This is a picture of me at Woolworth’s photo booth, Rock Island, Illinois.

I lived 8 blocks from the Mississippi River. I rode a Schwinn everywhere and hung upside down from a trapeze my dad made.

The most exciting thing in my life was the Royal American Shows Carnival. It came every June, pitching tents and setting up the rides on the Davenport, Iowa Levee. I was introduced to some of the greatest sideshows on Midwest earth.  I saw a giantess on a chaise lounge with her tiny husband as attendant. Once, when I was thirteen, a famous carnival performer named Popeye actually popped his eyes out at me. He said, “This is for you, girlie.”

Maybe I grew a kind of compassion from this that shows up in the paintings.


Mrs. Walters

At Lincoln Elementary School, we had Mrs. Walters.  She was the art and music teacher. She was bigger than the school, more important than the world. When she bellowed out a song, the shades in the classroom rolled up. She always said “Make art big, bold and uneven.”  She is how I discovered  myself.

The Hauberg Civic Center was the cultural mecca of  my kid-hood. I loved playing in the woods and acting in the theater. I was in Two Merchants of Venice when I was ten. Perhaps I was one of the merchants, I can’t remember — But I wore banana curls and got to be in a sword fight.

There were houses in Illinois that hid slaves during the years of the Underground Railroad. I loved drawing Honest Abe’s stove-pipe hat year after year after year.

The Rock Island County Library had marble floors that went click click click when you walked on them. That is where I discovered poetry.

When I was a teen-ager all I cared about was soul music. I loved anything from Memphis, Atlanta, Philly, or Detroit.  I pretended I could sing like Aretha Franklin using a hairbrush as a microphone. 

All this stuff comes out in the paintings in some form.


If you want to read and see the 2007 Tarpaulin Sky issue with the likes of Rebecca Brown, Chris Abani, John Yau, Douglas A. Martin, Brian Evenson, Joanna Howard, Amy Halloran, Laird Hunt, Frances McCue, Camille Dungy, Selah Saterstrom, Suzanne Oliver, and Lucy Corrin, go to  It is an interactive site, so just click on each image or name.


The World Through Story

Group Exhibit 2011

Ida Culver House

Seattle, WA

10 x 10 x 10

Mighty Tieton Exhibition


Centro de las Artes San Augustin, Etla, Oaxaco

10 anos Del Taller Arte Papel Oaxaca:  Exposicion de Papalotes (Ten Year Celebration of the Art Paper Workshop of St. Augustin, Etla  Oaxaca)

Group exhibiton invitation Francisco Toledo

October 2008

Artist and Kite-Maker: Nancy Kiefer and Greg Kono

Traveling Exhibition of Kites through the Drachen Foundation — Montana; Maui;  Oaxaca, Mexico — 2008-2009

What Does Compassion Look Like? (group show) 

Friesen Gallery — Seattle, WA — 2008

Permanent collection, Seattle University Religious Studies Program

Artist-in-Residence Centrum Writer’s Workshop (with Suzanne Lamon)

Fort Worden, WA — 2007

Stream: New Paintings 

Gallery 110 — Seattle — 2005

Woman in Ill-Fitting Wig exhibit and book launch

Richard Hugo House — Seattle — 2005

Body Politics (juried exhibition)

Gallery 110 — Seattle — 2004

Prayers to Take the Husk Off Light

Gallery 110 — Seattle — 2003

Group Show

Gallery 110 — Seattle — 2003

The Convenience Show Group invitational 

Pound Gallery — Seattle — 2002

To Danceland and Back Again

Curated by Susan Platt

Pioneer Square Gallery — Seattle — 2001

Story in Search of an Audience

Curated by Greg Bell

Kittredge Gallery, UPS — Tacoma — 2000

Recent Work by Nancy Kiefer 

Hot Flash of America — Spokane — 1998

This is not a Book: Art of the Book (group show)

Seattle — 1997

Artist-in-Residence Group Show 

The Children’s Museum — Seattle — 1996

Dreams and Visions

Seattle Art Museum Rental/Sales Gallery — 1995

Agents of Change: New Views by Northwest Women

Seattle Trade Center — 1995

Kirkland Annual

Kirkland Fine Arts Center — Kirkland, WA — 1994

Artist-in-Residence Exhibit 

Pratt Fine Arts Center — Seattle — 1994

Nancy Kiefer and Liza Von Rofensteil 

Spokane Falls Community College — 1993


Seattle Art Museum Rental/Sales Gallery — 1993

About Face

Tacoma Art Museum — 1993

Carnival Art  

Seattle Art Museum Rental/Sales Gallery — 1992

Ceremonies and Celebrations

Security Pacific Gallery — Seattle — 1992

Artist Trust Grant Recipient Exhibition

Traveling Exhibit — 1992-1994

Self Portrait 

Bumbershoot — Seattle — 1991

In and Out of the Palouse 

Pritchard Gallery, University of Idaho — Moscow, ID — 1991

The History of Cheerleading

Washington State University Gallery — Pullman, WA — 1990

100 Years of Washington Art: New Perspectives

Tacoma Art Museum — Tacoma, WA — 1989

Us Trying to Pray

Oregon Art Institute, Pacific Northwest College of Art — Portland, OR — 1987

Northwest Juried Art

Cheney Cowles Memorial Museum — Spokane, WA — 1986

Selected Publications


Woman in Ill-Fitting Wig

Paintings by Nancy Kiefer, text by Rebecca Brown

Book published through Brenamen Jaech Foundation Grant in conjunction with Richard Hugo House — 2005

Book Citation: Modernism and Beyond: Women Artists of the Pacific Northwest, p. 157

Edited by Laura Brunsman and Ruth Askey — Midmarch Arts Press — 1993

Magazines & Newspapers


Kite Magazine

Vergessene  Welt


in Oaxaca, Mexiko


Photos and Text by Rainier Hoffman

“New Work in Response to Images by Nancy Kiefer”

Tarpaulin Sky — Spring/Summer 2007 — Guest Edited by Rebecca Brown and Juliana Spallholz

“Interview with Nancy Kiefer and Rebecca Brown”

Tarpaulin Sky — April/May 2005 — Excerpts from Woman in Ill-Fitting Wig by Nancy Kiefer and Rebecca Brown

“Brush and Pen: Area author’s new work offers lyrical replies to airy imager”

The Metro Times (Detroit, MI) — March 27, 2005 — Lynn Crawford

“Hot Ticket” (for Woman in Ill-Fitting Wig book launch and exhibit at Hugo House)

Seattle Times — March 3, 2005

“Drawn in the Dark”

The Stranger — March 3, 2005 — Nate Lippens

“Excerpts from Woman in Ill-Fitting Wig

Cranky Literary Journal — Issue #4, January 2005

"Artist's Out-of-Sync Portraits are Unnerving"

The Seattle Times — June 13, 2003 — Sheila Farr

Seattle Weekly — June 4, 2003 — David Stoesz

“Women’s Art: Between Selling and Changing”

Reflex Magazine — February/March 1995 — C. Gillis

“Agents of Change”

The Stranger — January/February 1995 — G. Burkman

“100 Years of Washington Art”

Northwest Gallery Art Magazine — March/April 1990 — Keneta D. Anderson



Painting and drawing

Washington State University

B.A.  Liberal Arts (Creative Writing and Art)

Washington State University  WSU


I Iove the immediacy in painting. Energy is transmitted from the hand and wrist. Imagine it!  Life, electricity, DNA pouring out of humans onto a surface.

I thought I was going to be a poet early on but I started drawing pictures during poetry workshops instead. In that curious way life turns around on itself, after some twenty years of painting, I find myself writing while I am in my studio. It is interesting to see what kind of collusion these two endeavors create.

I began seriously dreaming in color about 30 years ago. Maybe it was the California hills near Berkeley, the misty greens of Portland, or the wheat colors and undulating hills of the Palouse that lead me to oil paint. In Eastern Washington the landscape seemed eerily lunar, yet erotic, and it called me to create figures just so they could wander in a background of those hills which were so large and curving, resembling the hips of women.

Since moving to Seattle, I’ve become intrigued with washes and the variations of tones. I like to use India ink on the delicate yet strong Japanese papers. In contrast, I’ve noticed that saturated color stands out boldly in misty places. The rain and the dark have certain secrets I want to know. Darkness like a garden at night but also darkness like a blood-red tulip rising from the wet dirt.

My work is not necessarily biographical or narrative. I use color and line to express emotion and gesture, spiritual view, world view, myopic view, politics, love, strife. Sometimes I am just walking backwards from a formal investigation on canvas. Other days there IS a story in there, but half of it is obscured by color. Viewers are intelligent enough to draw their own conclusions. Consider it an invitation.

When I paint, images emerge that are strange, tender, fantastical, coy, beautiful, cute, or idiotic. If they work formally, they start to live in the art piece.

I think it was Dante who might have written, “Art is the grandchild of God.” I can dig that.  Yes, I believe.

Nancy Kiefer

Diva Creativa