Football is an activity that requires balance, coordination and huge muscles. Art, which requires small motor skills and an eye for detail, is a drastically different pursuit. Yet somehow, George Nock has been able to succeed in both professions, first as a running back for the New York Jets and the Washington Redskins, and now as a sculptor of bronze. His solo exhibit marked last Saturday’s grand opening of Roxanne’s Artiques, a gallery in Brookland.
“I’ve been sculpting clay since I was 7 years old,” Nock said, “But I had never before done something in bronze. I wanted to do something that would stand the test of time.”
Many of Nock’s works pertain to sports, although not necessarily football. While his first sculpture, “Scatback,” was inspired by his former profession, “The Suit” depicts an athletic woman in a tight black athletic outfit, arms outstretched and looking towards the sky. Nock says it was inspired by tennis star Serena Williams.
“When I was hanging out with the fellows that Sunday, after she won the U.S. Open, they were all over that catsuit,” said Nock, referring to the athlete’s controversial choice of attire for the tournament.
The opening of Roxanne’s Artiques marks another event in the newly revitalized Brookland neighborhood. The Michigan Park gallery space is an example of how the area is becoming more of a family place, said gallery owner and longtime resident Roxanne Carter.
“The area is being revitalized in the sense that growing up there, we had a lot of mom and pop stores, bakeries and hardware places that could sustain the community,” Carter said. “People have started to want to bring those back – the ice cream store, the shoe repairman, the smaller grocery place – the smaller entrepreneur.”
Carter serves as the promotions committee chairperson for the Brookland Community Development Corporation, which has spearheaded efforts in the revitalization project.
“The area has institutions like the Basilica, Catholic University, St. Francis Monestary and many stores. We’ve been trying to showcase our main street,” Carter said. “It used to be a place where just Catholic University students would go. Now, it’s more family-oriented and not just a campus place.”
Carter couldn’t be happier about her new gallery. “I’ve been working with the CDC, and I loved the townhouse, which used to be housing for Catholic University students, until they finally leased the space,” she said. “I have always been into cultural arts and artifacts. I want it to be a gallery for international and local artists.”
Carter said she was drawn to Nock’s work when she first viewed a sculpture of Jesus that he created for her church.
“I was raised Protestant and the Holy Scriptures have been in my background since day one,” Nock said. “Spirituality is a part of all of my works.”
Nock also said he was inspired by women, most notably his mother and seven sisters. One of his most striking sculptures is of a female singer in a white gown, arms flung open, belting a high note. This is “Diva,” which Nock modeled after several real-life divas of the past.
“Nancy Wilson, Josephine Baker, Dorothy Dandridge, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn – I made a tribute to them with ‘Diva’ because I wanted to give it elegance,” Nock said. “Proud women always stuck with me.”
Music is another prominent subject in Nock’s sculptures, which depict saxophonists and trumpet players.
“When I was eight or nine, I tried to learn how to dance. My mother would play jazz and pop and R&B, and I would just listen to all of it,” Nock said. “Later, I would go to these corner bars in Philadelphia, and I would talk to performers after the shows. Meeting them was just the icing on the cake.”
All of Nock’s sculptures, whether the subject is a tennis player, singer, jazz musician or religious figure, feature a dramatic moment of triumph, with arms outstretched. Perhaps this inspirational design is why he has acquired a host of celebrity clients. His Web site lists Frank Gifford, Ethel Kennedy, Evander Holyfield, Venus Williams, and Matthew and Tina Knowles, parents of Beyonce, among his collectors.
As for Carter, after the Nock exhibit closes May 21, she’ll continue the tradition of bringing local artists to exhibit at her gallery.
“I want to be open to schools and cultural centers for a learning experience. I’m hoping to bring an exhibit of basket weaving, or quilts from many countries, to the gallery next.”
Roxanne’s Artiques is located at 3426 9th St. N.E.