Nancy Edell (1942-2005) is best known for the transgressive, representational works she created using an unlikely medium: rug hooking. Her practice also included woodcuts, monotypes, drawings and animated films. Her career began in Nebraska, ended in Halifax and included many years in Winnipeg. Throughout, Nancy was rigorous in her craft and passionate about her feminist content. She also inspired many students at the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design.
In her 1991 exhibition at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Edell introduced the theme of the “Art Nun”—lampooning the late-modernist cult of art, the notion of art replacing religion as the source of spirituality in a secular age. Towards the end of her life, she envisioned herself an “art nun”, and created visually spectacular representations of art nuns in action! Her last solo exhibition was featured at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 2005.
Edell’s untimely death and what she left behind is where this story begins. A legacy of artistic creation sits in limbo, gathering dust and raising questions about what should become of all our stuff when we are gone.