On June 26, 2021, my mother passed away. After a prolonged period of health issues, her body simply gave out at a health center in Greencastle, Indiana a mere hour before I would officiate my goddaughter's wedding thousands of miles away in Seattle, Washington.
I would like to think that she was surrounded by the angels that seemingly companioned her later years including the angels so majestically captured by Indiana's iconic artist Nancy Noel. A longtime favorite artist of my mother, Noel's artistry was long defined by her magnificent ability to artistically create messengers of light and hope through images of angels, children, animals, the Amish community, and Africa's Maasai people. My mother, of course, was mostly drawn to Noel's angels and despite my never impressive income I will always remember the day I could finally present her with a Noel angel painting for her home.
It was a rather amazing mother-son moment.
It seems appropriate that Art & Soul: A Portrait of Nancy Noel is directed, in fact, by one of her two sons - Alex Noel Kosene. With a narrative arc largely grounded in a conversation Nancy Noel had with her son not long before she passed away from cancer at the age of 74 in late 2020, Art & Soul is a journey into the creative mind and remarkable presence of one of the most prolific artists of our time and the woman who should, quite honestly, be the first artist to come to mind when one thinks of Indiana's history of artists.
Here's the thing. And this is captured vividly by Kosene, though certainly is also well known by anyone in Indiana and anyone within Noel's global village of fans. As magnificent an artist as Noel was, and her artwork will most certainly endure, she was also someone whose mere presence was profound. From her fierce and creative advocacy for Indy's Children's Museum, the largest public children's museum in the country, to the fact that she operated an animal farm at her Zionsville, Indiana home and the fact that she remained an often quiet yet consistent philanthropist throughout her life, Noel spent her life journey using her creative gifts in profound ways.
Art & Soul is having its world premiere at Indy's Heartland International Film Festival, certainly an appropriate setting for an artist whose painting and imagery have always been deemed to be truly moving pictures. With director Kosene present along with producers Amy Pauszek and Sami Issa Mustaklem, Art & Soul beautifully brings to life the world and wonder of Noel and is also getting the love and appreciation it deserves at an Academy Award-qualifying film festival celebrated worldwide for its ability to honor and bring light toward filmmakers whose works make the world a better place.
While it would be nearly impossible to create a film as ethereal and wondrous as the paintings of Noel herself, Art & Soul is a celebration of an artist who loved the world, loved Indy, loved creatures great and small, and had an innate ability to bring out the light in all of us. It's a film that captures the visionary nature of Noel's work and gives us a glimpse inside the intimacy that Noel created through her artistry.
Art & Soul: A Portrait of Nancy Noel captures the world as Noel herself saw it and we'll all be better for it.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic