On Sundays the SoWa Art + Design District in South End Boston hosts an Open Market. I didn’t know what to expect, so I followed my muse. There are food stalls but we had just eaten a great brunch at Worden Hall. Instead I headed to the tents where makers were selling their creations. I paused at one of the stalls with art by Nedret Andre, the colors and abstractions really spoke to me. Her assistant encouraged me to meet the artist at her studio on the 4th floor of 450 Harrison Street.
I worked my way through the market checking out the whimsical art of Mitra Farmand then admiring the print works of Goosefish Press. Finally I beat a retreat to the air conditioned multi-story building of art studios. I took the elevator to the 4th level and sought out studio 415.
Nedret Andre was in her studio. She stood amidst the large canvases beautifully filled with paint and imagination. Her work is all based on the abstraction of sea grass. And before you roll your eyes, appreciate how much she has learned about the ecological importance of sea grass in the New England seashore ecosystem. Nedret’s paintings reveal a world we don’t think much about and hopes to spark our curiosity to learn more about our interdependence with the ocean.
We had a fun conversation with another Julie who stepped into the studio at the same time as me about the menacing green crabs–an invader from Europe who roots up the sea grass. Should we celebrate the intrinsic beauty of the green crabs even though they are destroying the ecosystem for lack of predators?
Nedret has shown her work at many galleries and often collaborates with scientists to give them an opportunity to share their expanding knowledge at the art show openings. You can also learn more on her blog at http://www.nedretandre.com. Or follow her on instagram @nedretandre.
I was driving up Highway 101 from Paso Robles to Monterey Peninsula and started noticing portraits of farmers along the highway–supersized portraits–and I was excited and anxious to look up on my phone the story behind them. Who painted them? What was the inspiration? How does the artist keep them from blowing over in the constant wind that keeps the climate cool for lettuce?
As I turned off Spreckels Road to Highway 68 I saw this painting looming in the dark. I vowed that I’d return on the way home and take a photo. Meanwhile, as soon as I checked into the Lone Oak Lodge, I logged onto the internet and searched for “giant portraits of farmers in Salinas Valley” and discovered artist John Cerney‘s work.
In the artist profile in Monterey County Weekly (Barbara Paris, 5/20/1999) explains “Cerney creates his commissioned scenes by starting with an idea, posing real people–usually employees or friends–as models and taking ‘many, many photos, 50 or 60, to get the right pose,’ which he then transfers to a special plywood covered with a smooth paper finish. Sometimes he paints alone, but often now he is assisted by Dong Sun Kim, a mural painter in Marina… The giant cut-outs are prepared in sections and then joined to form people 18 to 20 feet tall. Cerney likes to do his own installation, setting the cut-outs on 4-by-6 posts set in concrete.”
In another profile from SFWeekly (Anna Roth 7/31/2013), Cerney has completed more than 300 murals and plywood cutouts. “Cerney does all of his painting in his studio inside an industrial warehouse in Salinas where he also lives, working 10- or 12-hour days and retiring to a little room in the back when he’s done. The space is dominated by a giant scaffolding where he does his work, in pieces (applying a grid system to the initial drawn sketches based on photographs). He cuts plywood to size with a jigsaw, paints each piece independently, and never sees the whole until he assembles it at the site. A giant person can take him 10 days; a bigger plywood mural of a historic cattle drive like the one he’s currently working on for the South Lake Tahoe tourism board will take a few months.”