A painting of four pink-skinned people with shoulder length wavy black hair. Their bodies are staggered. Starting with the person in the left corner, shown in profile, each person turns progressively more to their left until the person on the right faces away from the viewer. Scattered clouds in a light blue sky over a red sea fills the horizon in the background.

Sasha Zirulnik: Young Hearts Run Free

It’s high time now, just one crack at life
Who wants to live in, in trouble and strife
My mind must be free
To learn all I can about me
—Candi Staton, Young Hearts Run Free (1974)

There’s something in the goddam air. The poignant and quietly powerful work of Brooklyn-based artist Sasha Zirulnik, illuminates this moment of personal and societal introspection. The paintings and sculptures on view in Young Hearts Run Free, Zirulnik’s debut exhibition at Nationale, were all made during the pandemic and the current racial justice uprising. Shifting materials and moods, from playful found object sculptures to pensive self-portraits on canvas, reveal the artist’s deep dive into her creative practice as a form of survival. 

Perhaps the best place to feel free is the sea. Each sculpture on view in Young Hearts Run Free incorporates seashells, whether visible or hidden, collected by the artist from the beaches of New York. Zirulnik’s use of seashells, and the process of collecting them, connects her both to the natural world, and to ancient cultures who also found beauty and meaning in gifts from the sea. “I choose to work with seashells because they symbolize life, death, and the natural world in which our ties to nature have become increasingly frayed.” 

Seashells exist in what Zirulnik calls the “liminal” space between land and water. They have an enduring and mythical quality that is reflected in Zirulnik’s work. Her sculpture Venus, with its organic forms and shells for breasts, head, and pubis, could belong in an ancient spiritual site or in a contemporary space. For Dali, the small, playful sculpture with a butterfly face and a delicate body made of shells, plaster, and paper mache has a similar timeless quality. An homage to the surrealist artist who delighted in fantastical scenarios, For Dali feels as if it could scurry away on its three column-like legs at any moment. 

In the sculpture Hard Times in New York Town, one of a series of self-portraits in the exhibition, the artist’s head is shown on its side, a black ringlet, clipped from a former lover, falls down her face. The eyes appear almost hollow, but when you look closely you can see deep set shells. Hidden from the viewer is another shell inside her closed mouth. The title, borrowed from a Bob Dylan song, says it all; feelings of defeat, claustrophobia, and grief permeate. Profile is another self-portrait, but this one is an almost tessellation-like painting of the artist’s profile set against a bright blue sky evoking a sense of hopeful calm. In Young Hearts Run Free, Zirulnik reminds us that when hard times fall, as they inevitably always do, art and nature will save us all. 

Sasha Zirulnik was born and raised in San Francisco, CA. She attended the San Francisco Art Institute and graduated in 2017 with a BFA in sculpture. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She has shown and curated exhibitions in New York and California. Young Hearts Run Free is her first exhibition at Nationale and in Portland, OR. 




nstallation view of two works. One is a delicately woven textile with horizontal blocks of primary and tertiary colors, hanging in the gallery window with light shining through its fibers. The other piece is two high heeled shoes mounted on the wall, made of wire with painted pantyhose stretched around frame.


On view September 24–October 20, 2020
Reception Sunday, October 4 (11:00am–1:00pm) RSVP

Francesca Capone is a visual artist, writer, and materials designer. Her work is primarily concerned with the creation of materials and a poetic consideration of their meaning. She is interested in how tactile forms simultaneously serve as functional surfaces for daily life and as a mode of communication or symbol within the cultural paradigm. Capone has exhibited at Whitechapel Gallery in London, LUMA/Westbau in Switzerland, Textile Arts Center in NYC, and 99¢ Plus Gallery in Brooklyn. She has published several books and has been an artist in residence at the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation and Andrea Zittel’s A-Z West. Her academic work includes lectures and workshops at Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design, Reed College, University of Washington, and Alberta College of Art and Design, among others. She is represented by Nationale (Portland, OR).

About the work presented:
A magical property of textile is its ability to be reconstructed, cut apart and put back together.  Materials have memory: each cut of fabric carries history from a former life. Pushing towards a zero-waste practice, this new series is an effort to utilize personal scrap into visual/tactile objects that create new identities and narratives in their combination.  Their reassembled forms come purely from intuition, there is no precise pattern to their combination, and the process is guided by feeling.

Sofía Clausse was born in Argentina and currently lives in the United Kingdom. She has a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, and is currently doing a postgraduate at the Royal Academy Schools in London. Her practice grows in spirals – exploring questions of repetition, time, and translation, by using painting, paper, text, custom tools and systems.

About the work presented:
The paper tapestry, paper dishcloth, and sketchbook are works exploring Clausse’s current interest in textile objects and techniques. All these pieces use paper as the main material, and parallel lines as a constant gesture. These lines are developed from marks generated by custom-made tools, and as a result of her background and research on letterforms in typography.
Paper Tapestry #2 explores different possibilities of what lines can be and can do; the black lines are like images of threads in woven materials, which combine to create a surface, which when cut becomes dimensional. The tassels are made from leftover scraps of paper used when making the piece. This conscious use and economy of material is also present in Paper Dishcloth, which was made during quarantine and with its limitations, using newsprint as it was an easily available material. By recreating universal, everyday products like these cleaning rags, Clausse reconsiders attention to humble textile objects. They hold a connection to home, yet are so universal in their design, pattern, and form, that they belong everywhere and nowhere. In her sketchbook, also on display, she begins with a simple paper weave in black and white, and then goes through experimentations with color, pattern, and collage, interweaving ideas and testing possibilities for what paper and line could be.

Michelle Yi Martin lives in San Francisco, but actively draws on her Korean immigrant roots in her practice. She is a multi-disciplinary artist and self-taught weaver, who characterizes her work as a conversation between convention, art, utility, adornment, material, light, solidity, and space. Most recently, Yi Martin received a grant by the Danish Arts Council to exhibit her monofilament sculptures in Aarhus, and she completed residencies at the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, Textilsetur, and the Space Program before shelter-in-place. Additionally, she has exhibited at the Textile Center in Iceland and Luggage Gallery in San Francisco. Currently, Yi Martin is developing a series of work dedicated to reiterating woven structures in a series of light projections and reflections for an upcoming installation.

About the work presented:
The large weaving presented in the window of Nationale was created with acrylic light gels, cotton, and wool. It projects a beautiful mosaic of colorful light onto the white gallery walls and is part of a larger body of recent work which translates and reiterates woven structures by way of light, fiber, sound, and movement. Yi Martin compares her creative process to a possible movement with the body, a possible accompaniment to a song, to a dance. It responds to boundaries and to how a weaving may be experienced.

Lane Walkup is a sculptural artist based in Portland, OR, mainly found in her studio welding and bending steel into illustrative shapes. Walkup’s body of work ranges from large scale installations to small wearable forms. She recreates realities for everyday objects by stretching and forming textural materials over metal skeletons.

About the work presented:
The chair and shoes presented in the exhibition are steel sculptures covered by panty hose. Walkup’s process creating these is very organic and includes her visualizing the colors and properties she wants her pieces to have. This intuitive method has informed the materials she has been experimenting with as of late, as well as the color palette she chooses to give each object.



A surreal and fantastical painting depicting a ceremonial scene. Figures in dresses move in procession, holding hands. Above them, a woman's face appears in a window or mirror, her hand touches her face. In the lower right corner another white haired woman peers out from behind bushes. The colors are saturated and lush, and the brushstrokes are loose and evocative.

Anya Roberts-Toney: Summer’s Eve

Summer’s Eve evokes the heat and possibility inherent in a summer night—the sense of being on the cusp of something fiery.” —Anya Roberts-Toney

Fiery crimson skies and women with sparks coming from their eyes burst from the surfaces of Anya Roberts-Toney’s paintings in Summer’s Eve, her inaugural solo exhibition at Nationale. While some works reclaim myths of ill-fated female characters, namely Medusa and Ophelia, others conjure a world where women gather together in ritual, in peace, and in power. Brimming with symbols that have long connoted the feminine—vessels, flowers, water—Roberts-Toney’s paintings entice and delight as they invoke a new matriarchal world order.

In the painting Hold Still, Roberts-Toney rejects the monstrous depictions of Medusa from Greek mythology, and instead offers a powerful and beautiful serpent-headed woman. Hold Still is both a portrait and a still life; a vase with two pink roses seems to meld with the figure’s face, pulling the viewer into an unstable space. The title Hold Still references the power Medusa has to turn men to stone with her gaze. In this painting flares of light or energy come out of her eyes as she looks at something, or someone, out of view, while the presence of a fallen flower and the loosely depicted ground reference nineteenth century paintings of flowers. Historically still lifes, with their bountiful bouquets or bowls of ripe fruit, are easy to consume, similar to images of women throughout western art. Roberts-Toney’s work plays with the inheritance of that history and its depictions of women, drawing the viewer in through familiar motifs and then adding unexpected elements to destabilize the genre. Roberts-Toney admits that the spaces she paints, while matriarchal, lack the presence of women of color. As a white artist, she wrestles with the question of whose stories she has the right to depict, while acknowledging that the problem of patriarchy is intersectional.

Two richly detailed and colorful works, Summer’s Eve, the exhibition’s eponymous painting, and New Monuments both depict verdant, post-patriarchal landscapes. In Summer’s Eve, a circle of women hold hands and gather in ritual beside a two-headed, snaking candelabra. Roberts-Toney plays with scale in these works, nearly hiding a small figure or obscuring a large face to be discovered slowly by the viewer. In New Monuments, two ponds are each occupied by a floating head with the same flares for eyelashes as in Hold Still. This time they shoot high into the sky, spraying up like a fountain. Ophelia rising to this long-awaited moment—a new beginning is finally here.

Anya Roberts-Toney makes paintings that explore feminine power. She received her BA in Studio Art from Brown University in Providence, RI, and her MFA in Visual Studies from Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, OR. Her work has been exhibited locally and nationally at locations including Disjecta Contemporary Art Center, Dust to Dust Projects, The Portland ‘Pataphysical Society, the Office at Russo Lee Gallery, Somos Gallery, and Stephanie Chefas Projects. She is a recipient of the Stumptown Artist Fellowship. Originally from Seattle, WA, Roberts-Toney lives and   works in Portland, OR.