From the time that my tiny hand could grip a cheap, #2 pencil, I have been compelled to the blank page. Pieces of cardboard from a discarded package, the back side of the old, green and white striped computer paper, all of it held so much allure. The blank page was full of possibility, a window through which the child could invent her world.
Until I went to college in 1994 and entered a fine arts program at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, I had virtually no formal art training. At that time, while I clearly had skill and ability, my drawing somewhat resembled the work of Grandma Moses. My art education was mostly classical/academic, and I obsessed over figure drawing, the old anatomical drawings of da Vinci, and the work of Egon Schiele. I made piles of etchings, because that was the cool thing to do, and I thrived in academia… always balancing the encouragement, time and space to make art amongst peers, with the slow and subtle desecration of the purity of the child artist.
Now, one might say, my work exists somewhere on the spectrum between the folk artist legend, Grandma Moses and the Armenian/American painter Arshile Gorky.
While the work has evolved, there is a particular quality that remains. I credit this not to “me”, but something that moves, unseen, through me. This is the work that I have been compelled to make on any given hour or day, over a span of years. To look at this body of work retrospectively is to see more clearly the evolution of a unique visual vocabulary. Each piece is the result of an intuitive process, a playful tug between figure and ground. Layers of transparent pigments become the atmosphere through which forms float or sit, emerge or disintegrate. There is an explicit organicism that is both familiar and unfamiliar: biology, landscape, things mechanical, parts of composite bodies. These constructed relationships reveal narratives that echo the drama of our human experience and the intricate movements of the natural world. Each painting is a glimpse into a contained world, a microcosmic surrogate for all of the mystery that is a body, a system, an environment.
Through a meditative process of delving within, the paintings become landscapes of memory, dream, and invention – A manifestation of all that this body contains: primordial ocean worlds, my grandmother’s face, utilitarian objects, symbols of our hands’ work: chairs, tables, architecture; suggestions of all manner of biological movements, the ceaseless horizon, the depths of the human eye. I go back for the child with her tiny hands and fascination with fantasy, terror, things beautiful and other-worldly. Grief and longing can likely be found in each painting, as well as the inescapable tug of one’s own mortality. How does it all relate? As an artist, this is what compels me the most. I want to present a space where we will be forever catching glimpses of new relationships. Where do all of these things exist within us; how might we chose to access them? Are there points of intersection within our individual bodies and between us, both as a species and as an interconnected part of the living pulse of the planet. It is here that an intimation of the meaning in this image-making ritual is revealed. All that came before, each isolated event that built us, continues to move within, rippling into the now and the yet-to-come.
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all artwork, drawings & other images on this site
by anna bayles arthur
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