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Artist Laini Nemett

Updated: Jul 19, 2021

Laini Nemett works with cardboard models, collage, and large-scale oil paintings to create

architectural environments that often explore the idea of home. She holds an MFA from the

Hoffberger School of Painting at the Maryland Institute College of Arts and a dual BA degree in Visual Arts and History of Art & Architecture from Brown University. She has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Queens Council on the Arts, the Joan Mitchell Foundation, The Awesome Foundation New York, and the Fulbright Program, and has held residencies at Yaddo, the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans, Hambidge Center, UCross Foundation, Jentel, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Cill Rialaig Arts Center in Ballinskelligs, Ireland, and the Alfred & Trafford Klots International Residency in Léhon, France.

Nemett’s work has been exhibited nationally and abroad, including recent solo exhibitions at the Paul Mahder Gallery in Healdsburg, CA, Guilin Art Museum in China, and the Institute for Contemporary Art at Platform Gallery in Baltimore, MD. Selected group exhibitions include the Albany International Airport Gallery, Kenise Barnes Fine Art, NY; Adelphi University, NY; Guilin Art Museum, China; SACI Gallery, Italy; VisArts Gallery, MD; Platform Gallery, MD; Geoffrey Young Gallery, MA; Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, MO; The Granoff Art Center at Brown University, RI; Ethan Cohen, NY; Rymer Gallery, TN; Prince Street Gallery, NY; George Mason University, VA; and Casa das Artes Criação Ambiente Utopias in Africa. Nemett lives and works between Brooklyn and Schenectady, New York, and is Associate

Professor of Drawing and Painting at Union College.

"My work focuses on the architecture of natural and built environments. For some projects I

paint from within a construction site to learn a building from the inside out, as it develops. In

others, I more objectively record effects of time and climate change on a vulnerable neighborhood like the Lower Ninth Ward in Post-Katrina New Orleans, or ancient cliff

dwellings in the American Southwest.

During this past year, spending much more time inside my own home, I found myself even

more aware of what goes on outside it. In a period when time is distorted and disorienting, I

tracked the changes of days and seasons through direct paintings of my neighbors’ homes.

I am now back in the Southwest, painting en plein-air while exploring surreal-looking hoodoos, slot canyons, and other landscapes formed through millions of years of erosion

by wind and water. This work expands upon the series I paused when the pandemic began: large-scale canvases that suggest the epic nature of canyons and cliff dwellings, as well as more intimate paintings of their inner walls."

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background in the arts.

I’m originally from Baltimore, MD, and grew up around artists with my dad a professor at MICA. I studied Studio Art & Art History at Brown, then moved to Barcelona immediately after college, first painting on a Fulbright grant, and then working for an art gallery. I returned to Baltimore as an adult for grad school at Hoffberger (MICA’s painting MFA), and then moved to NYC where I did the adjunct thing until getting a full time job teaching drawing and painting at Union College. I now live full time in Schenectady with my musician/app developer/endlessly supportive husband. What kind of work are you currently making? I make drawings and oil paintings based on architecture of different cultures and eras. After moving my studio into my home in the beginning of the pandemic, I spent a lot of time looking at the houses immediately surrounding me. Up until 2 months ago I spent most days that I wasn’t teaching painting my neighbors’ homes out the window. The days I was teaching online, I spent looking at these houses out the same window above my desk. It was amazing to watch the light, color, and trees/leaves change throughout the day, and from month to month. Maybe because I spent so much time in this one room of my house, I convinced my husband to move into our car for 6+ weeks and travel across the country to expand on the series of natural landforms and Ancestral Puebloan dwellings that I’d started before the pandemic. Now I’m back in the Southwest, living and working out of my Subaru. At the moment I’m making small on-site oil paintings of ancient cliff dwellings, hoodoos, canyons, and other wild rock formations, currently concentrating my time in Southeastern Utah.

What is a day like in the studio for you?

For the past month, a day in the studio has entailed waking up with the sun, setting up my tripod and pochade box, and spending an hour or two on a plein-air painting. Sometimes I drive or hike to a bizarre landscape, other times I’ve slept right in front of it and can get going as soon as I make coffee. I pack the wet painting in a cigar box and then usually move on to the next spot. Currently my “studio days” also involve a lot of photography, which will inform large scale canvases once back in my physical studio. What are you looking at right now and/or reading? Right now I’m looking at a lot of land, which has been my main source of inspiration. I often listen to audiobooks while painting and am currently listening to Terry Tempest Williams read her Hour of Land (her 2018 Erosion was also really powerful). Just before I left for this trip I finished and loved Richard Powers’ Overstory. When I return home I plan to read a bunch about geology. Where can we find more of your work?

You can see more work on my website: and on my instagram, @laini.nemett. In person, I currently have work up at the Paul Mahder Gallery in Northern California, and have two paintings in the group show, Sunrise, Sunset at the Albany International Airport Gallery through August 15th.

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