All of Nikki McClure's artworks begin with a single sheet of black paper. She cuts and cuts with an X-Acto knife until pictures emerge: lakes, skies, trees, birds, children, shacks. Some images are so delicate they flutter in their frames and barely hold on to the black paper they came from: flowers, blades of grass, an owl's feathers, pine needles.
An exhibit of McClure's work is on show at Mystic Seaport. Regular visitors to the seaport's new Thompson Exhibition building will recognize McClure's handiwork. A 59-feet-wide, 14-feet-tall wall mural of McClure's seascape "Away" is installed over the ticket booth in the lobby of that building.
The name of the exhibit is "Life in Balance," and the subject matter of McClure's work shows exactly that. McClure's subjects are wide-ranging, suggesting a well-rounded existence: her child, her home by the Salish Sea in Washington state, the animals in the woods, boats on the ocean, making things.
Some of her imagery is realistic, as in artworks depicting her son at play and at work. The titles she gives these images inspire contemplation. "Surrender" shows a woman holding a baby. In "Embrace," a boy is enveloped by berry bushes. "Repeat" depicts a boy using woodworking tools. Particularly charming is an image of a boy skulking in the tall grass alongside a wide-eyed fox, as the stars shine overhead. That image is from McClure's book "May the Stars Drip Down."
Copies of that book, and other McClure books and calendars, are available to read in the exhibit hall. Also on view are several sconces McClure made with her husband, a woodworker, which place a warm glow behind McClure's charming cut papers.
Other childlike images are more fantastical, such as "I Thought I Had a Boy, But Really I Had a Baby Sea Otter." "Lunch" shows an unmanned picnic basket under a tree, as a bird circles overhead, leaving one to wonder whose lunch is in the basket. "Release" is an image of a winged predator scooping up a moth. "Escape" takes the exhibit full circle, as it shows a boy looking at a book that resembles one of McClure's own.
LIFE IN BALANCE: THE ART OF NIKKI MCCLURE is at Mystic Seaport, 75 Greenmanville Ave. in Mystic, until Dec. 31. mysticseaport.org.