Art exhibit





Art exhibit

The Poet's Room

Nancy Watkins




Nancy Watkins exhibit


Nancy Watkins exhibit



Nancy Watkins, drawing for Amore e fama


Related books

Italian language translation with original English text.

Keats, Shelley  Amore e fama

John Keats  Percy B. Shelley

Book cover and drawings by Nancy Watkins

Amore e fama

Shelley  Alla notte

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Book cover and drawings by Nancy Watkins

Alla Notte e altre poesie


Nancy Watkins  Visite notturne

Nancy Watkins

Visite notturne


Watkins Il fiore è un'idea

Il fiore è un'idea


The publisher:

Il Labirinto

About the publisher

The Poet's Room

Nancy Watkins

Keats-Shelley Museum

Piazza di Spagna 26, Rome Italy

7 March - 14 April 2007

Keats Room, Keats-Shelley Museum

The Poet’s Room is the place of places, the secret space where poetry and painting encounter each other. John Keats’s verse “This room is as full of jewels as a mine” (The Cap and Bells) is Nancy Watkins’s choice as epigraph of her show. The motif recurs in the artist’s work; the paintings, executed over several years, are variations and evolutions of the theme, and generate new references and allusions in these rooms where the great English Romantic poet lived briefly and died.
Using pictorial matter dense with cloudy darkness and radiance, the artist introduces us into this “mind room”. She represents its solid architectures and its more fluid, fleeting forms. The themes of the show: doors, windows, mirrors - the mysterious Hyerusch Mirror and the elusive Window-Mirror, to name two works - water, fire and guardian demons, punctuate the journey through the Room and mind of the poet.
The catalogue includes texts by Giuseppe Appella, Gianfranco Palmery, Nancy Watkins.

Nancy Watkins has shown in galleries and museums in Europe and North America. She is the author of two books of drawings - Autoritratti senza lo specchio and Visite notturne. Her works have been featured in many other publications including magazines and special editions. Born in Chicago, she lives in Rome.

From the exhibition catalog:

The last, whom I love more, the more of blame
    Is heap’d upon her, maiden most unmeek,—
        I knew to be my demon Poesy

John Keats, ‘Ode on Indolence’


Guardian Demons III, Conté, 25 x 18 cm

© 1993 by Nancy Watkins

Nancy Watkins  Guardina Demon III

The Poet’s Room is a Two-fold Room
Gianfranco Palmery

Poets, as we know, spend the best of themselves in a fantastic or fantasy room, a ‘gorgeous room’, as opposed to the real room where their days are consumed; an ideal room, to which they dedicate bizarre exercises of interior decorating, even to the point of theorising a philosophy, as Poe did. At times their chimerical tastes in decors oddly coincide—as in the room Keats entrusts to his imaginative ‘Castle Builder’:

About my room,—I’ll have it in the pink;
It should be rich and sombre, and the moon,
Just in its mid-life in the midst of June,
Should look thro’ four large windows and display

and in that of Baudelaire, splenetic architect of the chambre double:

A room reminiscent of a reverie, a truly spiritual room, in which the stagnant atmosphere is lightly coloured rose and blue...

As for the draperies, ‘as tho’ they had / been made for Cleopatra’s winding-sheet’, in one, and muslin that falls and billows in snowy cascades around the windows, in the other... and here and there, roses and skulls. Whether it is influence or a sign of their times, Keats and Baudelaire seem to share the same room; a two-fold room—‘full of jewels as a mine’, and together, as in Baudelaire, taudis (a hovel), séjour de l’éternel ennui (the dwelling of eternal tedium); the chambre haute in the chambre basse, the abode down here.
The true room of the poet is his mind, and there, in his ‘world of thought and mental might’ the artist has moved for years with a special syntony. That room, the place where the poet receives visits and visions, is familiar to Nancy Watkins, and her paintings and drawings, having directly measured themselves against various poets’ verse, gain a richness and intensity, rare in today’s world. Her art does not harbour or indulge in contemporary clichés and it is probably a partisan opinion, but I believe that this in some way derives from her deep-rooted contact with poetry.
It certainly is not the literary references, the quotations—which the artist does nevertheless use quite naturally in her work, and at times not without irony—as much as the intensity of her painting (I may say, almost heretically, its lyricism) that suggests from the inside an unusual affinity with the processes of poetry. The effect is of a dual postulation: that which the eye instantly perceives, truly fascinated by colour, the mind then finds confirmed in the theme, the title, the allusion.
It is best to add, however, that what I have just defined as ‘an unusual affinity with the processes of poetry’ is perhaps none other than the sign of the singularity and authenticity of an art that, while nourished by literary suggestions, isn’t ‘literary’ at all. It is distinguished, rather, by a strong affirmation of pictorial values.
Nancy Watkins manages to give classic form to modern pictorial gesture, in that order of precedence and not the contrary. The artist is, in fact, even if dialectically and at times antagonistically, a conscious heir of the pictorial gesture, but she also never renounces the ancient body of tradition. It may be dissipated or dispersed, but it is not irrevocable, not lost—and her choice is still the most honest and courageous way to live one’s own time: simultaneously to participate and yet remain detached.
All this is shown in her interiors, fortified, burning hot, wide open or windy, that open out onto scenes of water or of fire, theatrical, but like backdrops of dreams: they are not views of the daytime world, but rather visions, scenes of the mind,—once again, interiors.
Well then, let’s enter into the poet’s room. What do we find? Books, papers, dust, relics, bric-a-brac? Certainly we can find all these: the artist doesn’t exclude them, but likewise doesn’t show them to us. What we have instead is a room which a restless psychic energy turns topsy-turvy, filling with light, hallucinations, phantoms, with fantasy-figments; but solid, so solidly constructed, that the turbulence is contained and together the peak of quietness, of Apollonian attainment, is achieved. Keats’s verses accompanying the paintings articulate, like epigraphs, the time and forms: doors, windows, draperies, mirrors, guardian demons, and imaginary scintillating vistas of stone and water, with a final, tragic and ironic (like the February 1821 bonfire of the poet’s poor furnishings in the piazza), purificatory fire.


Interview with the artist

Paintings from the exhibit

Nancy Watkins
The Poet's Room
Text by Giuseppe Appella, Gianfranco Palmery, Nancy Watkins
2007 Pages 48, Euro 10,00

Watkins The Poet's Room
Edizioni Il Labirinto