It was a hot summer day when I visited Nadia Korths's charming home, tucked into a Saranac Lake backstreet and surrounded by a profusion of wildflowers. Golden, black-eyed Susans, pristine daisies, blue chicory and elegant Queen Anne's lace all nodded a welcome, happy to have escaped the fate of neighboring lawn mowers.
Scattered throughout this lovely "fieldlet" were age-enhanced sculptures, artfully constructed from casually discarded steel springs, wheels, car parts and engine cadavers. This garden of the "rescued" was an appropriate introduction to meeting an artist who has an eye for seeing new ways to use readily available articles, which would otherwise be destined for sadly overloaded landfills.
Not only does she use found objects to create an art-enriched environment, but in a similar manner, she helps others find their own creative spirits, using them to further enrich their lives.
(Photo — Caperton Tissot)
Nadia, born in Montreal, moved with her family to Beekmantown in the late 1960s. Her father, originally from Latvia by way of Switzerland (where he met and married Nadia's mother), had always wanted to move to America.
Hired as a researcher at Chazy's Wyeth-Ayerest (pharmaceutical) Company, he was finally able to make the move when Nadia was just 13.
"My youth was idyllic," she said.
When not in school, she and her sisters and brothers were free to explore the surrounding woods, ponds and streams. Summers were spent building rafts, paddling and swimming. Her love of nature, so evident in her artwork, dates back to those happy days of childhood.
After high school, she continued her education at SUNY Plattsburgh, graduating in 1981 with a degree in anthropology. Inspired by her interest in family, she moved to Switzerland where she lived with her maternal grandmother for a year, and became better acquainted with her European cousins. Since then, she has continued to stay in close contact.
In 1982, upon returning to America, Nadia drifted from one job to the next until, in the late '80s, she met Peter Dupree. Together, they decided it was time to settle down and get serious.
They bought their present house, built in 1913, and remodeled it bit by bit over the next 25 years. Peter, "has an eye for bringing out the original structure and bones of a house," Nadia said, "and did a beautiful job of restoration." While he began developing his construction business, Nadia worked at cleaning houses. One day, one of her clients suggested she apply at the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. The chamber needed someone to do data entry. Nadia took the job, staying from 1987 until 1991. Because it was a small organization, she soon found herself taking on a myriad of tasks, including that of events manager.
This eventually led to her subcontracting with Adirondack North Country Associates to manage its Crafts Marketing Program, part of which involves running the annual Buyers' Day Regional Gift Trade Show held in Saratoga Springs and now entering its 25th year. With a reputation for quality and reliability, this show is comprised of 60 craftspeople selling their works to more than 120 regional shops.
In addition to running the show, Nadia leads workshops to assist North Country craftspeople to set up wholesale accounts and market their websites. In this way, she has been able to help hundreds of individuals over the last 14 years.
Four years ago, her work expanded to include a part-time position in the Women's' Entrepreneurial Business Center at ComLinks, a community action agency. Once a week she meets with individual business owners to help them with marketing.
For the last 10 years, Nadia has also been organizing the monthly art shows which hang in the Cantwell Community Room at the Saranac Lake Free Library.
Sufficient income from her employment now allows Nadia to devote time to her true love (beside Peter), which is her art work.
Her mixed-media pieces are made from recycled materials. Across the top of a white wall in her small studio hang a variety of delightful and varied masks made from catalytic converters. Buttons, insulation and rope add the facial features. Textured white paper oblongs descend vertically in another space, each holding deep contrasting designs within. She has been a life-drawing model for more than 30 years, and two of those drawings are displayed, one when she was young, the other made more recently.
Hanging by the far corner is a set of mixed-media pieces. Nadia explains that she made them on 9/11. When finished, she turned on the radio to hear that the twin towers had fallen. These two works portray vertical dark columns with chips of mica set in the centers. They look like melting towers. They are each surrounded by an inner border of smoky gray textured paper and brown smoldering matting. Quite amazing.
Not only is her work comprised of recycled materials, but her tools are as well. Stacks of old Styrofoam meat trays, plastic stripping, bits of fabric and wood scraps are all things she uses to create abstract nature-oriented prints. Nadia will make a series of these until one suddenly strikes her as just right. For instance, a lovely image of tree branches with a tiny moon shining above was the result of just such a process.
"Basing my work on found materials lends itself to improvisation and helps me keep the style loose and flowing," she says. She plans to exhibit her work at the 1964 Cafe in Montreal in the near future. The cafe owner's love of jazz improvisation goes well with her similar approach to art. Most of her work is sold through her website, www.NadiaKorths.com.
"Finally," Nadia said, "My time is ideally balanced. I am able to spend a day a week with my parents, two days a week helping others to market their products, two days in my studio and two days enjoying the outdoor life with Peter, kayaking, sailing, and walking."