Meet Nedret Andre
By Kabita Das
At the center of Nedret Andre’s painting studio, a table with scattered brushes and paints stands in front of a large, unfinished canvas. Andre begins tidying her books and materials and apologizing for the colorful mess. She drags out a ladder twice her size to adjust canvases on her wall. Energetic and frazzled, running from one side of the studio to the other, Andre is the perfect cliché of the inspired, passionate Boston based painter.
Andre, an abstract artist, earned her business degree with a focus in marketing in 1993 at the University of North London, but has always been passionate about art. She completed her BFA at the Massachusetts College of Art in 2000 and six years later, she completed her MFA at the Maine College of Art.
“I kind of like the sound of brushstrokes- I always have” says Andre. Her canvases have different textures; there is a mixture of brushstrokes and scratches that dig into the paint. Through her experiments with brushwork, she “was trying to come up with mark making” to find “an abstract way to talk about seagrass”.
Though Andre has a creative and artistic mind, the subject matter of her work is surprisingly scientific. For the past two years she has focused on advocating for environmental issues, particularly for seagrass habitats suffering from rapid climate change and pollution.
Seagrass is a flowering plant that thrives in fully saline environments across the globe. Seagrass beds can be so large and abundant that they can be seen from space. The coastlines of Saudi Arabia, for example, host a large and healthy bed of seagrass and has the largest population of dugong living in it.
Alyssa Novak, a Research Assistant Professor at Boston University, said that “Seagrasses are important because they provide a lot of ecosystem services. They can improve water quality.” Novak has spent years doing research and restoring seagrass in the New England region. Due to climate change, there is a rapid global loss of seagrass. According to Novak, that one of the driving factors for losing seagrass is an increase in water temperatures.
“We have to start thinking about what we can do now to help clean out oceans” said Andre. She does her part by donating her sales to organizations that protect seagrass habitats or that advocate for environmental issues.
One of her pieces named Reaching is named after the plant tissue called aerenchyma, found in seagrass. Aerenchyma are pockets of air found in the plant tissue that keep the blades of grass upright. The piece depicts “this upward movement of reaching for light and clean water,” Andre said.
Andre has created a series of paintings that illustrate the ecosystems within seagrass beds in all theirs color and beauty. She takes the shapes and scientific concepts to inspire the brushwork and marking throughout each piece.
With her artwork, Andre hopes to reach out to communities and begin a conversation about seagrass conservation. “Bringing awareness and dialogue is key,” said Andre. In her last show, Andre invited Barnabas Daru, a Research Fellow in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, to speak to the issue of seagrass beds.
Daru was able to communicate the underestimated urgency behind protecting seagrass from climate change. In organizing these galleries, Andre wants the message to “be more empowering.” She wants to communicate that if “we don’t take care of our shared space, there will be no other.”
In order to make a positive impact on seagrass beds, Novak said that “one thing you can do is support any type of policies that reduce the amount of runoff going into the water.” Agricultural runoff can promote the growth of algae blooms which accumulate in seagrass beds and block out the light that seagrass needs in order to photosynthesize.
Andre recommends that young artists “get involved in groups that you feel passionately about” like she did. She said that the more you reach beyond your discipline, the better. “If it were business students, I would recommend them to take classes for art literature, and art history” she said.
Though Andre did not study art, it has grown to be important part of her life. Her paintings have become a means to explore different disciplines. As she uses her voice to speak to important issues of our time, her contributions to the cause are the most important to her. With the impactful contribution of her time and her earnings from gallery sales, she said “ I’ll be completely broke and with no brushes by the time this is done but you know what, it’s worth it!”
Check out Nedret Andre's website at www.nedretandre.com for more!