Born in San Francisco in 1949, Nicola lived in 7 cities in 7 countries before the age of 16 - Tunis, Istanbul, Bangkok, Leopoldville (now Kinchasa in Democratic Republic of Congo), Bilbao, Venice (where she lived from 1959 until 1962), and finally Atlanta, Georgia, where after attending High School she was sent to school in England.
In 1967 she began her Foundation Year at St.Martin's School of Art, but her studies were interrupted in 1968 when she lost her lower left leg in a road traffic accident. She graduated with Distinction from London's Byam Shaw School of Art in 1972, and since then has worked continuously as a fine artist: first in the USA as fine artist & illustrator ( including award winning illustration for Philip Roth's 1974 short story in Esquire magazine) and subsequently in London as fine artist and cartoonist for the 'Underground' press in the late 1970s and early 80s. In 1981 she extended her practice into film through collaborating with filmmaker Robina Rose on 16mm feature film Nightshift, selected for Edinburgh, London and Berlin Film Festivals.
Throughout her artistic practice she has used a variety of media to explore themes informed by the cultural fragmentation of a peripatetic childhood and by her experience of disability. In Monuments to Incompleteness (2000) she used the craft processes of prosthetics such as mould-making and cast plaster to create a series memorialising her experience of limb loss, with found objects and narratives that are essentially incomplete transformed through the making process into the heroic.
The process of cutting and fragmenting recurs throughout her work. In Adorn,Equip (2001) an exhibition examining the aesthetics of disability equipment, she digitally cut and fragmented archive photographs from the Science Museum’s collection to create her Beautiful Pictures final piece. In A Slice of Ireland (2003-4), she used the cutting and dispersal of found images to create an interactive installation communicating the memories of Kilburn's Irish Pensioners. In SPLITSCREEN (2006) she explored the representation of disability in film through cutting and juxtaposing 2 ‘bio-pics’ from 2 cultures. In Culture Coup (2008), a public art installation by 3 international artists for Thessaloniki’s annual Dimitria Festival, she worked with archive photographs from Thessaloniki’s Museum of Photography to create an interactive installation using a fragmented and enlarged 1919 family group photograph.
Residencies, projects and teaching all developed her interest in the creative potential of collaborative practice. Until 2011 she worked as Tutor for Clean Break's Access Course; and in 2007 worked with her students to create Give Me My Robe, Put On My Crown, a film exploration of the transforming effect of live performance on self-image and identity. Subsequently Clean Break commissioned Nicola to film a group of Clean Break graduates devising a play for the Arcola Theatre, which led to Speaking From The Heart, a narrative drama created from the women's process of transforming personal experience into art.
In 2008 artist Matthew Stone and Nicola initiated The Art Salon, setting aside time every week to talk about ideas and explore participation in collective performance events and creative projects.
In 2011 Nicola founded her not for profit company Pegleg Productions, & in 2012 Big Lottery A4A funded THE FITTING ROOM film project, created in collaboration with a group of amputee women sharing their experience of prosthetics, filmed in the Prosthetic Rehabilitation Unit which Nicola has attended since 1988.
In April 2014 Nicola was awarded Shrewsbury Museum & DASH artist’s moving image commission, reflecting on the life of deaf Romany man Bill Lock in South Shropshire: creating her film In Conversation With the Past from the process of searching for Bill in people's memories and personal archives. In October 2014, as part of WW1 Centenary commemorations, Swiss Cottage Gallery presented AT HOME: A Living Centenary 1914-2014, Nicola's immersive film installation examining the power of relics & archive in memory & history through the re-enactment of a 1934 photograph of Nicola's mother by the healthcare professionals and carers who care for her at home.
In November 2015 she participated in Swiss Cottage Gallery’s Cue,Play,Pause group exhibition in response to Camden’s Art Collection; and in 2016 her comic strips for the 1970s International Times were exhibited in the House of Illustration’s Comix Creatrix exhibition featuring comics created by 100 women.
In 2018 Nicola was shortlisted for SHAPE Adam Reynolds Memorial Award, subsequently participating in a group exhibition 'In Out There' at the Attenborough Arts Centre - developing work from Monuments to Incompleteness into an installation that embodied the physical and emotional trauma of the First World War on pianist Paul Wittgenstein and composer Maurice Ravel, through the cutting and fragmenting of a 1905 Grand Piano.
In 2019 Nicola became project lead for Searching for the Grey Lady: A Ghost From WW1 at the RNOH, a Heritage Lottery funded collaborative project to explore the founding and evolution of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore. Due to COVID19 this project has evolved through funding from the Culture Recovery Fund, and is ongoing: www.peglegproductions.org
Nicola lives and works in London.