Vernita Nemec

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Vernita Nemec (born 1942 in Painesville, Ohio), also known by the performance name Vernita N'Cognita, is a visual and performance artist, curator, and arts activist based in New York City. She earned her BFA at Ohio University in 1964 and has resided in New York City since 1965.[1] She is also known for her soft stuffed sculpture,[2] collages,[3][4] artist's books,[5] photographs, and installations.[6][7][8] Nemec adopted the pseudonym "N'Cognita," a pun on incognito, as a way to honor artists who have not become well-known.[6]

Early work[edit]

Nemec began her multifaceted career in art making, curating, and arts activism in 1969, at MUSEUM: A Project for Living Artists.[9] That year, with Carolyn Mazzello,[10] she originated and contributed to X-12, one of the first exhibitions to feature only women artists.[11][10][12] In the early 1970s, she was a member of Art Workers Coalition and Women Artists in Revolution (WAR), along with Nancy Spero, Leon Golub, Cindy Nemser, and Lucy Lippard. She also wrote for the feminist art periodical, Womanart.[13] Nemec worked with other arts activist groups, including Art Against Apartheid and Political Art Documentation Distribution (PAD/D).[14]

Nemec became an artist-member of SOHO 20 Gallery in 1975.[15] For her second solo show at SOHO 20, Nemec painted the gallery’s 50-foot wall orange and covered it with orange paper, pencil and xerox self-portraits, stuffed dolls with her own face, and fabric silhouettes, as “a recording of the artist’s life (real or imaginary) and an exercise in self-searching."[16]

In 1978, Nemec, Barnaby Ruhe, and Bill Rabinovitch organized the Whitney Counterweight, an exhibition that protested the elitism of the Whitney Biennial. As she explained to Grace Glueck of the New York Times, "We've felt from the beginning that the idea of the Whitney Biennial as an overview of American art was a very limited concept."[17]

Later work[edit]

In subsequent years, Nemec shifted her activism to helping artists. From 1989 to 1999, she was President and part-time Executive Director of Artists Talk On Art.[18] In 1999, she became the part-time director of Viridian Artists,[1] an artist-owned gallery in the Chelsea district of New York City. From 1994 to 2011, she organized 19 exhibitions of Art from Detritus around the United States; they consisted of environmental art made from recycled materials.[19][20][21][22][23][4][24] Nemec's own visual art includes detritus works, for which she has been labeled an "environmental artist".

Nemec's performance work began with film backgrounds for the experimental filmmaker Phill Niblock.[25][26] Her performances include audio projects for Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine, work with Linda Montano,[27] gallery appearances,[28][29] guerrilla performances,[6] and appearances in large venues, such as Judson Church, as part of a series of programs curated by Movement Research.[30][31][32]

Nemec was the last woman painted by the feminist artist Sylvia Sleigh in a series of 36-inch portraits, completed between 1976 and 2007, which feature women artists and writers.[33]


  1. ^ a b Viridian Artists: Staff. Retrieved 09/03/2014
  2. ^ New York Magazine 6, no. 9 (February 26, 1973): 24.
  3. ^ "Vernita Nemec's Endless Junkmail Scroll," Artdaily, 30 May 2006. Retrieved 09/02/2014.
  4. ^ a b Stephanie Rose Bird, "Artists at Detritus Feature Salvaged Materials," Mother Earth Living, January/February 2003. Retrieved 09/02/2014.
  5. ^ Joan Flasch Artists' Book Collection. Retrieved 09/02/2014.
  6. ^ a b c Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: Feminist Art Base: Vernita E Nemec AKA N'Cognita. Retrieved 09/02/2014
  7. ^ The Woman's Building: Digital Image Archive. Retrieved 09/03/2014.
  8. ^ Woman's Building Image Archive, Otis College of Art and Design. Retrieved 09/03/2014
  9. ^ Jeff Ault, ed., Alternative Art, New York, 1965-1985: A Cultural Politics Book for the Social Text Collective (University of Minnesota Press, 2002), 21.
  10. ^ a b Feminists Who Changed America, 1963–1975 (University of Illinois Press, 2006), 304 and 334
  11. ^ "The Pioneer Feminist Art Exhibition". Retrieved September 2, 2014. 
  12. ^ Vernita Nemec, "X-12," Womanart 1, no. 1 (Summer 1976): 4–7.
  13. ^ Susan Bee and Mira Schor, "Feminist Art: A Reassessment", M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online #4, Feminist Forum (2007). Retrieved 09/02/2014.
  14. ^ "Upfront - PAD/D (complete set)". Retrieved September 2, 2014. 
  15. ^ Ellen Lubell, “SoHo 20,” Womanart 1, no. 1 (Summer 1977): 16.
  16. ^ Jill Dunbar, “Vernita Nemec,” Womanart 2, no. 2 (Winter 1977–78): 34.
  17. ^ Grace Glueck, "Art People," New York Times, February 13, 1981. Retrieved 09/02/2014.
  18. ^ "Artists Talk on Art, February 2010". Retrieved September 3, 2014. 
  19. ^ Tequila Minsky, "The art of recycled trash: Appealing pieces with a political point, Downtown Express. Retrieved 09/02/2014.
  20. ^ "16h Anniversary of Art from Detritus: Recycling with Imagination," Turners Falls Riverculture. Archived September 3, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 09/02/2014.
  21. ^ "Vernita Nemec," Women Environmental Artists Directory (WEAD). Retrieved 09/02/2014.
  22. ^ Kathleen Hendrick, "Art from Detritus Photos." Retrieved 09/02/2014.
  23. ^ "Call for Art from Recycled Materials," Bay Area Art Grind. Retrieved 10 September 2018.
  24. ^ Art from Detritus: Upcycling with Imagination, April 23-May 29, 2011, Williamsburg Art & Historical Center. Retrieved 09/02/2014.
  25. ^ "Artpool events, 4 March 1993," Artpool Archive. Retrieved 09/02/2014.
  26. ^ "Preliminary Inventory of High Performance Magazine Records, 1953-2005," Online Archive of California. Retrieved 09/02/2014.
  27. ^ "Linda Mary Montano's : Another 21 Years of Living Art: 1998-2019." Retrieved 09/02/2014.
  28. ^ "Vernita N'Cognita presents a new performance artwork," SOHO20 Chelsea Gallery. Retrieved 09/02/2014.
  29. ^ "A Butoh Moment @ Ceres Gallery + Ulf Puder unearthed (February 28, 2011)". Retrieved September 2, 2014. 
  30. ^ "Vernita N'Cognita Movement Research at the Judson Church 1-6-14". Retrieved September 2, 2014. 
  31. ^ "Movement Research, Schedule, Spring 2009". Retrieved September 2, 2014. 
  32. ^ "Movement Research at the Judson Church, January 6, 2014". Retrieved September 2, 2014. 
  33. ^ Andrew D. Hottle, "Sylvia Sleigh," in Women's Caucus for Art: Honor Awards for Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts, 2011 (Women's Caucus for Art, 2011), 26. Retrieved 09/02/2014.

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