As a classically trained painter, Nicolas Party is constantly thinking about the history of his medium in terms of both technical and stylistic developments. With references to the expressionistic landscapes of Claude Monet, the naïve surrealism of Henri Rousseau’s jungles, and the still-lifes of Giorgio Morandi, Party invites viewers to enter an alternative reality. He paints familiar motifs such as birds, pitchers, bugs and trees—always drawing from his imagination—nodding to the various appearances they have made throughout Western art history while simultaneously acknowledging the ubiquitous nature of his subject matter.
The tree is a subject of special interest for the artist. He writes, “A tree is something that you never will get bored of looking at or thinking about. There is something incredibly rich about these very familiar subjects that have been used throughout the history of representation.” The universality and life-span that a tree implies makes Party’s mural timeless.Trees, vibrant and whimsical, echoes and also juxtaposes the mural in MAF’s bookstore, a moonscape of a forest in a dark, neutral palette, painted by Millard Sheets in 1961 as part of his original design for the Masonic Temple.
In this site-specific mural commissioned by the Marciano Art Foundation, Party creates a fantastical forest that grows as visitors ascend the stairwell floor by floor. The viewers’ movement becomes integral to the work—as they move from the dense bushes on the ground floor to the lush treetops on the third floor, they become active participants in giving life to this imagined dreamscape.