The Peace Maker

Artist's talent flows like a river

Originally appeared in The Independent Florida Sun
June 27, 2003
page 18-19

By Alice Crann Good

What: Vivianne Nantel’s “Peacemaker” exhibit.
Where: Blue Dolphin Gallery, 29 S. Palafox Place.
When: Exhibit runs through July 31. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday
and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Cost: Free.
Details: 435-7646.

Candidly, she whisks you through her various stages of artistic maturity, making sure you understand that today she’s not about artifice and stylization but all about sincerity and spirituality. She speaks inherently of spontaneity, light, philosophy, her voice and third eye, meditation, the physical and metaphysical and how it all weds and threads through her work.

When you meet her in person, her vitality and strong sense of purpose is present, almost tangible.

Nantel, who lives near San Francisco, was recently in Pensacola for the opening of her exhibit, “Peacemaker,” at Blue Dolphin Gallery on Palafox Place. The show, which features 22 pieces representing Nantel’s various stages, runs to July 31.

Several of the paintings are done in her “Stained Glass Luminosity” style- the newest development and direction with her artwork, which she named and refined by adding many thick layers of mixed media.

After many people remarked that her work has the quality of stained glass, she refined it, she explains. The result is a very textured painting and style evoking the feeling of light passing through a stained glass window, thus creating a luminous quality.

“People are surprised by the power of Vivianne’s work,” says Chris Tuggle, owner of Blue Dolphin Gallery. “Her art stands out because of the way it makes you feel. Being a gallery owner, I get so many people who come in here wanting to choose art to match their color scheme. You buy Vivianne’s work strictly because of the way it makes you feel. She is extremely good. When you see her art, you can tell it’s not something she saw and decided to paint.”

Nantel is the first to say her artistic journey has been unusual and auspicious-to say the very least. “For artists, it’s natural going back to history, recreating images, but eventually the artist has to go inside himself. The more inward we go, the more we channel the energy coming through us,” explains Nantel, who says her early influences include the Renaissance painters, pre- Raphaelites, Victorian neo-classicists, surrealists, symbolists, Fauvists, cubists, German expressionists and abstract impressionists.

“What happened to me made (self-realization) happen quicker.”

What she’s referring to is the fatal crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 on Jan. 31, 2000. The Boeing MD-80 was on its way from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to San Francisco, and it was to continue on to Seattle. Nantel and her husband, Michael Levine, were vacationing in Puerto Vallarta and booked on Flight 261. But because her husband wanted to stay and enjoy the beaches a bit longer, he changed their flight home.

“After the plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean, I mourned and grieved like I lost a loved one…like I went to the bottom of the ocean with the lost souls,” Nantel shares. “Psychologically, it was very powerful. I didn’t paint for a month. Then I saw a change in myself…I had a spiritual awakening.”

“My work, my style, my voice changed 360 degrees. Today, creating art is an act of devotion, a ritual. I don’t think about what I’m going to paint beforehand; I don’t analyze. For me now, to be an artist is to tap into this mystery called life. My voice is flowing like a river, and I let the creative process guide my flow. I seek the invisible, the genuine and the spontaneous in my approach.”

“A universal spirituality flows through my work…l have seen people cry while looking at my paintings.”

Stopping her conversation, she breaks the seriousness with laughter.

“Am I going on too much about all this?” she says.

“Actually, I have been blessed with so much. I love where I live. My studio window looks out at the rolling hills. And I am having so much fun. If someone looked through my window while I was painting, they would probably think I was crazy, because they would see me rolling on the floor laughing and playing with my dogs and kitties.”

Nantel and her husband have two dogs- Snowflake, who is deaf, and Spirit- that they rescued from the local pound and four cats- Simba, Maya, Tina and Lila. Perhaps, they will adopt a child from India, Nantel says.

Meanwhile, Nantel says her life is full creating, meditating, traveling, living life to its utmost.

She has traveled extensively in the United States, Canada, Mexico, France, Spain, Italy, India, Poland, Holland, Belgium, Greece, England and Austria to study and visit museums. Her paintings have been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world including the Williamsburg Art and Historical Society of New York City, the Peace Museum in Chicago, Powell Street Gallery in San Francisco and at Castle Kuenburg in Austria.

“I am a spiritual seeker,” Nantel says. “I think I always have been. Even as a child, I wondered about the purpose of life, asking why we are here, wondering about the stars and the universe.

“A lot of my paintings come to me while I’m meditating, while I’m still seeking the answers to all this.”