Nancy Rourke

Artists from De'VIA 2021 Exhibition

I started drawing and painting at age six without my parents knowing I was born Deaf. I grew up in San Diego, and went to a strict oral program in a hearing school.
All of my childhood life, I was always creating new pieces, and exhibited my artwork—everything from painting rocks to canvases—at art fairs, in contests, and at galleries from childhood to high school.  I went on to study graphic design and painting at the National Technical Institute of the Deaf and Rochester Institute of Technology in New York and earned a master’s degree in computer graphic design and painting.

In 1979, I had my very first showing at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. I then was among 12 Deaf artists participating at the Heart, Eye, Hand exhibit held at the Los Angeles-based Ankrum Gallery. This gallery was owned by Joan Ankrum, Morris Broderson’s aunt. Morris Broderson was a famous Deaf artist. It was at this point in my life that I stopped painting. I did not have full confidence in my chances at success in the art community, so I chose to become a 9-to-5 employee.

I worked as a graphic designer for 20 years. I was a graphic designer at Xerox in San Diego. My next job was as a palette designer for 20th Century Fox, where I created color palettes to colorize classic black and white films such as Casablanca, King Kong, Sherlock Holmes, and numerous John Wayne films. In 1991, I moved to Seattle, where I worked as a graphic designer for Microsoft Corporation designing Windows icons. I unexpectedly got laid off. I decided it was time to get back to painting. I took a couple of workshops in preparation for my return to painting business. For eight years, I painted everything from portraits to landscapes and cityscapes to still life.

It wasn't until 2010, I started making art that is based on the Deaf culture, history and Deaf experience. I had discovered my passion.