BY INDIANA NASH
SCHENECTADY- Nedra Newby’s lengthy list of exhibits she’s done and her works that have gained her national recognition could fill a novella.
But that isn’t what calls her to keep working.
Currently, Newby is exhibiting a show called There and Back Again at the Law Offices of Higgins, Roberts & Suprunowicz, P.C in Niskayuna. While the show’s title rings of a famous Tolkien line, Newby said it’s actually a reference to her own experiences between living in New York City and Schenectady and journeying between the two.
The show is a mix of her most recent works and some of her classic specialties: split between figurative city scenes and nature scapes.
Newby is as realistic with her artwork as she is sensible with her career.
“Take care of the job and it will support your art,” Newby said and it’s something she has always lived by.
Thus, when she studied art at the University of Georgia and shortly afterward SUNY Albany, Newby also studied art education.
She spent much of her adult life in New York City teaching, creating as much art as she could and getting her name out there.
While she’s lived most of her life entranced by the art world, Newby said she regrets not discovering it earlier.
“It wasn’t a conscious thing to become an artist. It wasn’t until I got to college that I event really thought about it,” Newby said.
During the 1980s, when she first began teaching in NYC, she was often doing group shows with fellow artists.
“Group shows are always good,” Newby said. She was able to pick up pieces of valuable advice and learned to push herself to bring out the best in her own work.
But the most powerful memory Newby has of working in the city is connected to one of the country’s most infamous tragedies: September 11.
“I had just started working there in the World Trade Center,” Newby. Four years before September 11, 2001, there was a residency program which artists could apply for that would allow them to paint or draw the views seen from some of the top levels of the World Trade Center.
“I remember being at school on 9/11 and the students running around and telling me that the World Trade Center had fallen. I was in Brooklyn at the time and in complete disbelief . . . I lost a few paintings, but so many people lost so much more,” Newby said.
It was while working at the WTC and with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council that Newby developed her most successful painting style.
“I began to work more figuratively,” Newby said. While she’d previously been working with printmaking and in abstract styles, Newby took up her brush and began to tediously paint the rigid and crowded scenes of NYC streets.
“I would often take a photo and then work directly from that,” Newby said.
What makes her cityscapes unique is not what’s seen, it’s what’s not seen.
“I usually take out cars and people,” Newby said, “People have said that it makes my pieces colder.”
But in her pieces she aims instead to bring out the sense of the landscape itself, rather than the passing details that one may see as temporary components of the landscape.
Although she has often worked from photographs, Newby has been doing as much work as she can at Lion’s Park and other areas along the Mohawk River, painting Plein air.
“I’ve been doing the Art Out event here for the last two summers,” Newby said.
Painting Plein air has given her a chance to build more friendships with other artists.
“That’s one of the best ways to tell whether or not you’ll fit in with a community. Hang out with the artists,” Newby said.