College of Environmental Design alumna Nance O’Banion (AB Design 1971, MA Design 1973) passed away on March 31. An artist of international renown with works in collections around the world, O’Banion was a professor at the California College of the Arts for over 40 years. Her Oakland studio was not only a place to create her own art, but also a salon of ideas and dialogue and collaboration.
At CCA, O’Banion taught innovative programs in the fine arts with a focus on printmaking, textiles, papermaking, and book arts. She led courses within the individualized major and graduate programs which, like the arc of her own work, transcended disciplines and media. During her tenure she served as chair of the printmaking department and president of the faculty senate, as well as being a mentor to individual faculty members. O’Banion was the recipient of two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts over the course of her career.
O’Banion’s artworks ranged from large, public sculptures to unique limited-edition books to drawn or painted tablets. Her work has been featured in solo and curated shows in major galleries and museums around the world, ranging from the San Francisco MOMA to the Renwick to the Louvre. O’Banion’s works live on in the collections of over two dozen museums and institutions, including: the Museum of Art and Design in New York, Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Oakland Museum of California, Museum Bellerive in Zurich, and many others.
Over the last two decades her work underwent a striking transformation, both in scale, from the grand to the intimate, and in content, from the abstract to the symbolic. This was due in part to neurological changes and their resulting perceptual insights, but also to a growing desire to communicate a more intensely personal vision in her work. Yet this work, although deliberately introspective and reflective of her own dreaming and waking life, is at the same time universal: many viewers encounter images that strike a deep archetypal chord, and resonate with their own experiences.
O'Banion left a beautiful legacy in the art she created, the many students she inspired and mentored, the community of artists she nurtured and energized, and the joyous and generous way she lived her life and shared her gift.