Beneath the sinuous linework, layered jewel tones, and energetic compositions, Nedret Andre’s work has always relied on structure, albeit a fluid one. In her abstractions of eelgrass beds, she conjures a sense of order (or, in the case of darker works, disorder) acted upon by natural forces, such as shifting tides and sunlight.
In this grouping of recent work, Andre continues her exploration of the natural world, yet this time also takes inspiration from 14th-century Sienese frescoes by the painter Ambrogio Lorenzetti. The juxtaposition of another artist—his browns, reds and blues, his proto-Renaissance blend of the Byzantine and Classical, his twisting perspectives and moralistic personifications of governance—are at first incongruous against Andre’s bright lyricism and forward-thinking. Yet they are deeply in tune with her demonstrated sense of curiosity and stewardship as an artist-activist—and with her longstanding, underlying focus on composition as a balancing act.
Superimposing Lorenzetti’s ideals for civic life upon Andre’s crusade for flourishing seagrass meadows is a surprising move, but one that ends up propelling Andre’s art through a progression of form, color, and content that looks seamless within the greater context of her oeuvre. Sometimes, it is just as important to look back as it is to look ahead.
—Olivia J. Kiers, 2020
Curatorial Assistant, Worcester Art Museum
More details about the exhibition can be found at Beacon Gallery.
“Between Sky and Water” is from my memory of being in Milbridge Maine. I was on a kayaking trip in one of the bays and could not believe how brilliant the sky and water was. It felt like the two melted into one. These types of uplifting scenes are hard to depict, so in this painting I tried to capture the luminosity I had experienced being out in the middle of this spectacular water. In my interpretation I also added seagrass and abstracted mollusks which could be seen below. This painting shows the reflection and ocean life combined into one.
“Water” depicts seagrass on the surface of the water. It’s an abstraction from my memory of volunteering in Gloucester. It captures the excitement of early morning light- shimmers of white light bouncing off of the surface of the water as it co- mingles with the green of the eelgrass. The bountiful eelgrass bed was at full height and was making all sorts of swirling s shaped patterns on the surface of the water at 5:30 AM in the morning. In this painting I used several different sized brushes, layered different colors and waited for each underlay to dry. I wanted to paint the suggestion of green seagrass, but use different colors and have them optically mix to suggest the plant. I wanted to capture the fresh morning feel of being in an eelgrass meadow.
“Biodiversity” is an abstraction of a seagrass meadow at low tide. There are still pockets of water reflecting white light. I decided to paint this habitat in warm hues to express the richness of life found at low tide. Sometimes it’s a little movement of a hermit crab that draws your attention. Other times it’s about the way eelgrass rests peacefully over clam shells. I’m always fascinated by how perfectly choreographed nature is.
Mapping Seagrass, Oil on Canvas, 60″x 48″, 2020
In “Mapping Seagrass” I created a large scale abstract map of Duxbury Bay. I wanted to recreate our experience of “Searching for Seagrass”. In August 2019. I volunteered on a “Citizen’s Scientist” project with Mass Bay NSRWA Watershead ecologist Sara Grady in Duxbury Bay. They had been documenting eelgrass in the area for several years and monitoring the water quality. We went to 18 different sites in two days and our job was to document the seagrass. We only found one site with eelgrass. These eelgrass sites are disappearing at fast rates. In my painting I tried to capture the beautiful day and this movement of zipping to different locations looking for seagrass.
When The Fog Rolls In, Oil on Canvas, 48″x 60″, 2018
Tangible, intangible, fog brings this wealth of sensations that we are not usually aware of. This experience of being engulfed by Fog happened on one of my field trips with Alyssa Novak’s seagrass conservation group in Wellfleet. One minute we were harvesting seagrass the next minute the fog was so dense that you could barely see anything. It was amazing since all my sense came alive, colors were brighter, textures more exaggerated , and the sound almost went up a notch. In this painting I try to capture this tension between dulling down and the unexpected magnification of beauty of the eelgrass meadow.
Collecting Samples, Oil on Canvas, 24”x 72”, 2020
Collecting Samples depicts the rich biodiversity of a seagrass meadow underwater as I experienced it snorkeling to collect data samples in Virginia for a Long Term Study on Eelgrass. I reversed the colors so the blue-greens of the water became hot orange-pinks to feature seagrass as the prominent stars of the habitat. The physical sample collecting part was a balancing act for me; dealing with wave action, moon jelly fish and occasional stingrays that swam by made it a little hard to collect exactly the right amount of sediment.
In this painting I tried to capture the most amazing theatrical act on the beach- a green crab transforming it’s self into a rock! This magical moment actually happened in June 2018 while we were out harvesting seagrass in Annisquam, MA. We spotted a green crab quickly walking sideways in the sand. It must have sensed our excitement since It then climbed up onto a rock and stopped moving. It camouflaged its self within a few seconds it just blended into the rock. If we had been there a second later we would just see a bunch of rock. I tried to capture this moment of transformation with a centralized figure of a crab- it could be rock or crab.
Ocean Life represents the constant change and drama underwater. I painted seagrass in cascading movements almost like a zigzagging carpet throughout the piece. The bold colors represents a nighttime abstraction. Many different species create a community of underwater life; kelp, coral, seagrass, mollusks, fish, thousands of different sea life. Seagrass habitats are home to such a wide range of diversity.
This painting is one of my most minimal paintings since it’s about the uplifting feeling of buoyancy. For me diving is similar to the zen gesture of drawing with ink on paper. Here instead of using sumi- ink I used one large gestural mark in white paint to represent the essence of diving. Dive represents sheer joy of diving into seagrass meadows.