural & Cultural History.


During the four field seasons, I have camped with the crew for four to six weeks, spending the days observing the painstaking process of excavation and analysis while doing my own drawing, writing and photography. The 300+ raw earth pigments that I've collected in all of Southeastern Oregon since 1996 have become a central focus, incorporating them into my drawings as well as introducing them to the crew, visiting scientists and other visitors.


Throughout my career, I've made many of my supplies from raw materials that I gather. This provides a direct connection to the source of my inspiration, always about place. From the high desert of Oregon, I use rocks and earth to grind into pigments and plant material to twist into cordage or papermaking to incorporate into the work. The materials are used for their color, texture, blending characteristics- and earthiness. The underlying issue or topic of the piece guides all the material selection.


Artist Bio

 Born and raised in Ontario, Oregon, my upbringing was in a home full of art and art making. My mother introduced me to the beauty of the desert of SE Oregon through hiking, camping, birding, and digging clay for her ceramics. When I was a teenager, my father drove from Salem to Ontario and collected colorful rock and sediment from road-cuts. It was simply his way to mark the time while making the long drive alone in wide-open spaces. What my parents did was lost in my memory until after I got the idea to collect color for making pigment, 33 years later.


After leaving the state for 26 years, living in Mexico, Eugene, Seattle and the Philippines, I moved back to Eugene to pursue an MFA at the University of Oregon. Towards the end of my studies, I realized that the high desert has always influenced my work, In 1996 I took a slow drive from Eugene to my hometown to take photographs and collect earth colors and plant materials that could be used in my artwork. My intention was to ultimately mix commercial paints to match those desert colors but when I returned to my studio, it dawned on me that I could reduce the rock to a powder and make my own paints. To begin with, I made acrylic paint then watercolor and finally loose pastels. In the 25 years since, I have collected over 300 pigments from countless sites in SE Oregon and continue to find more as I explore that vast region.


Since 2016, I have been the artist-in-residence at Rimrock Draw Rockshelter in SE Oregon, collaborating with Dr. Patrick O' Grady, lead archaeologist from the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History. This is a prominent archaeological site for all of North America and provides inspiration for my work during the 4-6 week dig seasons and then, as it percolates, year round. All of this in respect of the Paleoindians who inhabited the region.



 Nancy Pobanz at Form & Concept
Nancy Pobanz, SE Oregon Mineral PigmentsVials with pigments in box, 6 x 3 x 1 in

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Jordan Eddy

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