Andrea Bersaglieri: Exploring the Beauty of the Natural World
Written by Genie Davis
Andrea Bersaglieri creates intimate, detailed, and blissful images that celebrate and elevate the beauty of the natural world. From graceful floral watercolors to lush, contemplative views of branches and weeds, to highly textured sepia-toned drawings, her work reveals a wondrous world.
The artist describes her work as a “pretty straight documentation of what I find fascinating about the ‘natural’ world around me. As a Northern California transplant, I spent many years feeling frustrated by the landscape environment I found myself in here in Southern California – until I realized I just needed to look closer.”
And her gaze has definitely turned to the most private of observations: she sees a single weed or a clump of dirt as the perfect subject for a close-up, richly realistic “portrait.”
“The idea that the most obvious beauty we see isn’t the only beauty is a concept that has great metaphorical significance for me,” Bersaglieri explains. “The seemingly dominant among us are not the ones holding this whole thing together. Look closely enough, and even the dirt is powerful and beautiful and full of life and significance.”
Certainly in her art, each dandelion or tiny frond has a dignified significance worthy of honor. In her statement, she says we have a “predetermined aesthetic preference for nature” that leads us to “find plants beautiful, but our evolution is literally squeezing them out of our environment.” She questions what plants will survive this evolution, and she seeks to understand the tenacity and purpose of the plants around her – including those we are all too quick to denigrate as “weeds.”
Using her own backyard as a source, she draws and paints what she calls “snippets” as she works to fully apprehend her subjects.
Her current residency at Shoebox Projects helps her to, as she puts it, take the “show on the road, so to speak. For the last five years or so, all of my subject matter came from my own small plot of suburbia. I have found meaningful significance in the idea that the plants and dirt hold a record of everything that has happened there before. That seems like a concept I can explore in other locations. The Brewery site has a long history, and that history is contained in the remnants I find.”
Bersaglieri says that in her exploration of nature wherever she finds it, “Drawing is just a way to look really, really, closely. I love the basic-ness of it. I’ll be working in my yard and pull up a weed that is just asking to be drawn!”
Her work is so carefully realized as to seem a perfect description of her subjects. Asked if this minute depiction of nature helps her to connect with viewers, she responds that her work is not about the viewer specifically. “It’s about the looking and recording…of course, being able to share what I see is a bonus. I’m using the drawing as a way to understand,” she says, noting that to create a drawing that helps her understand takes an almost magnified form of perception. “I never feel like they are finished, I just move on to another one with the intent of going back to finish later. The closer I look, the more I see, so it becomes a bit endless.”
Working in oil paint and watercolor primarily, she says that she finds herself “very amused by the fact that I am using what amounts to colorful dirt to make these images. The use of traditional materials references the time-honored practice of laborious, realistic documentation, to elevate the subject to a place of respect and importance.” This is true for her regardless of what she is depicting – it is not just a wildly colorful flower that interests her; humble weeds and undergrowth are just as, or perhaps more, exciting for her to reveal. “The supporting characters are way more interesting than the stars,” she says.
As an artist, Bersaglieri is not only creating beautiful work, she is preserving, analyzing, documenting, and reverently preserving nature. The sense that she is honoring her subjects is deeply embedded in each carefully rendered image, and within each image’s own DNA.
The culmination of Bersaglieri’s residency is this Sunday June 16, 3-6pm with a reception at Shoebox Projects.