Abby Lloyd’s interview with her Aunt Nancy

Aunt Nancy Big Family, circa 1963-1968, pen and crayon on paper, 9 x 12 inches + frame

Contributed by Joshua Abelow / “Abby’s Room” is a show at Freddy in Harris, New York, featuring Abby Lloyd’s new sculptures and childhood drawings by her Aunt Nancy. “When my grandma died in 2015, my family and I began cleaning out her house,” Lloyd writes in her artist’s statement. “That’s when I found my Aunt Nancy’s ‘family drawings’ tucked away in a closet. From age 10 to 15, Nancy produced hundreds of drawings of make-believe families. The drawings have a Darger-esque quality – bizarre, compulsive, and funny. Nancy’s work captures the desires that most children have: to grow up, to fall in love, to have friends, to fit in.” The following is an interview Lloyd conducted with her aunt about the trove of artwork that inspired the work in this show. 

Aunt Nancy Antonio, circa 1963-1968, pen and pencil on paper, 8 x 10.5 inches + frame
Installation View

Abby Lloyd: Do you remember when you first started to make drawings of families?

Aunt Nancy: Yes, when we moved to North Babylon [Long Island] in 1963. I was 10 years old.

AL: Were the families based on families that you knew or families that you saw on TV or what?

AN: The families were always made up, always make believe. If a person happened to look like someone I knew, then I would give them that name. But I never drew people I knew on purpose. A family from one drawing could be cousins or friends with a family from another drawing. I would talk for them. I had a whole thing going on.

AL: Do you remember why you started drawing families? Were you inspired by something?

AN: I loved the Sears catalogue. I would sit in my backyard, look at the Sears catalogue, and talk to my imaginary friends about the people in the photos. I would go through the catalogue picking out outfits for my imaginary friends to wear. I know it sounds crazy! I would talk to them and make up stories

I’ve always loved families and movies and books about big families. When I was a little girl my favorite book was, ‘The Family that Nobody Wanted.’ It was based on a real family; a husband and wife who couldn’t have children so they adopted many children of different nationalities. It might have inspired me to make the drawings, but I can’t remember. I had the book, in mint condition, but I think my ‘ex-husband’ threw it away when he cleaned the garage out. It’s a real shame because I looked it up online and they were selling it for $1,000!

Aunt Nancy, Hey Tits, circa 1963-1968, pen and pencil on paper, 6 x 9 inches + frame
Aunt Nancy, Teen Girls, circa 1963-1968, pen and crayon on paper, 8 x 10 inches + frame

AL: Was it something you did privately?

AN: Yes, I would sit in my bedroom. I only drew them in my bedroom. I would sit on my Kelly green comforter and make up these families. I would sharpen my colored pencils until the tips were very sharp and then I would draw. I loved colored pencils, I’ve loved colorful things all my life.

AL: Did you show your parents or your siblings your drawings?

AN: I’m not sure, I think my mother knew?

AL: Did you show your friends?

AN: I’m not sure, I don’t think I showed anybody.

AL: Did you ever draw your own family?

AN: No, not like this.

AL: Were you encouraged to make art?

AN: I’m not sure.

AL: Did you feel like you were making art when you made your drawings?

AN: Yes.

AL: When did you stop making the family drawings

AN: I think I was 15.

Abby Lloyd: Do you still make art? Do you ever make sketches or doodles?

AN: Yes, sometimes. I work at a preschool and I draw houses and flowers for the kids. They all ask me, ‘Please, please make us a drawing?!’ I’m the only teacher that will do it. I like to do it.

Aunt Nancy, Mentally Ill Gail, circa 1963-1968, pen on paper, 8 x 11 inches + frame
Installation View

Lloyd told me that after working at an Estée Lauder factory on Long Island for 38 years, Nancy moved to Florida where she is a preschool teacher to children of migrant field workers. She has three adult children and lives with her daughter, granddaughter, ten cats, five dogs, and one cow. 

For the show at Freddy, she made a series of “Shy Girl” sculptures that are based on a craft known as “Shy Dolls” or “Time Out Dolls,” which are intended to look like real children and often evoke a double take when discovered by surprise. She always found them kind of spooky when she was growing up and they seem like perfect companion pieces to Aunt Nancy’s earnest drawings.

Aunt Nancy, Tween Girls, circa 1963-1968, pen and crayon on paper, 8 x 10 inches + frame
Aunt Nancy, Carol’s Kids, circa 1963-1968, pen on paper, 9 x 12 inches + frame

“Abbys Room,” Freddy Gallery, Harris, NY. Through August 11. NOTE: The exhibition is on view by appointment only. For more information (including exact location), please contact info@freddygallery.biz

About the author: Joshua Abelow, painter and founder of Art Blog Art Blog, is the director of Freddy Gallery. Look for his forthcoming solo shows at  Real Pain Fine Arts,  1819 3rd Ave, Los Angeles, CA, in September,  and at L21 Gallery in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

In Brooklyn: “Freddy’s World” curated by Joshua Abelow and Freddy, with Cynthia Eardley, Ted Gahl, Mary Jane Hanja, Abby Lloyd, Jesse Sullivan, and Thornton Willis, Suzanne Blank Redstone, Stewart Hitch, Tom Bronk, David Cummings, Irena Jurek, William King, and Maddy Parrasch.  Fisher Parrish, 238 Wilson Ave, Brooklyn, NY. July 18 through September 8, 2019.

Related posts:
Books: Joshua Abelow’s 1999
Part I: Where is Joshua Abelow?
Part 2: Joshua Abelow’s painting process

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