Nancy Pletos entered Wayne State University as a mathematics major but soon transferred to the art department, where she received her B.A. in 1972. Although a graduate painting major at Wayne (M.F.A. 1974), where she studied with John Egner, Pletos began making small wood sculptures in 1973 (these were exhibited in a two-person show at the Willis Gallery that same year). In 1974, in a one-person exhibition at the Detroit Artists Market called “Oh Memory, Oh Memory, Oh Memory,” she showed several doll-house-like constructions built out of scraps of wood, and filled with furnishings made of bits of fabric, feathers, grass, shells, and mirrors. Pletos’ love of wood was particularly evident in a 1975 series of large, two-dimensional Logs--fantastic, organic shapes carved from sheets of plywood or Masonite. Beginning in 1976, in works she refers to as Furnishings, Pletos playfully embellished ordinary dressers, mirrors, and storage chest by adding various whimsical elements-flower-shaped drawer pulls, dayglo painted rosettes, rhinestones, or wooden beads.
It was, however, after her move to New York in 1976, that Pletos, working in small studio spaces, created her intimate, hand-sized series, Small Wood Works. In these pieces, carefully assembled from small pieces of wood, colored glass, beads, and mirror fragments, then glazed with thick, glossy pigment or given a gritty texture with sand or sawdust, the artist sensitively transformed ordinary and cast-off materials into magical fantasy sculptures. This series was first exhibited in 1978 at the Feigenson-Rosenstein Gallery and at the N.A.M.E. Gallery in Chicago. Pletos’ wood constructions, the Standing Gardens, exhibited in a 1979 solo exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts, are intricate, vertical spirals, some left unglazed, others lushly and flamboyantly colored. In contrast to the intimate scale of the small wood works, some of the gardens are over five feet tall. Pletos moved to Chicago in 1979, and showed extensively in the Chicago area until she moved back to Michigan in 2004.
“Besides, I did not want to do anything but be here” includes different bodies of works by Pletos dating from 1974 through 2001, and is on view from April 13 through May 25. A special publication will accompany the exhibition.