Alumni Spotlight: Nicole Trimble

Written by Chris Pasion, graduate assistant to The Graduate School.

The collection of portraits that Nicole recently painted in a massive mural.

Cincinnati’s vibrant mural scene has a new, UC-themed addition over on Vine Street. Nicole Trimble, an MFA alum from DAAP, recently put the finishing touches on a mural that is jam-packed with a collage of 19 portraits. The piece was commissioned by the UC Alumni Association to celebrate the recipients of outstanding awards during UC Alumni Week. Nicole painted the mural in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood on a historic building, which has deteriorating, character-adding edges that frame the striking collection of portraits. 

Portraits are a staple of Nicole’s painting practice, but she doesn’t often get to do them in the massive, blown-up scale of a mural. “With this one it was nice because they let me take the creative reigns,” she says. “I tend to paint a little more colorfully, so the portraits are greyscale and pink, and the outside is shades of red and black.” Each of the 19 recipients contributed to their portrait by mixing their own shade of red, which added a personal touch and allowed more people to get involved. Nicole has painted many murals around the Greater Cincinnati area, but she says, “This is one of the first murals that I’ve painted in my actual painting style.”

Nicole working on the new mural.

Nicole’s background is in traditional studio art with a focus in painting and printmaking. She often paints with oil, which has a very tactile feel compared to paintings done with acrylic or watercolors. Her paintings are abstract, discombobulated figures that are endlessly fun to behold. In her time in DAAP’s MFA program, she was the one of the only oil painters in the studio, which was very distinct and different from the heavily conceptual work that was common there. “I think there’s plenty of value in a still life or a portrait painting from life,” she says. “That type of art is not just about the final product. It’s also about the process of painting.” The subject matter she explores recently shifted, however, as a result of the pandemic. 

“When COVID happened, I was able to work a lot more. Because of being isolated and binge-watching TV, I was thinking about the way we interact with people now becoming flattened,” she says. “If you’re painting a flat, 2D person, like on Zoom, how does that change your understanding of their person-ness? Are they flat and pixel-based?” In her more recent work, you’ll see depictions of characters from shows such as of Twin Peaks, 90 Day Fiancé and “a bunch of crappy reality TV.” Nicole says that “Using pop culture imagery is a way to be like ‘Look at this. Look at what you’re watching.’”

A headshot portrait of Nicole.

In addition to her own artwork, Nicole is a teacher in UC Blue Ash’s electronic media communications program and is the co-founder of the Bright Wall Collective, a mural collective that she started with her painting partner Jenny Ustick. The purpose of this organization is to bring local mural artists together to network and paint more around the city, so expect to see more artwork popping up in downtown Cincinnati soon. In the meantime, see the new mural with your own eyes at 1430 Vine Street and be sure to check out Nicole’s website to see more of her work.