Artist's love of oysters fuels environmental cause (Poughkeespie Journal 10/30/16))

Editor’s note: Hudson Valley artist Nadine Robbins’ November art exhibit, “Art, Oysters and Billion Oyster Project” opening Nov. 5 at Starr Library in Rhinebeck will not only provide artistic interpretations of oysters but will help to raise awareness and funds for the Billion Oyster Project, an ecosystem restoration and education project aimed at restoring 1 billion live oysters to New York Harbor by engaging students in public schools — numbering 1.1 million kids — and providing them the tools and curriculum necessary to participate in the project. She writes about the inspiration behind her exhibit.

For my entire life, when I’ve needed to recharge, I’ve sought out the salty air, the perpetual tides and the bounty of the sea. It’s been medicine, nourishment and inspiration for my life and work.

I grew up near the sea, and my love for oysters came from spending part of my childhood on the Isle of Palms, a barrier island outside of Charleston, South Carolina. My father would take my siblings and me out on his boat into the salt marshes in search of the enticing bivalves. He would take us to The Trawler in Mount Pleasant that had tables with holes in them to place buckets of oysters for each of us to devour.

Since then, I’ve always enjoyed oysters, but it wasn’t until a trip to Wellfleet, Massachusetts in search of its world famous oyster, that the idea to paint them took hold. I was looking to buy an oyster painting, but to my surprise, I couldn’t find one. I could find oyster shells, but none with the meat and brine inside of them. So I decided to create my own paintings, hoping to seduce the viewer into indulging in my favorite delicacy.

Last year, I received a message from a curator asking if I would consider donating a print to their gala to benefit The Billion Oyster Project (BOP), but it came two months after the fact, no thanks to a social media glitch. But it peaked my curiosity. What was this organization about?

Since 2011, Billion Oyster Project has planted 16.5 million oysters in New York Harbor. (Photo: Courtesy photo)

The Billion Oyster Project has a goal to repopulate New York City’s harbor with the bivalves that were there in abundance when Henry Hudson first dropped anchor in the North River in 1609. The expectation of the project is not human consumption, but rather that at full capacity, the oysters will filter the harbor water completely every three days, making for the rich and vital estuary the Lenape once knew.

As I learned more about oysters and their habitats, I was even more excited to paint them and wanted to get involved. Committed to help, my oyster paintings could be more than just art. They could be an investment in the restoration and sustainability for New York Harbor. That’s when I decided to open an online oyster print store called juicyoysters.com and donate a portion of my sales to the BOP.

During this time, Nan Jackson from the Starr Library in Rhinebeck, contacted me about creating a show of some of these prints and thought it was a great idea. Coincidentally, a few weeks later, in a conversation with my friend Susan, I discovered that her friend Jeff was Zoë Greenberg’s father. Zoë just happened to be the head scientific diver for the BOP and teacher at the New York Harbor School on Governor’s Island. When I mentioned this to Nan, she thought of the idea to invite Zoë to speak, before the opening of the show, about Ecosystem Restoration and the Education Project aimed at restoring 1 billion live oysters to New York Harbor and engaging hundreds of thousands of school children through restoration-based STEM education programs. It was a perfect fit.

Oysters are these amazing little creatures. I love them. And I am passionate about helping the Billion Oyster Project. They have turned out to be a great way to connect with people locally and all over the world, and doing my part to preserve oysters and our waterways connects me to my art on a deeper level and to the Hudson Valley as well. The way I look at it, it’s my river, it’s my art and so now it’s my cause.

Nadine Robbins is a contemporary realist oil painter and photographer who merges traditional painting techniques, photography and design concepts to create figurative and still-life paintings. Visit http://www.nadinerobbinsart.com/

‘Art, Oysters and the Billion Oyster Project’

Starr Library, 68 West Market St., Rhinebeck, will host an opening reception for “Art, Oysters and the Billion Oyster Project” at 4:30 p.m., Nov. 5, beginning with a talk by Zoë Greenberg, head scientific diver for the BOP and teacher at the New York Harbor School on Governor’s Island. The exhibit will run through the end of November.

Artist Nadine Robbins will donate part of the proceeds from the sale of her works, and Starr Library is forgoing its 15 percent commission to help replenish the oyster beds through the BOP.

STORY APPEARED IN THE POUGHKEEPSIE JOURNAL ON 10/20/16 http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/tech/science/2016/10/27/valley-billion-oyster-project/92826754/