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Nancy Bien

Painter

My name is Nancy Bien. I am a California artist and a cello player.

My life as a painter began in music. For all of my adult life, I’ve made a living as a cellist — working my way through college to an MA in performance, followed by a few years playing in a symphony on the east coast, finally coming home to California. I have been an active freelance musician in the San Francisco Bay Area for many years.

Through all the years of music study and performing, all of my life really, I spent hours drawing all kinds of invented characters. It was a meditative and personal practice that helped to balance out the intense demands of music study, and was a balm to the stresses of on-stage professional life. I always longed for opportunity and time to do more of it. When my youngest son began school, I finally had the chance. I signed up for a drawing class. A spark was lit, and it flared… A few years later I took a painting class. That class changed my life forever.

Over time, I leaned more deeply into the refuge I’d found in painting. As my paintings became more personal, doing this work became more essential to me. I gravitated to painting female figures that have come to represent an ongoing narrative about being a woman with strength, vibrance, and presence in the world. Each one of these figures has taught me more about making paintings, and more about myself.