November 11, 2020

Skillman Artist Uses Nature To Create a Unique Perspective

NATURE VS. GLITTER: “Flowering, Froth and Flurries” is among Nancy Staub Laughlin’s works created with pastel on paper and mounted photographs. The artist has exhibited her work around the country.

By Anne Levin

Nancy Staub Laughlin’s artwork is a combination of elements. Photographs of landscapes in different seasons might be mixed with things that sparkle and glow. The Skillman-based artist has exhibited these assemblages at galleries and museums in New Jersey and beyond. Next spring, she is scheduled to have a show at New York City’s Carter Burden Gallery.

“I describe them as still lifes, almost, but more,” she said of her work. “I incorporate the landscape. I look at it almost like a mathematical equation. I love sparkle. I’m totally obsessed by it. I’m putting together two opposites that, together, become one. It’s how I see the world.”

Laughlin has known since seventh grade that art was her calling. One of six children, she grew up in Connecticut and came to Princeton to work in the atelier of Seward Johnson after graduating as a sculpture major from Philadelphia’s Moore College of Art.

“I think I was actually the first apprentice to theoretically graduate,” she said of Johnson’s program, then located at an old schoolhouse on Alexander Road (the Johnson Atelier is now in Hamilton). Working for Johnson during the day and waitressing at The Annex restaurant on Nassau Street at night, she was able to make a living.

Through her brother, the late author, actor, playwright, and gardener Jack Staub, Laughlin connected with a New York gallery. She has since balanced her artwork with garden design, needlepoint, and raising a family.  The artwork, she said, is her career; the garden design is her passion.

“We live on a farm. I got really into the gardening because I’m an outdoors person, and my brother was very involved in it,” Laughlin said. “It just became the perfect thing to do. With a creative eye, you really see things differently. I can just see it. I have been hired for jobs where they have gone through the landscape designers around here and they don’t like the design. So I get hired. I haven’t had an unhappy customer yet, unless something dies, and that’s not my fault.”

Her artwork has grown, but always retains her perspective. Adding photographs to her pastel drawings was a major step. “I’m very true to what I want to portray, but I also change a little bit,” she said. “People say I’m consistent in my vision, and one can always recognize my signature style no matter how much I’ve changed or grown.”

Laughlin is hoping the pandemic will have eased in time for her spring show at the Carter Burden Gallery, where she has exhibited in the past. Her additional New York credits include the Newhouse Gallery and Noho Gallery. In New Jersey, she had a one-person show at the New Jersey State Museum and has been exhibited at the Noyes Museum, Prudential Corporate Gallery, Bristol Myers Squibb, and Johnson & Johnson headquarters.

“I’m very passionate about what I do,” she said. “I’m a total creative person, not just focused on this [artwork]. Whatever you put in front of me, I will turn it into something creative and do it really well.”