Spike Lee hasn’t just admired Nina Nemeth’s paintings. The Academy Award-winning film director is a buyer of the artist’s limited series, Do You Remember When, a poignant reflection of life in New York City before COVID became an everyday part of the vernacular.
During the height of the pandemic, the lifelong artist who resides in Montville Township, New Jersey, created several mixed media paintings on maps of largely ordinary locations throughout the metropolis, a homage to what could no longer be taken for granted, whether it be pickup basketball, a Broadway matinee or enjoying a hotdog from an outdoor stand.
Lee acquired the collection, a kick for Nemeth, used to seeing him at New York Knicks games. She’s passionate in engaging with art patrons, the familiar, the famous and the new faces she meets at outdoor shows. Nemeth is a regular at each of the Rose Squared art shows, where she’s sold her work for the last 30 years. She will have a booth at all the 2022 shows — Brookdale Park on June 18-19 and again on Oct. 15-16 and Anderson Park on Sept. 17-18.
“Outdoor shows are my true love,” Nemeth says. “It’s where you get to take what you’ve done inside alone and talk with people about it. I really love that.”
Nemeth’s background includes an undergraduate degree in art from Long Island University and a Master of Fine Arts in drawing and printmaking from Pratt Institute. Her career took off when she discovered fluid acrylic paints, highly intense colors with thin consistencies that spread easily and are best used on a flat canvas given their tendency to drip.
Her technique involves layering with the specialized paints making texture an important part of her work. The results are stunning.
“I don’t have a copyright on the technique, but I don’t know of anyone else doing it quite this way,” says Nemeth, who teaches at Morris County Art Association. “My work is layers and layers of paper. I use paper not as a collage element but as a palate of color. You’ll see print as line, text as line. If I want to add a line, I might cut out a stream of text and put it in the painting. So, the trees in my birches are faces on papers that I shift around to look like bark. No one taught me that. It’s just the evolution of my work.”
Her breathtaking gallery of available works replicates nature with a nod toward trees, icons including Dali Lama, Van Gogh and Monet, and spaces in New York City, her hometown that she adores. A peek at her Instagram account reveals her most recent work, including a Manhattan version of Starry Night, an idea sparked by a dream.
Nemeth’s Do You Remember When collection developed during the early uncertainty of the pandemic. She started by drawing a woman’s head on a map, a visualization of the chaos that enveloped most of us in early 2020. Actual maps with street names spelled out in microscopic letters give each of the works in the series a sense of place and familiarity. She created a portrait of Lee, titling it Fort Greene Represent to pay homage to the neighborhood he calls home.
“I tagged him on Instagram. He saw it. He told me he loved it, and I sent him a print,” Nemeth says.
HBO Films soon came calling asking to use her art in its Lee-directed film “NYC Epicenters 9/11→2021½,” which chronicles New York City from 9/11 through the pandemic. “You don’t work for the recognition,” Nemeth says. “But it was a nice foray into something pretty special.”
Nemeth credits her husband, Ken, daughter, Carly, and son-in-law, Chris, for supporting her for her entire career. She largely shows in the tri-state area and looks forward to chatting up all who stop by her booth at one of the upcoming Rose Squared shows.