Urgent Museum Notice

M. L. Van Nice

Black and white photo of a middle-aged woman with short grey hair and light skin. She sits against a wall and looks down, her glasses sliding down her nose slightly. She has an expression of concentration, as if she is focusing on something in her hands.

Photo courtesy of the artist

Born in 1945

She rummages through garbage and roams markets and estate sales in search of art material and treasures. Many of these items can be found in her unique book-objects and book installations. Van Nice often works with wood and paper, undertaking projects including a clock and typewriter. She has challenged history and the belligerent nature of man by presenting an installation of artifacts from never-fought wars (Artifacts of the Anglo-Armenian Wars) that included a handmade cannon.

Van Nice attended George Washington University, graduating with a degree in philosophy. As she explains her decision to study philosophy, “I was a serious existentialist, interested in what is the meaning of life. I understood early on that art is a serious undertaking—it comes from philosophy and from experience.”

In 2005, Van Nice created an installation for NMWA of an imaginary library, The Library at Wadi ben Dagh, in praise of the masterpieces of world literature, allowing viewers to experienced Shakespeare, Baudelaire, Proust, Lewis Carroll, and James Joyce, as three-dimensional book-sculptures. Van Nice’s art represents scholarship combined with a whimsical and unbound imagination.

Artist Details

  • Name

    M. L. Van Nice
  • Birth

    Boston, 1945
  • Phonetic Spelling

    ehm ehl van(n-eye-ss)

Works by M. L. Van Nice

Swiss Army Book

Swiss Army Book was inspired by the Swiss army knife, “a tool so ludicrously elaborate, as to include toothpicks, saws, bottle openers, etc.,” muses artist M. L. Van Nice. She constructed a number of tiny folios growing out of the main body of the book to articulate the idea that knowledge derives from previously accumulated wisdom. Through the display of partly...

A white book opens like a Swiss army knife; its pages cut to create a sculpture. Opened to the center, pull-out drawers open from the sides, filled with paper-made objects. On the right, a typewriter-like object. On the left, a box with smaller books, including one that is also open.