"Soul Keyhole" by Nancy Mintz at the Traywick Contemporary

In her new show at the Traywick Contemporary Gallery, Berkeley artist Nancy Mintz explores the precarious nature of motherhood. Using themes of an egg, a house, a ladder and the moon, Mintz, the mother of two school-age children, explores all the anxieties that come with having children. How does one protect a new life? How does one care and sustain others? What is the line between maternal protection/overprotection? What is a good parent? What hopes and dreams do we have for our children?

By combining fragile and durable materials, Mintz comments on the solid bonds that bind a mother and child and the vulnerability of those bonds.

“As a parent you are willing to do anything for your child,” said Mintz, who lives in North Berkeley with her son, 6, daughter, 9, and husband, Guy Poole, a photographer. “It’s the poetic idea of giving your child the moon. But to do so you have to entrap the moon. You have to entrap nature. So there’s also this negative connotation.”

Mintz was a successful sculptor with numerous shows to her credit when she had her first child in 2001. She set aside her artwork for a number of years to focus on parenting, but returned to art in 2008 when she started a printmaking residency at the Kala Institute in Berkeley.

"Egg Odyssey" by Nancy Mintz at Traywick Contemporary

Mintz hadn’t exactly abandoned sculpture, but it wasn’t her focus. Then Katrina Traywick, the owner of the eponymous gallery, approached her to do a show. An artist had cancelled and Mintz only had about four months to make the pieces.

“Traywick gave me an opportunity,” said Mintz. “It was the push I needed.”

In “Mother May I?” which runs through May 7, Mintz  works with clay, metal, wood and steel in whimsical, yet penetrating, observations of love, home, and protection.

“My materials illustrate my themes,” said Mintz. “The fragile quality of clay, the structural function of the wood and the industrial nature of steel. Most of my pieces combine two materials. The steel harnesses the clay but also protects it. The wood supports the egg but also changes its shape.”

In “Egg Odyssey,” Mintz places a ceramic egg inside a sturdy, steel stroller. It’s a commentary on the ridiculousness of the current market, where strollers can cost thousands of dollars and come equipped with cup holders, mesh baskets, and other conveniences. Yet strollers are designed to protect infants, and in this sculpture the fragile egg is wrapped in durable steel. Is this merely caution? Or overprotection? Mintz muses.

Mintz received her BFA from California College of Art, Oakland and her MFA from Mills College in 1993. She has shown throughout the Bay Area including exhibitions at Southern Exposure in San Francisco; Riverside Art Museum; Kala Institute; Berkeley Art Center; and the Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco.

Mintz’s work is being shown along with the work of Dharma Strasser MacColl. The show runs at the Traywick Gallery through May 7, Thursday-Saturday, 10am-4pm at Traywick Contemporary, 895 Colusa Avenue,
Berkeley, CA 94707. Or by appointment, 510-527-1214; artprojects@traywick.com

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...