My environment has played a huge role in influencing my shift into larger-scale work. When I was living in Ghana, I was surrounded by hand painted signs and murals. The signs were bold and bright and advertised anything from beauty salons to street food. Now, living in New York, I am surrounded again by street art and large-scale murals on industrial facades.
Andrea Bergart graduated from the School of Visual Arts with an MFA in Painting in 2008. Since then, she’s produced a vibrant body of work both on the canvas and on the streets. Most recently she has been painting the barrels of cement trucks in Brooklyn, creating dynamic murals that move across the city.
What drew you initially to the grad program at BU?
I was introduced to Boston University and John Walker’s work through my college professor, Paul Sattler. After visiting the open house, I knew it was the perfect fit. I was impressed with the student work and loved the spacious studios. I admire John Walker’s paintings and was excited when I saw his Aboriginal and African art collection.
How did your aesthetic develop? What influences you?
I entered the program as a messy abstract expressionist painter and graduated with clean geometric colorful paintings. So, in a sense, you could say my aesthetic changed quite a bit during graduate school. I’m influenced largely by textiles and reference patterns from a range of sources such as African prints, friendship bracelets and fashion trends I see on the streets.
You’ve spent a lot of time in Ghana. How did you come to that experience and what did you take away from it?
I studied abroad in Ghana as a college student and after graduate school, returned for a year as a Fulbright Scholar. During that year, I researched patterns found on beads and textiles and designed prints for a Ghanaian textile company. I am still processing information and experiences from my trips to Ghana and think about it regularly in my studio. Ghana is full of color! When I close my eyes, I see brightly painted structures, vibrant textiles and bold hand painted signs.
You make murals and wall works as well as canvases, and you received a lot of attention for your first cement truck mural. What triggered this shift in scale and context?
My environment has played a huge role in influencing my shift into larger-scale work. When I was living in Ghana, I was surrounded by hand painted signs and murals. The signs were bold and bright and advertised anything from beauty salons to street food. Now, living in New York, I am surrounded again by street art and large-scale murals on industrial facades. I often bike around my neighborhood and document street art that excite me. There are a couple blocks in particular that stand out to me and they also happen to surround a cement truck supply company. I wondered why the art had to stop at the company walls and why it couldn’t continue onto the cement trucks barrels. The rotating surface seemed to have so much potential. One day I decided to talk to the owner to see if I could paint one of his trucks. After a few discussions and showing him my proposal, he was excited about the project.
There’s a lot of public art and large-scale projects percolating with the undergraduates at BU – do you have any advice to younger artists who planning and executing something like this for the first time?
Prepare as best as you can! There are always variables that force you to make changes to your plans along the way and this is OK. The best advice I can give is to plan ahead, make some sort of model, have all of your materials ready and have an open mind. For me, the majority of the work happens in the months leading up to the project and the magic happens right after it’s executed.
How has it been living and working in New York? Do you recommend it as a place to start your career as an artist?
It’s difficult to be an artist anywhere and there are many financial challenges to living in New York, which don’t seem to be getting any easier, but what are the alternatives? There are lots of talented and ambitious artists who can provoke you to become a better artist via creative dialogue. Being an artist in this society is committing to an unpredictable progression of your life so it’s comforting to be around so many similar-minded people making irrational decisions in order to make their art. So yes, I think New York is the best place to live as an artist. There may come a day where other cities develop a healthier environment for artists to make and sell their work but, as of right now, New York seems to be the best, if not perfect, place to be.
What’s next for you? More large-scale projects?
Yes! I will be painting a mural this December in Cape Town, South Africa.