Bold, whimsical lines and color travel across the canvases in Nedret Andre’s exhibit at Chestnut Hill’s Hess Galley. Stormy blues and fiery corals swirl and collide into each other, creating abstract forms and shapes. Andre’s oil paintings in the collection “Seagrass: Ecological Engineers” delve into the ethereal world of one of the most quickly deteriorating ecosystems on the planet—seagrass. When snorkeling, Andre witnessed this flowering plant thriving off of the sunlight cascading into the waters, giving life to thousands of sea creatures with its production of carbon for food and its safe habitat. This plant so vital to the health of coral reefs and estuaries unfortunately experiences the loss of two football fields worth each hour due to industrial fishing, invasive species and pollution.
Andre captures the fragility, interconnectedness and enchantment of seagrass in “Bridge to Babel,” where warm colors stroked in different shades and weights bend across the canvas in a circular shape. They entwine with scribbled charcoal lines that undulate through blocks of color, representing the linking of shorelines and parts of the sea. An olive green remains constant through the form, representing the seagrass interwoven with unique species. The title of the piece also conjures images of the Biblical Tower of Babel, which introduces themes of language and diversity, similar to the effects of seagrass supporting the ecosystem. Andre experimented with dilutions of oil paint in this piece, giving it depth and a certain gravity that viewers feel when observing the graffiti-like markings and sense of light expanding outwards.
“Bubblegum Somersault” also sinks deep into the habitat creation seagrass provides for animals like the seahorse. Its rectangular blocks of mainly warm colors stacked vertically against a dripping blue background resemble bricks stacked to form a building of sorts, giving it foundation and structure. Andre recognizes that seagrass acts as a “building block” of oceanic life and in this gestural piece, she creates a haven for colorful creatures among the plant. She emphasizes this connection through the tight stacks and the sticky and playful chewing gum title. The stacks reach upwards towards the brightest area as seagrass does, amongst algae that partially blocks the light.
Andre’s creative process reaches for beyond the canvas through her hands-on work in the field of marine ecology. She actively participates in planting new seagrass beds on the ocean floor with scientists who inspire her with their research and advocacy in preserving ocean life. This Boston-based artist hopes to make a difference and educate the general public about seagrass through her involvement and art, which can be interpreted in many ways. Each piece at Hess Gallery’s exhibit is for sale for $250 to $15,000 and part of the proceeds go towards seagrass projects to keep this essential plant and all of the other underwater vegetation, fish, seahorses, sea turtles and octopus flourishing in their natural habitats.
(“Seagrass: Ecological Engineers” remains on view through May 20th at Hess Gallery of Pine Manor College, 400 Heath Street, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. For more information, visit http://www.pmc.edu/current-exhibition or call (617) 731-7157.)