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Interview With Artist Bex Nikols

Photographer Denise Vasquez IG @DeniseVasquezOfficial Artist Bex Nikols IG @BexArt

Are you a self taught artist or did you go to art school?

I am completely self-taught. Traditional schooling never worked for me. So, the idea of going to school for art never appealed to me.

Where did you grow up & did your environment influence your style?

I moved with my family to Vegas when I was 9 for Anaheim California. I was raised in an interesting environment. My dad was an engineer, which is where the analytical geometric side of my art comes from. My mom was a great artist. She sketched a lot, and did things that I could never do, like sewing and crafts. I was also always surrounded by music and musicians, between extended family, my mom's friends, and my stepdad. So, I think it all had some type of influence on my style. But there was always an aspect of it just in my head.

Tell us about your “Sinewy” style & your mixed media style? How did it come about?

So, I always say it started when I was doing a set design for a Greek play set in hell. I designed some columns and not only did the look like they were melting, but they also looked as if they were made of muscle. Hence the name Sinewy. But I received my first paint kit at 16, immediately started playing with colors and blending. One of my first painting was very reminiscent of not only one of my color schemes, but also the Sinewy design.

I was introduced to metal leafing while working with a friend on an arial equipment for P!nk. It was a large scrolling sculptural piece, that we just covered in leafing. During that time, I was working a lot more on Steam Punk and geometric metal paintings and started to incorporate the leafing into my work.

As far as intwining canvas into wood panel, I created a painting for a Valentines call for art through the City of Las Vegas. I didn't want to do a traditional anatomical heart. I figured everyone would be doing that. So, I got a wood panel and some canvas, I burned through the wood panel to stretch the canvas through. On the wood panel I had painted a full red heart. On the canvas I painted a black and white heart. Which went over the red heart. I burnt the sides of the canvas as well as through the canvas, so you could still see hints of the red heart peeking through.

It's just expanded from there. I get really bored also doing the same thing, so my brain is always on to the next idea. I love trying new things, and constantly growing with my work. I'm currently working a lot with broken records and texture, and incorporating them together. Which is a lot of fun, until the next idea comes.

Do you prefer creating larger pieces? Why?

I love working on larger pieces! There is something so impactful about seeing these large colorful patterns on a huge format. Not that its not still beautiful on a smaller canvas. They just have a massive wow factor if the are bigger. It's hard to go back. I like to tell people that every painting I have is a statement piece. Because they are so bold.

Are you OK with talking about your Bipolar Disorder diagnosis at the age of 16? If so tell us how that influences your art?

Let's do this.... So, at 16, I ran away from home, with my boyfriend. I was a very toxic relationship, so it didn't take long to call my mom. When I did, she had the police come to get me. They took me to some type of juvenile facility. While they were questioning me, they asked if I had ever had suicidal thoughts.... Only since I was 10. They then took me to a mental institution. From there I was diagnosed with bipolar. Put on Prozac and kept there for 2 weeks. At that time an interesting thing happened. My mom's friends were bringing me art supplies. In fact, after I got out, that was when I received my first paint kit.

The medication and therapy didn't last long. Medication numbs the hippo campus, which is the brains creative center. I'm not well if I can't create. Through the years I have found that the only thing that can truly balance me and calm me is my art. I am still a mess. But art makes the day to day better.

If you look at my art. You can see the constant theme of serenity and chaos. Often there is a vortex in the center, with sinewy pieces swirling around. Which represents the feeling of being buried and peeking out from behind the chaos of the world and my mind.

How do you feel while you’re creating art? How do you feel after you finish a piece?

If it is a fresh, new idea in my head, I get really excited, and I can't wait to see the final product. If it's something like a commission of a piece that I've done before, or just something that I don't feel like doing, I kind of drag my feet. I definitely thrive off of my new ideas and passion projects. So, I feel great about most of it!

After I finish a piece, I either love it, or I hate it. If things don't match up to the vision I had in my head. I get really disappointed. You can tell when this happens, because it's usually splattered with something.

Congratulations on winning a grant? Tell us about that?

Thank you! It feels like so long ago. I'm currently waiting on the results of this year's grant application. Last year I applied for a project grant through the Nevada Arts Council. When I received it, I was so excited. I had never applied to a grant before, and to get it my first try was crazy to me. The project was The Universe in Abstraction. A series of 7 36x48 Inch wood panel paintings, revolving around the idea of the universe, our planet, and the elements that surround us. Each wood panel had slats burnt through, and burnt stretched canvas stretch through them. Some a lot, so very little. Each piece also had texture, created by sculpting molding paste. And a beautiful shimmer, provided by metal leafing. I started with Jupiter, then had 2 contrasting patina pieces. Fire and Water, Sunset, and my masterpiece Cosmos.

What is it like having your own business in the Arts Factory?

It's a rollercoaster. It's amazing to have my own space to go into every day and create. I sell more art then if I were just painting in the corner of my living room. But it's expensive, and there are a lot of challenges involved with the building. We still have a huge homeless population in the area, and a lack of security. We have all been in dangerous situations because of this. I am sharing a wall with a bar, that thinks they are a day club 3 days a week. Which really makes it's a difficult place to create. We don't get a lot of traffic. There are days that we don't have a single person walk through the building. On the upside, we do get people in from all over the world. Which has really helped me to find my audience. The East Coast really gets me. I am grateful to have my own space. I know it's not an easy this to achieve. I've seen a lot of people come and go through the years in the Arts Factory, there has always been a huge turnover. But for me, to be able to be successful in this building feels like a real achievement.

Is you art available to purchase? If so where?

Yes! It is available for sale in my gallery, BexArt Studio, 107 E. Charleston Blvd., Suite 160 in Las Vegas, and also on my website

Are you open for commissions?

Yes! Any pattern can be done in any color scheme to custom fit your home. I also do animal silhouettes, with geometric designs inside and black and white animals against a colorful sinewy background.

Any new projects you’re working on?

I've started working intently on my broken record collection. Broken records set against contrasting sinewy background. stitched through a wood panel with tinted twine. Some set off with black or white textured sides. The collection itself will be available in a variety of sizes from 4x4 inches, up to 24x24 inches. The first 4 of this collection was done on 12x48 inch wood panel.

Where can people find you online? Websites? Social Media?

Instagram: @bexart

Facebook: Bex Nikols Fine Art

Anything else you’d like to add?

2023 was such a great year, which so many achievements hit. The first being the grant, which was so helpful as far as being able to get a huge idea out of my head. I also received a parking meter wrap on Main Street. Featuring one of my paintings. Which is my first public works project. Finally, I was initiated into the National Association of Women Artists (NAWA). Which is an association that was started in New York in 1885. Which means that my work will hold a place in history, by being cataloged in major museums across the country.

I'm proud of all of my accomplishments in the past year. I know that my work is not like anything that has ever been created before. Which makes it a lot harder to be accepted by the general public. Being unique and different makes it a lot harder to be and artist. But I wouldn't change a thing.

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