Nina Huryn - Artist

Nina Vivian Huryn in the Spring of 1975. Nina in the spring of 1975

Nina Vivian Huryn

I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio — then a fascinating dark industrial city of smoking, flaming steel mills. I graduated from The Cleveland Institute of Art where I majored in Textile Design. Early in my career I moved to New York City where I lived in a small studio/apartment painting and constructing wearable art of leather, fabrics, and objects found in the streets. My work was exhibited nationally and internationally —Tokyo, Rio de Janiero, and Lisbon. It has been worn by flamboyant rock stars like Elton John, Freddie Mercury, and Brian May.

Brain May of Queen in Nina's skeleton jacket Brian May in skeleton jacket - 1978

My wearable art was shown at Julie: Artisan's Gallery, an uptown gallery specializing in art to wear with a great location on Madison Avenue. Movie stars and entertainers frequently stop in to visit Julie and shop. Dustin Hoffman, Billy Dee Williams, and Candace Bergman have purchased my work. Roy Horn (Las Vegas animal trainer) chose a tooled leather jacket festooned with rusted cleats, bottle caps and fishing tackle, pictorial panels told a tale of skeletons searching for the Holy Grail. Elton John's kimono was covered in flying skeletons, their wings made of crushed matchbooks. Gallery owner Julie Schafler Dale featured several pieces of mine in her beautiful book "Art to Wear" (Abbeville Press, 1987), where she explains the art to wear movement.

I have loved this postcard since I was
five years old.

Now I live in Cleveland, creating and exhibiting art — occasionally wearable but almost always featuring skeletons and a chunk of something found on the street. In 2009, I was honored to be chosen by the Cuyahoga Partnership of Arts and Culture (CPAC) to receive one of twenty Creative Workforce Fellowships for the visual arts. My work includes large fabric and mixed media quilts, sculptural fiberglass funeral "encasements", very large multi panel leather and trash assemblages, and small one-piece leather/trash "collages" on wood. Stories revolving around life, death, and afterlife in a decaying industrial landscape provide the common thread that ties my mix of artistic mediums together.

Nina Huryn 2010 Nina Huryn - 2010

Ever since childhood I have delighted in the macabre. Today the fascination still holds and my work is filled with skeletons, usually acting as guides or storytellers. Skulls and skeletons are often thought of as negative symbols of death. Menacing? Yes. We'd like to live forever and sometimes we resent being reminded of our own mortality, but the skeletons in my work are far from dead. Representing humans in their most structural form they guide you through an ongoing narrative. Follow them from adventure to misadventure as they travel the industrial and urban wastelands of North America. They wander through closed down stores, factories, and abandoned amusement parks. They creep through evacuated neighborhoods and tackle monsters in toxic waste dumps. They hurtle over railroad yards, warehouses, and steel mills no longer in use by living workers. Lured by things real and imagined, they cavort with ghosts and memories of the past and hope for glimpses of the future. They never stop, no matter how far they fall or how wide their bones are scattered. They manage to reassemble and go on. But before all this crashing and bashing fun they must sleep the sleep. Blazing and vibrating, radiating brilliant colors and heat—they give back what they once took from the Earth—life.

Nina Huryn is a Creative Workforce Fellow. The Creative Workforce Fellowship is a program of the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture generously funded by Cuyahoga Arts and Culture.