In Focus: Noelle Nardone

For Noelle Nardone, classes at Fleisher have long been a family affair. She began attending classes as a preschooler, when her mother would drop her off in the basement on Saturdays and then head upstairs to study figure drawing. Noelle would often wind up in those studios, too, an experience that prepared her for art school in New York later in life.

“I went to art school and was never shocked by naked people,” Noelle said laughingly last week. “It was only because I grew up taking classes and Fleisher and I would sometimes wind up in her class.”

After graduation, Noelle returned to Philadelphia and put most of artistic explorations on hold to pursue a career as a photo editor for the now-defunct publisher Chelsea House. After dabbling in freelance work and considering graduate school, an exhibition of her paintings and drawing of dogs at the Italian Market’s Gleaner’s Cafe reignited her creative spark. Exhibitions at City Hall and the F.U.E.L. Collection, as well as recognition from former Mayor Michael Nutter and former Phillie Chase Utley and wife Jennifer Cooper, followed shortly after.

Noelle is perhaps best known for her paintings on wood, often of dogs, that recall the era of her youth, a time of stickers, zines, and fliers for punk rock shows pasted on abandoned buildings. Her painting, Minor Threat, which received a second-place prize in the Still Life, Landscape, and Figure Painting category in this year’s Annual Adult Student Exhibition, features a small pup adjacent to the logo of the influential 1980s hardcore band of the same name. While she predominantly works in acrylic paint and ink, Noelle’s studies at Fleisher have led her to explore watercolors. During the time of COVID-19, she has turned her attention to a new source of inspiration.

“My new series is focused on my shoes, not only my love for shoes, but the bigger picture, what they represent,” she said of her recent work. “As a state we are quarantined, we are not free to roam as we once did. These shoes have carried me to a lot of places and have been a part of a lot of experiences. Is this a time lost, will life as we know it ever be the same?”

Today, Noelle lives just a few blocks from Fleisher and is able to share her formative artistic experiences with her own family. Her husband, Tom McCloskey, is a Fleisher student and recipient of this year’s Francis McCarthy Drawing Award. Their three children have been a part of the Saturday Young Artists program for a number of years.

“I love being a mother. As a parent I feel it is important to let your children see who you are, and Fleisher affords me this opportunity,” she said. “My children are starting to understand that their mother has many faces. We have generations of family who have attended Fleisher, and we all cherish Fleisher’s welcoming gift of creativity.”

Since the coronavirus led to the cancellation of one of the Annual Adult Student Exhibition reception and prize ceremony, in which we celebrate the achievements of our adult students, we are highlighting a number of the exhibition’s prize winners each week. The series, In Focus, will run through the spring.

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