Mrs. Frankel, whose artistic repertoire included tempera paintings and graphite drawings, showcased her art in dozens of solo and collective exhibitions, mostly in the Washington area, for more than 50 years. She cast images in bronze, welded steel, cut wood and shaped Plexiglass to make three-dimensional abstract sculptures that reflected human relationships and interactions as well as patterns in nature and music.
Some of her pieces were wall-hung relief sculptures, and others were stand-alone works — geometric shapes stacked precariously upon one another — built for outdoor spaces and gardens.
In early 2019, the Katzen Art Center at American University hosted a retrospective of her work called “Nancy at Ninety: A Retrospective of Form and Color.” In a videotaped discussion of the exhibition, curator Claudia Rousseau, a professor of art history at Montgomery College in Silver Spring, Md., praised Mrs. Frankel’s work as possessing “a youthful spirit of invention — which is still going.”
Mrs. Frankel, who had lived in the Washington area since 1963, was an adjunct professor of sculpture at Montgomery College in Rockville, Md., for about 20 years and a member of the Studio Gallery artists cooperative in Washington. In the mid-1970s, she helped found the Washington Women’s Art Center and the Washington Sculpture Group. She also ran children’s art classes and camps at her studio.
She was born Nancy Ann Disbrow on May 8, 1929, in Orange, N.J. She was raised in nearby East Orange by her maternal grandmother after the divorce of her parents.
She graduated from the Tyler School of Fine Arts at Temple University in Philadelphia in 1952 and later received a master’s degree in art education from Columbia University. She studied painting under abstract expressionist Hans Hofmann in New York and took classes at the Art Academy in Munich, Germany.
Her husband of 19 years, Theodore Frankel, died in 1971.
In addition to her son, of Brooklyn, survivors include a daughter, Sue Frankel-Streit of Louisa, Va., and eight grandchildren.
“I knew from the first grade that I was going to be an artist,” Mrs. Frankel said during the panel discussion of her 2019 retrospective. After an assignment to draw a person, the teacher commended her for using two lines to draw the neck. “Oh, I like this praise,” Mrs. Frankel recalled thinking to herself at the time. “I’m going to go on with this.”
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