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Six Degrees of Separation from Elton John: AIU Associate Professor Nancy Blair’s Link to Fame

Image: AIU Associate Professor Nancy Blair’s Glass Sculpture, Ponytails

By Christina Bowers

American InterContinental University Associate Professor Nancy Blair has many accomplishments—from her artwork exhibited across the world to her books receiving critical acclaim. One of her favorite accomplishments, however, is being able to say that Sir Elton John purchased her blue glass sculpture, “Ponytails” for his personal art collection.

Blair has taught visual communication courses for AIU Online’s Bachelor of Fine Arts program as well as general education courses since 2004 and is excited to share this news.

“Elton John is an avid glass collector, and the gallery that sponsors me (Traver Gallery in Seattle, WA) knows that he looks at artists’ works,” Blair says. “They contacted him, and he really loved the blue piece Ponytails!”

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Blair happened to be surrounded by silence, touring a museum when she heard the news. “I couldn’t jump up and down for joy! I had to wait until I was out of the museum to kick up my heels… Now when people look at my work, I say, ‘I’m six degrees of separation from Elton John,’ I love having that connection.”

Blair’s art centers on narrative sculpture and mixed media works including glass, ceramics, and found objects. Her fascination with myth and ancient art informs her work. “I like that my art tells a story. My pieces refer to either something going on in my life or a story that others can relate to. The 18 pieces in the show that Elton John looked at are all little creatures. Each of them is humorous, has a story to tell, and is even a little mysterious.”

Having come from an artistic family, Blair says, “The drive to be creative is in my genes. My father was an artist and I would sit and watch him. It always seemed like magic to me that he could start with a blank page and paint great images. I had a strong feeling about creating something from nothing.”

Blair’s list of accomplishments reflects her desire to be creative. Her vast resume includes 16 fellowships/grants/commissions/residencies, 10 solo exhibitions, work in 6 permanent collections, and over 70 group shows. She has been commissioned by Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, The Franklin Mint, the Women’s National Education Association, and The United States Olympic Equestrian Museum. She is also proud to be the recent recipient of the prestigious Hauberg Fellowship at Pilchuck Glass School.

“As an artist, I have to keep participating,” Blair says. “People tell me I’m lucky, and I say, ‘Luck happens when hard work meets opportunity.’ I have to credit my success to commitment, dedication, never giving up, moving forward, trying new things, and pushing the envelope.”

From her home in Florida, Blair encourages her students to do the same. “I guide students to go where their talents lead them and push them out of their comfort zones. I love teaching and watching them light up when they look at their work. It’s rewarding to think I’ve touched so many students.”

Beyond sculpting, Blair is also a published author. Her most recent book, a snarky memoir titled, “Thank You, Your Opinion Means Nothing to Me,” is her fifth published book. Blair also loves photography, swimming in the ocean, and going to Zumba classes throughout the week. In the end though, her art is her true passion.

“When I’m in a creative space, I feel like a conduit for a larger voice in the world. When I create something, I create another part of me. It helps me better understand who I am each time,” Blair says. “I’m just doing what I love to do the best.”