Painter Nate DeRidder creates work that functions as both art and activism. Environmental awareness and animal rights are common themes for the artist whose interest was sparked after reading “Food Matters” by Mark Bittman, a book that addresses environmentally ethical eating.
“I did my own research after that and from there I researched climate change. I made changes in my personal life and that flowed over in my artwork as well,” DeRidder says. “I feel like using my art as a platform for voicing support for issues is something I’m interested in because if its coming from me I might as well make it personal to what I believe in.”The Appleton native knew art was his calling since sixth grade when he made a yearbook declaration that art or illustration would be his career path. His love for art grew throughout high school after which DeRidder attended Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee and earned a degree in art education.
Since graduating from college in 2018, DeRidder returned to Appleton and taught art classes through the Appleton Public School District and The Trout Museum of Art, but is now focusing on his art full time.
The current climate crisis is a recurring topic DeRidder addresses through his art. His portfolio includes oil paintings that depict animals affected by the Australian wildfires, examine the plight of pollinators and portraits of environmental activist Greta Thunberg.
“A lot of art movements are reflective of what’s going on in the world at the time,” DeRidder says. “Right now, culturally and globally, we are in a place where if we don’t make changes scientists agree it’s not going to be good so it’s important for artists to document what’s happening.”
DeRidder’s work has been featured at Lawrence University’s The Rabbit pop-up gallery and artlessBastard gallery in De Pere. As an animal lover himself (DeRidder has nine pets – four dogs and five birds), pet portraits make up a large percentage of DeRidder’s commision work.
Despite the challenging subject matter of some of his work, DeRidder hopes viewers see it positively.
“Some of my work might seem sad, but I don’t do it to make people feel bad. I do it to hopefully inspire them to make positive changes for themselves and the world,” he says.