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Skidmore College

Andrea Bergart '06: Not your average painter

November 25, 2013

Andrea Bergart ’06: Not your average painter

Nov. 25, 2013

Andrea Bergart ’06 and collaborators
Bergart and collaborators

Brooklyn-based painter Andrea Bergart ’06 describes her work as colorful, celebratory, and geometric. She likes to push traditional boundaries, and draws inspiration from African art as well as subway graffiti. “I love the idea of an image going ‘all city,’” she says. “There are so many surfaces in New York City that could be used that aren’t.”

Biking past a concrete supply company last year, not far from her live-in studio, she eyed a graffiti-covered façade and thought about the 30-some cement trucks parked behind a chain-link fence. Perhaps her mind flashed back to her year in Ghana and memories of brightly painted signs and buses. Or maybe the documentary Style Wars about street artists and hip-hop culture. Suddenly, a brainstorm: Why not paint the bead-shaped barrel of a cement mixer? How cool would that be to have a painting on the streets of New York?

On the spot, Bergart pitched the idea to United Transit Mix owner Danny Mastronardi and, with some hesitation, he bought it. Her first mural was based on an animal print inspired by Lisa Frank patterns and quickly became a traveling sensation, with people snapping photos and posting them online as well as reporters covering it in the local press. Her second mural, funded by the Queens Council on the Arts, recasts and celebrates traditional West African Kente cloth, known for its multicolored patterns and geometric shapes.

“I love the shape of the cement truck,” explains Bergart in a video, Cement Truck Mural: Kente Mix, produced and directed by Skidmore classmate Simon Biswas ’06, with assistance from Jesse Flower-Ambroch ’06, among others. (Peter Brock ’06 was an artist assistant on the mural.)

“It’s like this giant bead,” Bergart says. It’s also “a big vessel that’s turning. It’s rotating and it’s also moving. It’s so exciting. I can’t believe that no one has wanted to paint it before.… It really opened me up to what’s possible, where art can live, what materials you can use, what it can be, what it can reference, and who it can affect. That’s why art is so exciting to me.” She was happy when Mastronardi started taking photos with his cell phone, and thrilled when one of the drivers told her the mural reminded him of the United Nations.

This November, Bergart finished her third truck. Now Mastronardi is calling her whenever a new barrel arrives. “Who knows,” says the Skidmore art major and art history minor—“maybe, I’ll get to paint the whole fleet.”

About Andrea Bergart: She lives and works as a painter and part-time textile designer in Ridgewood, Queens. At Skidmore she spent a semester in Ghana, thanks to the encouragement of art history professor Lisa Aronson. She is also grateful for the mentorship of Skidmore studio art professors David Miller and Paul Sattler. After graduating in 2006, she earned an MFA from Boston University’s School of Visual Arts and then traveled to Western Africa as a Fulbright Scholar researching patterns on beads and textiles. See her artwork, her blog, and a Q&A.

(Cover photo: Alumni Andrea Bergart '06, Peter Brock '09, and Simon Biswas '06 with a cement truck inspired by West African kente cloth.)

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