My work straddles a line between abstraction and figuration, often working to layer the two modes together using personal identity and past events from my life. In this exhibition, the focus of that exploration in these artworks has been of the past decade.
In Nesting, the work tells the story of when my wife and I began planning a family. We anticipated problems but had no idea of the long and traumatic path ahead of us. It is through my work I hope to shed light on infertility, child loss, and adoption. I want to show the hardships and joy that can come with creating a family and honor the experience we and so many others have been through.
In the United States, about 10% of women have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant.1 In 2012, we found ourselves in that 10% and after many doctor consults and evaluations we learned our best hope of getting pregnant would be through In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). After our first round of IVF, we became pregnant. However, at 25 weeks my wife went into labor and was life-flighted to Denver. Our son was born at 25 weeks at 1 pound 14 ounces. We spent 134 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Three years later, again using IVF we became pregnant. Our second son also came too early yet he would not make it to Denver. Our son Lukas quietly passed away in my arms shortly after he entered the world. One year after Lukas passing we started doing foster care and in March 2020 we adopted our son.
Nests have been a recurring image in my work since the first time I stepped into a printmaking studio. They represent home and sanctuary and in this work specifically represent a womb and incubator in the NICU. From there it isn’t a far leap to see that the birds are stand-ins for our three boys.
I can only try to understand the physical and emotional trauma that my wife experienced and there are no words that do any of it justice. I, like many men who find themselves in similar situations, can only stand firm like a deeply rooted tree and support her, yet it has been a journey that has drawn us ever closer, through tears of grief and joy. To all those who have experienced infertility and child loss, you are in my heart. Even though I may not know you, I hope my family’s story will help bring you solace.
Nathan Abel is an artist currently living and working in Casper, Wyoming. Growing up in the rural agrarian midwest and the rocky mountains have instilled a deep interest in open spaces and the untouched and man-made landscapes that hold histories and memories. Nathan’s work draws upon these landscapes in his surveying of personal identity, relationships, and history. Through his work, he searches for quiet ways to slow the world down and cause reflection while exploring decaying memories and oral history through the use of Printmaking, Drawing, Artist Books, and Installation.
Nathan holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Wyoming where he studied printmaking and graphic design, a Master of Fine Arts in Studio Art in Printmaking from the University of Arizona, and a Master of Education from Montana State University. He enjoys teaching and its interaction with his studio practice. Nathan’s work has been included in regional, national, and international exhibitions.