Paul Nixon Artwww.ArtPal.com/paulnixonart
A native of Ireland stepped into the unknown and, in North Carolina, found an unexpected calling. Paul Nixon is completely self-taught, and though his art ranges from the lighthearted to the deeply reflective, all of his pieces are influenced by his Irish background — and his penchant for storytelling.
In front of Greensboro’s Fire Station 1, on busy North Church Street, three bronze figures are frozen in time. The first figure, a fireman, looks forward with patriotic determination. The second, a small girl with a Band-Aid on her knee, reaches back to hold his hand. And the third, a boy on the fireman’s hip, points to something in the distance. The firefighter’s posture and positioning here, where the constant wail of sirens signals danger in the distance, implies: This man knows uncertainty and fear, but he’s OK. He and his creator, Paul Nixon, have this faith in common. Nixon came to America based on a hunch — some small voice that said: “Leave. Go find yourself.” He grew
up in Clondalkin, outside of Dublin. It broke my heart when I left home, family, and friends 30 years ago,” he says. “Somehow I knew that I had to leave the security of family and friends to achieve that independent dream.” Nixon found himself working in New York in the automobile industry. He met a girl named Francesca; they married and moved to McLeansville, to be near her family in Greensboro.
In 2001, Francesca’s aunt Mary and uncle Raley were in Greensboro for a visit when Uncle Raley noted Nixon’s woodwork — a casual hobby — and offered Nixon an old woodworking lathe. Nixon gave it a try and emerged from the garage carrying a wooden shaft.
Francesca, amazed, suggested he make a walking stick for Aunt Mary. It only took Nixon three and a half hours to grow frustrated and quit. He didn’t have the talent for it, he thought. But later, Francesca asked him about the project. “I told Aunt Mary you were
doing something cool,” she said. “You have to finish it.” So committed, he did. Aunt Mary sobbed when she first held the walking stick. She cried for the surprise of it, a surprise crafted just for her. Nixon remembers this moment as the blessing on the other side — the signal for him to take a risk, like when he left Ireland. To quit his job to make art. At the fire station, the small bronze girl with the small bronze Band-Aid on her knee reaches for the fireman’s hand. But really, Nixon says, she’s leading him forward. She’s inspired by Francesca, who’s served as an encouragement and a guide. Evident here, too, is Nixon’s fascination with Providence, the interplay of the natural and the divine. You can see it in his seemingly whimsical totem poles: Playing with the natural grooves of a tree, Nixon carves fairies, dragons, and other figures from Celtic folklore. And in his other works: in the grandeur of a bronze winged lion at the entrance
of the Grandover Resort. In the comfort of the droopy-eyed terrier statue welcoming patients into Hospice of Greensboro. In the steadiness of the gaze of the soldier bust at Summerfield Veterans Memorial. Nixon’s portfolio is so varied that it’s hard to believe that each piece was created by a single artist. But together, his individual works speak a universal storyline: We have both loved and suffered. They bring into vision our deepest emotions. Like a father hoisting his child onto his hip to see the world better, Nixon gives
us places to process these feelings. You need to stand in front of the fire station to see it — an American flag, some yards toward the parking lot. Though certainly meant to inspire patriotism, the point is the statue’s action. Nixon puts it this way: “Something deep
and powerful is at play, but you have to open yourself to it.” He means looking ahead, with trust, at the future. He means stepping into the unknown when you feel the pull — the kind he followed in leaving Ireland, the kind that led him to gamble on life as an artist, to try at being fully known.(paulnixonart.com)