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Artist lives and draws with keen sense of humor

Nancy Gantert, 91, uses a magnifier to do a crossword puzzle. Up to six years ago, she used a similar closed-circuit magnifier to create drawings.
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Editor’s note: Sometimes visual art is overlooked during the plethora of theater, music and performance art events happening weekly in Nevada County.

Since many area performers traditionally take a few days off the next few days, this is the perfect time to discover gems created by local artists. Many of these artists could be your next-door neighbors, gym mates or co-workers.

Wherever you are in Western Nevada County, you don’t have to travel far at all to view works displayed year-round, whether in a



nearby coffee shop, cultural center, city hall or barbershop.

Discovering new art is like being on a treasure hunt.




To start you on your way, check out Nancy Gantert’s art exhibit

featured through January at the Flour Garden Bakery on Sutton Way. Her story is below. Then check out the art listings starting on page 10.

Happy exploring!

Nancy Gantert drew and painted constantly for work since the late 1930s and every day for fun since the 1970s. Only in the past six years has she given up this pastime, not by choice but because of failing eyesight.

“When the doctor told me I was legally blind, I told him I’m glad it wasn’t illegal,” quipped the 91-year-old Eskaton Village resident.

While her eyesight has diminished, one trait has definitely remained constant- Gantert’s sharp sense of humor.

That’s evident whether in the Christmas cards she sends out (this year’s card features her wearing antlers) or when she wears Harpo Marx glasses to surprise residents in the Eskaton dining room.

Gantert moved from Lake Wildwood to Eskaton just this June and already, she has charmed the residents.

“She’s a really fine lady. It’s really easy to talk to her, she always wants to show us things. Every day she keeps us laughing,” said Eskaton Village caretaker Betty Pozos.

Even when her eyesight was deteriorating in the early 1990s, Gantert refused to give up her drawing. She painstakingly created portraitures by using a closed-circuit magnifier which enlarged the pen marks up to 50 times or more.

Today, her drawing days are over but she still uses the magnifier to do crossword puzzles (not from the New York Times but easier ones, she chuckles) and to write in longhand in both her diary and her autobiography. The latter she’s writing because her grandson wants to know all about her life.

Art will be a dominant theme in her autobiography.

That’s because next to reading, art has been her favorite entertainment. Her apartment walls are adorned with her paintings; she has stacks of drawings in her closet.

She has been artistic since childhood.

As a 17-year-old high school student in Jerome, Ariz., she won a statewide poster contest. Gantert then took art classes at the University of Arizona until the Great Depression hit her hard and she had to quit school. That didn’t prevent Gantert, however, from creating art.

She used art as a tool at work from the 1930s through the 1960s, in positions which included working as a newspaper editor, as a publicist writing stories and doing a weekly radio show for nonprofit Community Chest and preparing ads (drawing the artwork, writing copy and doing layout) in a print shop.

Retiring in 1970, Gantert dabbled in many disciplines by taking pastel, oil, acrylics, watercolor, ceramics, mosaic, copper enamel, batik and collage classes at El Camino College. She finally chose portraits as her favorite discipline.

After moving from Redondo Beach to Penn Valley in 1988, Gantert threw her energies into the Wildwood Art Club. She wrote and illustrated the club bulletin, “Easel Fax,” and submitted cartoons to “The Wildwood Independent” every month until her declining eyesight made drawing impossible.

Twenty-two self-portraits Gantert created 35 years ago in a life drawing class are displayed through this month at Flour Garden Bakery off Sutton Way in Grass Valley.

“People want to know if these self-portraits are for sale. People think they’re really creative. Nancy’s just adorable. We rarely have someone of her age having a show,” said office manager and art exhibit coordinator Yvon Dockter.

Gantert’s just tickled to be the solo artist at Flour Garden; it was a huge compliment when someone wanted to buy one of her portraits.

“I’ve sold plenty of artwork all my life. But this type of thing, my own portrait, I didn’t think anyone would want to buy it. I’m very pleased, thrilled and happy,” said Gantert, who credits her son Lawrence Beale Flood with organizing and hanging her exhibit last month.

Flood, a retired U.S. diplomat, is also an artist who had his first solo exhibit of computer-generated art, “Faces,” a year ago at Flour Garden.

“Since I’m aged to say the least,” remarked Gantert, who exercises every day, whether it’s doing isolation exercises in her living room chair or walking around her beloved residence, “and my vision and hearing are poor, if I’m in a crowd of people, I feel I’m out of the loop, out of print.”

Judging from Gantert’s exhibit at Flour Garden, however, that’s not the case.

And whatever Gantert might say about being out of the loop, she’s eager to go back to see her exhibit at Flour Garden.

“I’m surprised it looks so good,” Gantert said with a hearty laugh and wink.


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