Photography / Editorial / Print

The American born surrealist came to school in London in 1963 and has “been here ever since” she says. Her work explores themes of nature, order, religion and association, transforming ordinary objects into entertaining works of art that shout, scream and above all, are an extension of her thoughts. “I have always had ideas and always made things, but I sold my soul to advertising.” Nancy tells us she “married an Englishmen, had two children” and worked as a model maker in advertising, “making things for Silk Cut ads and the like.” She also ran a gallery for a while with her husband, paid for by the work in advertising, but it “was a vicious circle” as she never truly was able to commit herself to her own passions “as much as I would have wanted.”

Dedicating herself to her work fifteen years ago, Fouts tells us she "loves junking" and eBay is great for finding quirky items such as taxidermy animals for use in her works, commenting on their condition and on our modern lives. There are also visits to French and Belgian flea markets, in what could be described as a perpetual search to fill her 'cabinet of curiosity.' The main goal is to “disrupt roles and associations” we give objects, changing orders and “mixing things up a bit.”

There is also a comedic value that cannot be ignored and in one piece, a bird sits atop a hand grenade, “Birds are so innocent and so charming. This piece features a love bird, pull the pin out of a hand grenade and bang.” She has also created a birdhouse feeder with pigeon repellent spikes all over it, “Squirrels don’t like it much either.”  We can identify with animals, empathise and Fouts has said in the past that "putting them into a position where they find themselves in the wrong place is what tickles my fancy." Jesus with Boxing Gloves is one of her favourite pieces of work.

She studied at the Chelsea College of Art and Design and RCA in the sixties and the dissection of time features in some of her works. Describing time as "fast and never enough," there is an alarm clock where the second hand scoops up and drops a dice, in a movement she likens to “the luck of the draw,” an alarm clocks where “the face actually moves” and also a piece called Sands of Time where an hourglass was accidentally broken, but she innovated and used a wineglass that fitted one side of the hourglass - “now let me ask, is your glass half full of sand” she beams.

Inspiration for her works is far-reaching, in one piece, Cezanne’s Black Clock is turned into a working timepiece and in others, there is a nod to the work of Mark Dion, where we see collaged objects come together behind a display case with shattered glass. There are several favourite artists which she adore's the work of, "Marcel Marien, Juan Brossa, Maurizio Cattelan, Elmgreen and Dragset, Robert Gober, Fischlit and Weiss, Chema Madoz and all the rest."

Her work attempts to make us re-examine things that are often overlooked. I personally love the singer sewing machine which plays a record, “turn the handle and it plays a sharp soprano, singing birds on the wire.” There are more works such as a teeth purse, balloons resembling cacti and pears, some of which we feature images of, on these pages. It may take us by surprise but it definitely leaves us with a smile.

Interview and Portrait
Nardip Singh
Sculpture images supplied by
Pertwee Anderson & Gold
Copyright © Nancy Fouts

As featured in Unfolded Magazine Issue 13
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