A new exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (Virginia MOCA) displays striking collages by Norfolk artist Andy Harris inspired by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s (CBF) oyster restoration efforts. Harris is among 12 artists featured at a Virginia MOCA exhibition titled Nourish, which runs from Feb. 6 to June 6 and explores the connection between food and art. Admission is free thanks to Signature Sponsor PNC.
Harris creates engaging collages of colorful hand-painted paper glued to large wooden panels. His latest series was inspired by early memories of seeing CBF’s iconic bumper sticker soon after moving to Hampton Roads at age 11.
“Right away, I noticed Save the Bay bumper stickers everywhere,” Harris said. “That memory has stuck with me and this imagery will forever remind me of personal memories of moving to the area.”
In August 2020 he visited an oyster gardening event at CBF’s Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach. On that stormy day, he observed CBF staff collecting oysters raised by volunteers off docks to be planted on local sanctuary reefs. The dedication of the volunteers and staff working through the wet weather impressed Harris.
“They show up rain or shine and do important physical labor that promotes environmental health and awareness,” he said.
Motivated by his visit, Harris created artwork to call attention to CBF’s longstanding efforts to restore waterways that are vital for healthy fisheries and a sustainable seafood industry. He hopes that portraying this dedication in his artwork will inspire even more people to take action for the environment.
"The works I've produced in response to my time with CBF volunteers are aimed at bridging the gap between those who visit and enjoy the MOCA for cultural and educational experiences and the local conservation efforts happening right now that need our support,” Harris said. “I think it's often overlooked how motivating art can be for creating awareness and change."
CBF has long worked with volunteers and partners to restore the Bay’s oyster population, which is at a tiny fraction of historic levels. These efforts include planting oysters on sanctuary reefs in rivers such as the Lynnhaven and Lafayette, supporting local oyster aquaculture businesses, recycling empty oyster shells from local restaurants to serve as homes for new oysters, and running oyster gardening programs that allow volunteers to raise oysters at home for restoration work. This all supports Chesapeake Oyster Alliance efforts to add 10 billion oysters to the Bay by 2025.
The artwork by Harris includes a giant re-creation of the CBF bumper sticker, depictions of CBF staff working at an oyster gardening event under stormy clouds, and the innovative CBF oyster restoration barges docked at the Brock Environmental Center.
“You can’t help but be moved by the classic Chesapeake colors and forms in Andy’s work. Art is such a powerful way to call attention to the need to restore the Bay’s waters, which support local seafood industries,” said CBF Hampton Roads Director Christy Everett. “We’re honored that CBF has been an inspiration for this wonderful artwork.”
Those moved by Harris’s artwork to support CBF can visit his BayRaiser page at cbf.org/artforthebay. The work of Andy Harris in partnership with CBF was generously underwritten by Susan and Norman Colpitts.
The Nourish exhibition at Virginia MOCA debuts newly created artworks by 12 artists inspired by local experts, including CBF, that explore the possibilities at the intersection of food and art. The artists and experts, who come from a broad range of occupations including environmental organizations, farmers, chefs, nutritionists, writers, and antihunger advocates, provide unique insight into the culture of our region.
The art exhibition includes an audio tour featuring the many food experts in Hampton Roads that inspired the work.
Attendees can register for free tickets ahead of time at https://virginiamoca.org/tickets.
“When we were selecting partners to pair with the artists for Nourish, CBF was a no brainer,” said Virginia MOCA Deputy Director, Exhibitions and Education, Alison Byrne. “Their impact on Hampton Roads environment and culture is unmistakable—and we hoped they would be the perfect match for Andy. What they have devised together is beyond our wildest dreams, and we can’t wait for you all to see it.”
Harris also has a solo exhibition at the Gordon Art Galleries on Old Dominion University's campus until Feb. 21. Harris offers an inside look at his work on his social media sites: @ducktapeponytail on Instagram, Andy Harris on Facebook, or aharrisart.com. He is also a teacher at Old Donation School in Virginia Beach, and posts artwork by his students at @artwithharris on Twitter.
Members of the media should contact Kenny Fletcher for photos and videos of the artwork by Andy Harris. See contact details below.