Abby’s Room is a show featuring new sculptures by Abby Lloyd and drawings by Abby’s Aunt Nancy. The announcement image is a poster Abby made on ‘Print Shop’ when she was in elementary school.
When my grandma died in 2015, my family and I began cleaning out her house. 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. I recently interviewed Nancy about the drawings:
Interview with Aunt Nancy
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.
Abby Lloyd: Were the families based on families that you knew or families that you saw on TV or what?
Aunt Nancy: 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.
Abby Lloyd: Do you remember why you started drawing families? Were you inspired by something?
Aunt Nancy: 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!
Abby Lloyd: Was it something you did privately?
Aunt Nancy: 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.
Abby Lloyd: Did you show your parents or your siblings your drawings?Aunt Nancy: I’m not sure, I think my mother knew? Abby Lloyd: Did you show your friends? Aunt Nancy: I’m not sure, I don’t think I showed anybody.
Abby Lloyd: Did you ever draw your own family?Aunt Nancy: No, not like this.
Abby Lloyd: Were you encouraged to make art?Aunt Nancy: I’m not sure.
Abby Lloyd: Did you feel like you were making art when you made your drawings?
Aunt Nancy: Yes.
Aunt Nancy: I think I was 15. Abby Lloyd: Do you still make art? Do you ever make sketches or doodles?
Aunt Nancy: 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.
After working at an Estée Lauder factory in Long Island for 38 years Nancy moved to Florida. She currently works as a preschool teacher for children of migrant field workers. Nancy is a mother to 3 children. She lives with her daughter, granddaughter, 10 cats, 5 dogs, and 1 cow.
I relate to my Aunt Nancy through her childhood drawings. Drawing was such an incredible outlet for me as a kid. I was able to express my desires and secret thoughts when I drew. Like Nancy, I would name and give ages to make believe people and talk out loud as the different characters. I shared artwork with my friends and family, but I also made ‘top secret’ drawings and writings in my journals.
For the show at Freddy, I made a series of ‘Shy Girl’ sculptures inspired by Aunt Nancy’s childhood drawings. My sculptures are based on a craft known as ‘Shy Dolls’ or ‘Time Out Dolls.’ Shy Dolls are made to look like real children. They are commonly placed against a wall or tucked into a corner of a house. Since I was a child, I thought these dolls possessed a spooky quality. ‘Shy Girls’ can be shells of grown children, ghosts, or ‘imaginary friends.’ My ‘Shy Girls’ are perfect companions to Nancy’s work.