A Different Type of Filmmaker Bids Adieu to Tampa Bay

Parting words from beloved local artist Nancy Cervenka as she relocates to New Mexico.
Detail of a piece “Holy Land Shield,”made of 35mm slide images Cervenka’s mother bought when she made her pilgrimage to Rome back in the ’70s.

Gulfport-based artist Nancy Cervenka studied film but what she creates with it vastly differs from the typical auteur äóî sheäó»s a film sculptor (among other talents).

The Chicago native has scavenged movie celluloid, microfiche and X-rays to create amazingly sensual sculpture.

It all started while Cervenka studied cinematography in grad school. She spontaneously started playing with film and creating forms, and realized she was onto something. The material became as essential as her makeshift medium. To help others realize this, Cervenka has invited viewers to use a loupe and look up close at the frames in her works, which, farther away, may call to mind anything from subterranean plant life to alien creatures to horns of mythical beasts.

Gallery 221 visitor views Cervenka piece”Yellow Wrap” up close with gallery loupe. Photo by Luis Gottardi.

Luis Gottardi, photographer and blogger, wrote about her 2012 show at HCCäó»s Gallery 221 in Tampa. äóìThe effect for me was one of connections and the parabolic aspects of life,äó he said. Œæäóì(Theyäó»re) lyrical, gentle, and rich with expression.äó

Right now, Cervenka is completing a move to Mountainair, New Mexico. She has a house in Gulfport and is in the process of clearing it out along with her studio space.

äóìI am researching various galleries out here and other shows I can do,äó she tells Creative Pinellas. äóì I’m working with some new materials as well including clay and painting. It’s all just experimental at this point but I hope to involve all medium in my work. I’m very inspired by the mountains out here which seems to be coming forth in the clay forms I’m working on. I hope to combine those clay forms and my film sculptures together in some sort of sculptural dance.äó

These horn-like sculptures are titled, “Blue Wave.” ŒæSays Cervenka: “I love the shadows this one creates.” Photo by Luis Gottardi.


What was going on or what were you thinking about when you came up with the idea to create sculpture from film?

While studying fine arts at USF back in the day I took as many different studio classes as I could. I especially loved photography, ceramics, sculpture and then settled on cinematography as my favorite. I did my graduate work in cinematography and while handling a piece of film one day came up with the first sculptural form and realized that the film material itself was a viable medium to use to create these forms. I never looked back.


You’re known for several talents, including massage therapy, photography, film, sculpture. What skills help you stay on top of it all?

I go where my interests take me. I still enjoy all forms of creativity and energy work.


Have you enjoyed living and working in Gulfport? How active were you in the arts scene there?

Although I love Gulfport and I love that they have an art community, I have never considered myself part of Gulfport arts community per se. When I graduated from college and moved from Tampa to St. Petersburg, I eventually took a studio at ArtSpace in downtown St. Petersburg. That’s where I met most of my artist friends and made all my connections. I still find the St. Petersburg arts scene to be the most vibrant for me. I was fortunate enough to have been given gallery space to unleash some of my favorite installation pieces and video projections. My thanks continue to go out to Amanda Cooper at the Morean Arts Center, Leslie Curran at ARTicles Art Gallery, Kathy Gibson who was curator at Gallery 221 HCC Dale Mabry, Lori Johns of C.Emerson Fine Arts, and David Audet and Carolyn Kossar for all of those wonderful spaces to play in.

“Faux Tea Pot #3”. It is from a series of teapots Cervenka made after entering a juried theme show entitled “Tea.”


Have you collaborated with any Gulfport-based artists, too?

There was a tiny gallery space in Gulfport that was run briefly by Frank Hibrandt many years ago that I created a site specific piece for. He was someone in Gulfport that was trying to move things forward. He took his talent and energy to Cincinnati.


What advice would you give artists trying something new that hasn’t been done before?

I would just tell them to do what moves them. Don’t let anyone else try to tell you how it “should” be done. Follow your own path. I also watched and listened to other artists that were already working artists. ŒæI took what I could from advice they gave me. I entered my work in juried art shows and group shows wherever possible, and also applied for any kind of grants that were available. I continued to teach at USF as an adjunct for a few years after graduating. I eventually chose to explore the world of the outdoor show, which I admit, is definitely not for everyone. It took a while to get used to being right out there in the open physically and energetically. But it also helped me a great deal to be strong and grow a thick skin. I learned a lot from being right out there with all of the people looking and commenting on my work (not always flattering). I enjoyed meeting all of those people who admired and sometimes purchased my work, and am especially grateful for all of the wonderful artist friends I met from doing the shows. These are now some of my best friends. I will forever be deeply connected to St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay area for all of the work I have been allowed to do while living in Florida. I hope to continue to show my work here in the future even though I will no longer be doing any of the outdoor shows.

Creative muse and favorite subject GI Joe poses in front of the western panoramas that typify where Cervenka now calls home. Photo by Nancy Cervenka.

And to the artists just beginning, it sounds cliche but true: follow your passion. No matter what path you take, if the creative muse calls, follow it’s lead. If it’s in there, you shouldn’t squash it. Let it out and let your voice be heard. I really do sound like a clichí© but oh well, too bad, that’s how I feel. Have fun!

P.S. I continue to work with photography as well. I have a muse in the form of a G.I. Joe doll that I like to work with.


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