Hill Rag

Artist Profile: Nancy Frankel, Sculptor

Art and the City


Organic Sculpture. Organic Geometry. Organic Thoughts. Organic ideas that “get past the surface aspects of reality to find deeper meaning.”

With Nancy Frankel, nature and structure come together in space. She wanted all of her works, indoor and outdoor to be “precarious, yet balanced.” It was always a search for joy and wonder in so many forms and materials.

Her work gave substance to space, but it wasn’t just a space filler. Each sculpture is a visual life form that casts a shadow and grows in size as you watch it. It will also grow in dignity and intellectual stature.

Art and the City

Her own shadow fills the spaces among those who she has touched and welcomed into her vision of nature…and the meaning of it all.

Nancy was born in DC and was based here as an artist. She majored in art and began sculpting at Temple University. She received her MFA at Columbia University. While living in New York she studied with Hans Hoffman and was introduced to abstract expressionism. She also studied at the Art Academy in Munich, Germany.

Her first major recognition came in 1972 with the Conference of Women in Visional Arts held at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in DC. She was an adjunct professor of sculpture at Montgomery College in Rockville, MD, and a member of the Studio Gallery Artist Cooperative.

In 2019, the Katzen Arts Center at the American University presented: “Nancy at 90.  A Retrospective of Form and Color.”

Red Tower. Wood and acrylic. 27″x7″x 6”

Nancy Frankel recently died in her home in Kensington, MD. She was 92. Her life’s work is shown at the Zenith Art Gallery (See below.) 

Jim Magner’s Thoughts on Art

Nature never rests—it is moving in millions of places all at once and it doesn’t give a damn what you see or think. If you see opulent color, fine. If you see lavish beauty, fine. If you are horrified by death and destruction, too bad. Don’t blame or credit nature for what you see or think…it doesn’t care.

You have to care. You have to decide what you want to look for and accept from the extravagant paradox of apparent tranquility and biological savagery and then draw your own visions and interpretations.

Nancy Frankel looked past the “surface aspects of reality to find a deeper meaning.” The intellectual meaning is human—us. To find a higher interpretation you have to look beyond the ordinary, beyond the self. The highest significance is goodness: art at its purest intent. That was the art of Nancy Frankel. Like the best in art, music or literature, she aimed to transcend nature, not just copy it or reflect it.

Nancy at the Katsen Center

Art at its most noble should rise above base human instincts and lift us into the realm of wonder. You have to search with both your head and your heart—mine aren’t always on speaking terms—but you have to employ one or both to take off…fly with the spirits.

To do that you may have to follow your other brain—the one that disobeys—not the mind you keep under control by the need to be safe. Release your heart—let it sit on the mountaintop. See beauty despite uncaring nature. See beautifully. Accept the realities of death and destruction and dance with the supernatural in the wild dance of art.