Wednesday, January 16, 2019     Volume: 19, Issue: 45

Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on May 16th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 11 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 19, Issue 11

Nancy Yaki's latest exhibit at Elverhoj features scenes from the artist's travels


At the moment, Nancy Yaki is at a loss for words.

Standing outside the Elverhoj Museum of History and Art in Solvang, the acclaimed artist, usually quite chatty and effervescent about her work, is rather speechless at the work being undertaken for her new exhibit. As she watches museum staff carefully unload her canvases in the meticulous process of hanging and prepping her show, The Roadside Series, Yaki is more eager to commend their efforts than wax poetic about her artistic endeavors.

After 27 years of living in Alaska, artist Nancy Yaki moved to the Central Coast. “This series began with small watercolor studies of the landscapes I observed during my daily commute,” Yaki said.

"Walking in and seeing what they do with your work is jaw dropping," she told the Sun. "In the studio it's work—there's a tight schedule and you have to be disciplined. You're in the zone the whole time. You're not really stepping back and looking at what you're doing."

But stepping into the exhibit, which runs at the Elverhoj through Aug. 12, is a jaw-dropping moment, as she described it. Across the walls hang dozens of Yaki's vibrant landscape paintings, an accumulation of the artist's lifetime love affair with the elemental aspects of the natural world.

To hear her tell it, it's just another story of a young woman fresh out of art school who happened to wander her way onto a boat to Alaska, where she began her intimate study of landscapes. Working as an artisanal carpenter and commercial fisherman helped fund her life living on land in Homer, Alaska. It's a place practically untouched by human hands, she said.

Solvang’s Elverhøj Museum of History and Art presents The Roadside Series, a new art exhibition of recent works by local artist and art teacher Nancy Yaki.

Nearly 30 years passed before Yaki decided to make a change, venturing down the Pacific Northwest coastline and eventually landing on the Central Coast. The jarring difference in environment and climate became an inspiration for her.

She said the overall vision for the new exhibit and the pieces featured in it started as moments of inspiration on her commute to where she works as a teacher.

"This series began with small watercolor studies of the landscapes I observed during my daily commute," Yaki said. "Every day it was different and every day it was glorious and every day it was an invitation to step into the landscape and record it."

Yaki said she would leave earlier in the morning to accommodate time for sketching. She would find herself immersed in quiet moments of natural beauty, observing changes in the environment or to the landscape itself.

"The fog and sunrise of the morning and the elongated afternoon and evening light and shadow along the highways were a constant invitation to celebrate the beauty and expansiveness along my route," she said.

Later on, Yaki embarked on a trip to Evergreen, Colorado, to deliver work for a national show she was in. She had decided against mailing the paintings so that she could continue her Roadside Series work. A third trip back to Homer gave her more opportunities to complete sketches and paintings, which would later become part of the Elverhoj exhibit.

Nancy Yaki’s work has been featured on book covers, calendars, and greeting cards.

Yaki tends to enjoy working in smaller scale—some are small as 1 1/2 inches high. She said working in smaller-sized thumbnails has a beneficial purpose to all artists.

"With landscapes it works so nicely because you don't want to put everything in," Yaki explained. "You want to edit what is meaningful to you and what made you stop in the first place."

The artist said one of the other benefits to roadside painting and sketching is it helps remove travelers from the need for constant digital stimulation. She said she worries that with society firmly rooted in technology, something is lost along the way.

"The simple act of movement, which was once such a driving force for adventure and discovery in our country, is being reduced to an experience of GPS, satellite radio, and HD entertainment systems," Yaki said. "It is not only dangerous to each other but to the very survival of the immediate beauty around us as it receives less and less appreciation."

Scenic route
Nancy Yaki’s painting exhibit, The Roadside Series, runs through Aug. 12 at the Elverhoj Museum of History and Art in Solvang. The museum is located at 1624 Elverhoy Way, Solvang. More info: (805) 686-1211.

As for the bustle around the preparation for her exhibits, Yaki still feels somewhat removed, like an awestruck tourist gazing from a car window.

"In my mind, I'm still in the studio," she said. "I'm still just working." 

Arts and Lifestyle Writer Rebecca Rose is always up for a good road trip. Contact her at

Weekly Poll
Should Congress fund President Trump's border wall?

Yes. Our southern border is in crisis!
No. It's a waste of tax money!
We don't need an actual wall. Just beef up border security.
I'm more worried about the Canadian border.

| Poll Results