From Eagle Magazine
By Laura Wolstenhome
Photography by James Max
Portrait of an Artist
Nicole Christensen expresses herself in multiple media.
Nicole Christensen is an artist, in every sense of the word. The Eagle resident sings, paints, and writes, expressing herself through a variety of media. Singing has been Christensen’s artistic outlet most of her life. She writes her own lyrics and poetry, and she recently took up painting.
Boise’s Chandlers Restaurant features Christensen performing jazz standards with the Chuck Smith Trio on Wednesday and Thursday nights. The restaurant’s cool blue lighting and murmuring voices are the perfect complement to Christensen’s warm, sweet alto voice. She says she prefers “music pulled from the tradition of the blues—jazz and country,” and in the Chandlers venue, she loves to perform jazz pieces, mostly traditional, with positive energy under the restaurant’s single red spotlight.
Christensen got her start as a singer in high school, where she sang in the choir. Through word of mouth, she started performing at weddings, special events, and parties. Now that her children are older, she has more time to sing professionally—and to take on new artistic challenges. While singing is Christensen’s job that helps her to support her family, painting is an emotional outlet and mode of self-expression, one that she is eager to expand.
Recently, Christensen has started to paint in acrylics and watercolors, and the result is a series of striking abstract and brilliantly colored images. Though she has no formal training, her paintings have been well received, which thrills the artist. One piece of four panels, displayed in Eagle’s Wishing Well Botanicals, shows a mysterious and powerful female figure imagined with multi-colored brushstrokes that could represent wings or hair or an aura. “We have our wings, direction or protection, whatever you want to call it,” Christensen says, though she prefers to leave the interpretation of the image to the viewer. Her work’s strong, vivid colors and evocative images invite the eye and open the mind.
With other members of the Eagle community, Christensen is actively involved in Idaho Wallflowers, a nonprofit specifically devoted to establishing a music and art camp for children in Idaho. Grateful for Eagle’s community and her own opportunities, her vision extends those opportunities to all of Idaho children. Located in Cascade, the camp would offer instruction in music, art, and Idaho pastimes such as hiking, picking huckleberries, fishing and archery. Christensen imagines a barn where workshops would take place. Children would learn and experiment in a relaxed environment, supported by a community of mentors and artists.
Asked if she has a mentor, Christensen points to her grandfather, Ted Ellis, who was one of the most influential people in her life. His musical family formed a family band, and when she visited, he always had music playing and often took her to concerts. They were very close, and he encouraged her interests. Ellis was a mayor of Garden City, founded the Boys and Girls Club there, and was CEO of Key Bank. What impresses Christensen the most was the genuine connections he made with people who crossed his path.
Christensen strives to recreate her grandfather’s art of connection through her own art—she sings hoping to genuinely touch her audience. As she cultivates the technical skills for singing jazz, she also cultivates openness in her performance, trying to stay away from guardedness—it’s vulnerability that draws people in. “You have to be conscious of your audience,” she says.