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NANETTE CARTER

By Theodore F. WolffStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / September 11, 1986



New York

`THERE is nothing like the excitement I get from creating art,'' declares Nanette Carter, a young artist of talent and flair, whose colorful abstractions are beginning to attract serious attention in art circles in the Eastern United States and in some parts of the Midwest. ``And listening to jazz while I work makes it even more stimulating and rewarding. Rhythm and movement are important to my paintings, as are texture and color. I love to work against solid black, because it makes the colors richer and more dramatic and closer in effect to the music I hear.''

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A quick glance around her spacious, plant-filled upper Manhattan apartment proves that Ms. Carter's paintings are extremely handsome. Several of the most recent hang on the walls, and a number of smaller, unframed pieces are spread out on the floor for study. All are geometric in design and sumptuously colored. A particularly radiant painting is pinned to the wall in what is obviously her work area.

``I'm not quite finished with that one,'' she indicates, ``but I'm pleased with it. I'm trying out some new color combinations, and they seem to be working. I use this corner as my studio, because the light from the window is so good, and if I need a break, I can stand up and enjoy the view of the Hudson River and New Jersey.''

It's obvious she's not one to fuss with fancy or elaborate studio equipment. ``When I work with oil pastels -- and right now it's my favorite medium -- I pin or tape the paper or board directly onto the wall for support, and my collages are done in much the same way. Even my printmaking is simple and easy. I `print' my woodcuts by the old-fashioned method of placing paper over the inked block and then rubbing the paper gently with a wooden spoon.''

Although some of her methods may seem casual and old-fashioned, the results definitely are not. Her work has already been displayed in four exhibitions this year, including a group show at Associated American Artists, one of the most prestigious print galleries in America. She has also had a one-woman show in Detroit, held at the N'Namdi Gallery, that consisted entirely of oil pastels and was both a critical and commercial success.

Carter's preparation for a career in art began early. She was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1954, moved to New Jersey with her parents when she was a child, and then returned to Ohio to study art at Oberlin College. She received her BA from Oberlin (after spending her junior year at the L'Accademia di Belle Arti in Perugia, Italy), then went on to win her MFA from New York's Pratt Institute in 1978.

The years after that were busy and productive. She taught briefly at Pratt, accepted a position teaching printmaking and drawing at a preparatory school in Englewood, N.J. (which she still holds, although her responsibilities are now limited to four days a week), and spent the rest of her time working diligently at her art and her career.

Both came into focus rather quickly. By 1980 her work was sufficiently sophisticated to be included in two museum exhibitions, and in 1981 three other museums followed suit. Since then she has had five one-woman shows, has had her work selected for several important national and regional exhibitions, and has been featured in a number of magazines and books.

Carter attributes some of her success to the fact that her work can be interpreted in various ways. ``Although I was influenced by jazz, African art, Japanese prints, and Russian Constructivism, people persist in seeing my pictures in largely natural terms, as representing or evoking elements or qualities of landscape, the ocean, or the sky. I said once in an interview that my work is probably a synthesis of all three, and I think that still holds true. My paintings and prints may appear nonobjective, but they are, in many ways, about what we see and experience in nature.''

In the last few years her art has grown dramatically in richness and diversity. The biggest change has been in her use of color, which has progressed from crisp dark-light contrasts, through muted hues and tonalities, to coloristic brilliance. Her evolution, however, has always been reasoned and balanced, with her sensibilities and intelligence working in perfect tandem to fashion images embodying feeling and form in equal measure.

This balance is not quite as evident, however, in some of her recent monotypes (a type of printing that produces only one impression), especially those pertaining to South Africa's racial problems. In them, emotion wins out over control, and color, by being more aggressive, sets the tone in ways it never has before.