Nastassja painting "The Awakener" - the wind that rises at dawn. Photo by Brian Thompson, 2022.

Artist Statement

Nastassja Noell (she/they) is a lichenologist who struggles to stay within the fenced pastures of science. As a biologist, painter, and writer, her work grapples with the collapse of ecosystems and the reality of living on stolen indigenous lands, and seeks to co-create futures that reconnect and heal.

Her practice involves wandering and connecting with a landscape, the habitats therein, and the varied lichens living there. As she connects with the ecological stories that lichen biodiversity patterns share (lichen species are like words on a page), she explore through drawings, paintings, and prose the varied expressions and ecological teachings that move through her. Her philosophy is that our imaginations are like unique musical instruments, instruments that are played by our surroundings and our experiences (albeit with our own unconscious filters). When she is in a particular location, she widens her imagination and lets it be played by the ecosystems, weather, lichens and other beings in a landscape, cultivating the relationship through art, prose, and movement.

Her creative writing and artwork have been published by the Dark Mountain Project and other venues; her flash fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize; and she is a recipient of the United Plant Savers’ Deep Ecology Artists Fellowship. She has led lichen biodiversity research projects throughout the Americas, co-authored the book Delmarva Lichens (Torrey Botanical Press), and her science writing has appeared in scientific journals as well as Radical Mycology, Patagon Journal, and NW Travel (see links to her publications here). Nastassja lives in the Southern Appalachians on the ancestral lands of the An-igiduwagi (Cherokee) People.

Art Portfolio

There are many ways to present one’s art. What follows is a reversed chronological flash presentation of my creative processes and personal evolution.

East: 2018 - Current

The forest is your teacher. Sabbatical from lichens. Painting. Forest mandalas. Spring offerings each full and new moon. Hiking. Wandering. Exploring. Creative writing. Stories. Compassionate communication practice circles. Air pollution data analyses. Work for earth skills school, Firefly Gathering. More strong women standing near me. Gardens actually grow this time. Soil building. Winter garden. Food from beneath the snow.

West: 2006-2018

Limbo and near paralysis. Friends too, its not just me. Freight train escape. Southern Appalachians. Forage wild plants. Dumpster food. Banned from a National Forest for living in one place for too long. Go west. Northern Rockies. No electricity, no plumbing, tall forest, abundance. Thin soil. Plants not growing. Run out of money. Back to school. Integrate into world, can’t escape. Study lichens. Channeled Scablands. Argentina. Sub-Antarctic. Great Basin Desert. Alpine. Emotional and physical and mental bodies out of alignment. Illness. Alternative healing. Contemporary Mysticism. Tibetan Buddhism. Animism. Painting. Block printing. Drawing. Strong women standing near me.

North: Early years

Put your hand down, no more about paradigms, says the highschool history teacher. Here’s a sculpture to show what I mean. Some get it then. Cognitive Science for university. Something is missing in our consciousness. I will help find it. Year 2000 elections. Protests. 1st political science class. Not boring. Politicized. Its the stories that are missing in our cognition – its not our brains. Its the input, not the processes. Become a journalist. Do the school. Study political science instead of writing. Anyone can write. Its the context that’s most important. And the context is big. Its heavy. Its rickety. Its thousands of years old. Its blowback blowing back and back again. Its too much. Draw it. Exploitation everywhere. Draw it. Its within me, I can’t stop it. Draw it. Drop out of university. Limbo. Lost. And then the magic begins.