Nina Shekhar

A negative space (2021)

PRIMAVERA II the rabbits

from the composer

A negative space was commissioned for “The Primavera Project,” in which artists were asked to musically respond to Sandro Botticelli’s and Charline von Heyl’s original Primavera paintings. When comparing Botticelli’s work from the late 1400s to von Heyl’s painted in 2020, the first thing I noticed was that von Heyl’s is a reclaimed inversion of Botticelli’s, the lifelike human and angelic figures from Botticelli’s now appearing like erased smudges within a dark background, highlighting the way many marginalized identities have been erased from history. Within these cutout figures, there is room to insert our ourselves or others forgotten into the shadowed bodies of Venus, The Three Graces, and Cupid. By reversing figure and ground, we reveal a negative space’s hidden meaning and recognize the unseen.

Many thanks to Matt Haimovitz for commissioning this piece.


Nina Shekhar is a composer who explores the intersection of identity, vulnerability, love, and laughter to create bold and intensely personal works.

Described as “vivid” (Washington Post) and “surprises and delights aplenty” (LA Times), her music has been commissioned and performed by leading artists including Eighth Blackbird, International Contemporary Ensemble, LA Philharmonic, Albany Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, New York Youth Symphony, JACK Quartet, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, ETHEL, and violinist Jennifer Koh. Her work has been featured by Carnegie Hall, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Walt Disney Concert Hall (LA Phil’s Noon to Midnight), Library of Congress, National Gallery of Art, National Sawdust, and WNYC/New Sounds (New York), WFMT (Chicago), and KUSC and
KPFK (Los Angeles) radio. Current projects include commissions for the Albany Symphony, Alarm Will Sound, The Crossing, Grand
Rapids Symphony, Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA), and New World Symphony. Nina is a recipient of the 2021 ASCAP Rudolf
Nissim Prize, two Morton Gould Awards (2015 and 2019), and the 2018 ASCAP Foundation Leonard Bernstein Award, funded by the
Bernstein family.

Shekhar is currently pursuing her PhD in Music Composition at Princeton University. An active educator, she is a Composer Teaching Artist Fellow for Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and is on faculty at Brightwork newmusic‘s Project Beacon initiative. She previously served as an inaugural Debut Fellow of the Young Musicians Foundation, designing curricula for LA-area schools.