Unlocking: A Memoir of Family and Art

Unlocking: A Memoir of Family and Art

by Nancy L. Pressly
Unlocking: A Memoir of Family and Art

Unlocking: A Memoir of Family and Art

by Nancy L. Pressly


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While recovering from a near fatal illness, Nancy Pressly discovers a treasure trove of family material stored in her attic. Haunted by images of her grandparents and her parents in their youth, she sets out to create a family narrative before it is lost forever. It takes several more years before she summons the courage to reconstitute a path back to her own past, slowly pulling back the veil of amnesia that has, until now, all but obliterated her memory of her childhood.

In this sensitive and forgiving meditation on the meaning of family, Pressly unravels family dynamics and life in a small rural town in the 1950s that so profoundly affected her—then moves forward in time, through to her adulthood. With an eye attuned to visual detail, she relates how she came into her own as a graduate student in the tumultuous sixties in New York; examines how she assumed the role of caretaker for her family as she negotiated with courage and resilience the many health setbacks, including her own battle with pancreatic cancer, that she and her husband encountered; and evokes her interior struggle as a mother as she slowly traverses the barriers of expectations, self-doubt, and evolving norms in the 1980s to embrace a remarkable life as a scholar, champion of contemporary art, and nationally recognized art museum strategic planning consultant. Full of candor and art-inspired insight, Unlocking leaves the reader with a deep appreciation of the power of art and empathy and the value of trying to understand one’s life journey.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781631528620
Publisher: She Writes Press
Publication date: 05/05/2020
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Nancy L. Pressly, a graduate of Goucher College, received her master’s degree in Art History from Columbia University. She began her career at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and subsequently held curatorial positions at the Yale Center for British Art and the San Antonio Museum of Art, where she organized several important exhibitions, most notably the acclaimed Fuseli Circle in Rome: Early Romantic Art of the 1770s. In 1984 she became Assistant Director of the Museum Program at the National Endowment for the Artsin 1992 was a visiting Senior Fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts; and in 1993 she founded Nancy L. Pressly & Associates, a nationally recognized consulting firm specializing in strategic planning for art museums. She has authored numerous publications, most recently a a book titled Settling the South Carolina Backcountry. She and her husband live in Atlanta, Georgia, close to their son and two grandchildren.

Table of Contents

Part 1 The Power of the Image to Unlock Memories

1 Opening Doors to the Past 3

2 A Sense of Place 19

3 Enticing Aromas and Family Dynamics 31

4 My First Love and a Traumatic Rupture 45

5 I Am My Father's Daughter 54

Part 2 The Gift of "Seeing" - A Life in Art

6 On My Own Terms: New York, the Critical Years 65

7 A British Residency 78

8 Veering Wildly Off Course 84

9 Life on Lincoln Street: Motherhood and Scholarship 92

10 Wearing My Heart on My Sleeve 98

11 Competing Selves 105

12 Changing as a Woman 116

13 Nesting and Leadership 122

14 Nurturing the Soul 130

15 Owning a Career and Making a Difference 141

Photo Insert 153

Photo Insert Credits 161

Part 3 Enduring Hearts

Prologue 165

16 A Lonely Journey 167

17 Becoming Meema 183

18 Epiphanies 197

Acknowledgments 205

About the Author 207

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