Artist Spotlight: Nancy Edell

Have you ever wondered how artists are able to incorporate symbolic meaning into their work without it being too noticeable? Nancy Edell had a knack for expressing her feelings and personalities through her work. Born in Omaha, Nebraska On November 12, 1942 Edell moved to Nova Scotia in 1980 where she became a part time teacher at NSCAD  (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design) University in Halifax. She was a multi-talented artist who worked in animation, drawing, printmaking, painting, and rug-hooking (n.d.). She is widely known for her rug hooking, which she began in Nova Scotia in response to its popularity as a folk art (n.d)

In her 1991 exhibition at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia she introduced the theme “Art Nuns”, which occupied her artistic career for most of the 1990s. Art Nuns satire the notion of art replacing religion as the source of spirituality in a secular age. During the same time-frame, Edell’s work became unconventional self-portraiture, using references to personal and universal attributes and replacing accurate versions of herself with avatars and representations of aspects of her personality. During this time Edell also focused on woodcuts, mono-types and drawings (n.d.).

Edell’s work has been included in numerous national and international exhibitions, including the touring exhibition Art Nuns organized by the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. She has numerous works in public collections, including those of the National Gallery of Canada, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, and the Acadia University Art Gallery (n.d.).

Edell passed away in Halifax on June 9th, 2005 (n.d.). The following work by Nancy Edell is entitled “Raven Act II”, and is currently displayed in our exhibition “The Boundless and the Framed”.

Nancy Edell, Raven Act II.jpg

Ravens are among the smartest of all birds and have thrived among humans for centuries.  They can be found over most of the Northern Hemisphere in almost all habitats, including coniferous forests, deciduous forests, beaches, mountains, desert, grasslands, agricultural fields, and the tundra. Ravens will eat almost anything they can get a hold of, including eggs, berries, grains, many types of human food, and animals from the smallest of mice up to adult Rock Pigeons and nesting Great Blue Herons.  Ravens are most often seen alone or in year-round pairs. Male Ravens help very little with building nests by collecting some sticks, and the females do the rest – the female nests for 28-50 days. Ravens build their nests on cliffs, in trees, and on structures like power-line towers, billboards, and bridges (2015).

Stories of the raven have been discovered in the Bering Strait as far south as South America. It is believed that the raven, with the help of the ptarmigan, opened the divide between two worlds, admitting light to a formerly lightless cosmos. The raven is rarely depicted and used in lore by the people of Western Alaska because of their untrustworthy and trickster behaviors.  The raven is one of the most important deities of the Northwest Coast, and is a trickster and culture hero – creation stories in this area recount how Raven disguised himself to enter the house of Sky Chief to steal the sun, moon, and stars, which he gave to humankind to illuminate the dark world and warm their hearths. In creation myths, the raven was central to the emergence and success of human beings, as he often acquired material goods and fish, and stole the idea of a house from the beaver; he was also in charge of death. Raven was also the attribute of the Norse God Odin whose two birds, Hugin (mind and thought) and Munin (memory) oversaw all that occurred on earth and reported back to the god (2004).

If you have any comments, join the conversation below!


Alexandra Pulchny (Collections and Outreach Assistant, Summer 2017).


Works cited:

Ball, Katherine M. Animal Motifs in Asian Art: An Illustrated Guide to their Meanings and Aesthetics. Minnesota, New York: Dover Publications, 2004.


Cornell University. “The Common Raven”. All About Birds. 2015. The Cornell Lab of



“Nancy Edell”. Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. N.d. Retrieved on June 22nd, 2017.


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