Last summer, Laini Nemett, associate professor of drawing and painting, moved her art studio into her Subaru to paint plein-air landscapes, “natural architecture” and ancient dwellings around the country. She and her husband, David, drove more than 8,000 miles in their seven weeks on the road, alternating between sleeping in a tent and their converted camper-car. Nemett, who is currently building a more traditional studio in Schenectady, calls Union her dream job. She joined the faculty in 2015. In good weather, you’ll often see her teaching her students in Jackson’s Garden, an oasis of light, color and inspiration.
A 2006 graduate of Brown University, Nemett lived in Barcelona for three years, first on a painting Fulbright and then working at an art gallery. After graduate school at Maryland Institute College of Art, she lived and worked in New York City until moving upstate. In addition to painting Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings in the Southwest and unusual landforms in the desert, she can be found painting in local construction sites or looking out the window in her Niskayuna home. Her work is exhibited throughout the U.S. and abroad.
Currently, she is part of a group exhibit, “The Wood for the Trees,” at Hawk and Hive in Andes, N.Y., in conjunction with the Catskills Forest Association. The show runs through April 10. She also will have a few paintings in "Shimmer" at the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge, Mass., April 1-May 1.
FIRST APP YOU LOOK AT IN THE MORNING:
Gmail, then Zillow, probably because those are the first emails I get in the morning. I do spend less time on Zillow these days after recently buying a home, but the interiors of houses totally fascinate me, and I seem to never get tired of seeing the different types of architecture in the area.
ONE BOOK YOU HAVE READ MULTIPLE TIMES:
“The Natural Way to Draw” by the legendary figure drawing teacher, Kimon Nicolaides. I love how he talks about drawing in such a straightforward way and so clearly articulates the idea of losing all preconceived associations when trying to capture a subject. I’ve reread chunks of the book almost every time I’ve taught Life Drawing since about 2012.
BEST ADVICE YOU EVER RECEIVED:
Say “yes” whenever possible. My parents have always talked about that as being the best thing they learned from my grandfather in terms of parenting, and growing up I saw them use it in every aspect of their lives. I think it’s actually really important to be able to say “no” when necessary, but I try to use their yes advice in teaching and in general as often as I can.
FAVORITE SPOT ON CAMPUS:
The drawing studio. This might be an obvious one from me, but the cathedral ceilings, huge skylights and two walls of windows (with one looking out to Jackson’s Garden!), are hard to beat. The grassy patch under the old Ginkgo tree in the garden is a close second.
Milk and cereal with coffee
NETFLIX OR AMAZON:
Yes to both, and Hulu and HBO. Some recent favorite series are “Schitt’s Creek,” “The Leftovers” (opposite vibe from “Schitt’s Creek,” which we binged at the same time toward the beginning of the pandemic), “Boardwalk Empire,” “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Lupin” and “Ted Lasso.” I’d also highly recommend the recent “Station 11.”
I listen to lots of podcasts while painting, so it’s hard to pick only one. “The Daily” is the one I listen to almost every day because I like the bite-size chunks of great investigative journalism. “Dolly Parton’s America” is possibly my favorite single season podcast. It’s especially awesome if you’re a Dolly or folk/country/bluegrass fan, but even if you’re not, it’s a really fascinating look at the history, culture and music of our country through one of the most positive and captivating Americans. Other favorites are: “99% Invisible,” “This American Life,” “The Moth,” “Radiolab,” “Overheard at National Geographic,” “Unfinished” and anything from “Serial.” Also: “2 Girls 1 Podcast” (brainchild of one of my oldest friends), and “Not Boring Workouts” (same friend’s other show; she narrates interesting educational topics interspersed with simple exercise instructions). The last one was especially helpful during quarantine days.
ONE SKILL YOU WISH YOU HAD:
I’ve always wished I could play the banjo. I love live music and dream about being able to jam along with my guitarist husband and other friends. I finally bought one toward the beginning of the pandemic and learned some basic chords, so here’s hoping!
ANOTHER SUBJECT YOU WISH YOU COULD TEACH:
I wish I knew enough about geology to work that into a studio course. I’ve been traveling and painting in the Southwest a lot, and the land formations there just blow my mind. I find myself saying fairly often these days that I wish I’d taken geology classes in college. I hope to take one at Union sometime soon.
MOST CREATIVE EXCUSE YOU HEARD FOR A LATE ASSIGNMENT:
I once had a student turn in a chewed up, half-finished color chart that her cat had eaten.