Nicole Henriëtte Hermance Carstens was born on February 9, 1958 in The Hague in The Netherlands as the second in a family of four children. She was a very creative child and always busy drawing; she loved to make small comics. With her friends she spent whole weekends in her room, writing stories and illustrating them. As a young girl she loved to compete in artistic contests and won many prizes, for instance for building the most beautiful sand sculpture. Nicole was not only a creative person; she was also good at sports. She was a very talented tennis player. While she was completing her university study geography and urban planning, she had already turned to art.> Read more
In 1983 she was admitted to the evening course of the Rijksacademie in Amsterdam, which she supplemented with extra classes at the Kokoschka Academy in Salzburg. After graduating in 1986 she started her artistic career with painting, drawings and work on paper. Even though she was quite successful as a portrait painter, she felt that she needed a new challenge. In 1987 she moved to New York where she studied for three years at the Pratt Institute School of Art and Design in Brooklyn, New York. She was influenced by the cultural climate at that time, featuring styles as pop art, concept art and new realism. In New York she visited as many galleries as she could, went to lectures, jazz clubs and benefited from the diverse cultural movements, mainly avant-garde.
In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s she started working with objects from daily life, which she transformed into another configuration with a surprising new meaning. Her sculptures from found objects were often very odd and funny. She played with the relationship between outside appearance of common objects and their socially attributed meaning, including the linguistic dimension of this. Frequently, her work was accompanied by a statement or short text, hinting where to look to understand the meaning and began to show a more conceptual, female, feministic perspective.
Nicole lived and worked both in Amsterdam and New York; travel played an important role in her life and artistic development. As a side job, she worked as a flight attendant, like many artists in order to support her art, but the price she paid was mental and physical exhaustion. Her project ‘Blue Notes from Thin Air’ showed pictures she made during her work for the KLM. For her photographs she did not choose spectacular events, instead showing normal, everyday life. What remains is an existence estranged from a context.
Since the mid-1980s her work was shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions in The Netherlands, the US and other countries. In November 2000 she became seriously ill. Her last wish was to establish her own art foundation. The Nicole Art Sense foundation was established just before she died in April 2001. The purpose of the foundation is to preserve her work, to make it known to a wider public, and to continue the spirit underlying her work.