Monday, July 16, 2018
BLOG OF THE WEEK ~ A CHAT ABOUT ART WITH ANNELL LIVINGSTON
Our friend Annell Livingston is well known to us as a poet, but recently some interest was expressed in hearing about her life as an artist, an idea I liked very much. So today we will follow Annell’s artistic journey through the years, and enjoy some of her glorious paintings. As you know, Annell lives in Taos, New Mexico, under the gaze of Taos Mountain, a landscape that finds its way into her artistic expression, in words and on canvas.
Fragments Geometry and Change #249
40”x40” acrylic on canvas
Sherry: Annell, when did you first begin your journey as an artist? Did you draw and paint as a child?
Annell: Yes, Sherry, I guess I always did draw and paint. It has always been my passion. I cannot be happy if I am not able to express myself.
IMG_9305.jpg Nest Drawing Adobe
27″x27″ graphite and gouache on paper
Sherry: I love your exquisite bird’s nest illustrations. And the bright colours taken from the pottery and art of Santa Fe in some of your earlier work. Would you tell us a bit about those early years of painting?
Annell: Sherry, there are many ways to draw, but the bird’s nest drawings are what I would call studies. I actually draw from the bird’s nest, and try to get every twig and leaf the bird might use in the construction of the nest. It is something humans can’t do.
I have used the grid in my work since 1986. In 2004 a dealer who represented my work in Santa Fe, New Mexico, asked me to do some still life for her gallery. And it took me three years to think about what I might paint. I wanted to do something different, but something that represented New Mexico. Works that represented “Place”, since New Mexico is heavily influenced by Mexico.
I began to collect the early pottery, and colorful weavings of Mexico. (The weavings of Mexico are considered the most colorful in the world.) I used local fruit and flowers. I wanted the work to be expressive, rather than “right.” My work is hard edged, and at the time I loved working on oriental paper. I went to Japan and met Mr. Hosino, a master paper maker. He guaranteed his paper for one thousand years, and I loved the idea that my work would last as long as the paper it was painted on.
Sherry: How wonderful that you travelled to Japan to verify your source of paper!
IMG_7736.JPG 16″x16″ gouache on oriental paper
Still Life With Deer and Yellow Cup
Here is a still life I set up in the studio. The yellow cup is right there in front. I would draw from the still life, and then paint.
Sherry: I am enjoying this so much! I love your colorful still life!
Annell: I loved making these works, they were such fun. And the viewer can look at the work, and he can see what the artist is doing, and he can say, “Well, you know, I wouldn’t have done it that way.” This kind of work invites the viewer into the work. A dialogue is set up.
Sherry: I can see that. I have seen some paintings that may have arisen out of your Santa Fe inspired work – the same still life and colors, but set on a grid. Was this a stepping stone on the journey?
Annell: You never know what you might learn from a project. Actually these works took me to a series of work I called One Day In The Life. I began to think about how you could tell the story of a man’s life, by focusing on a small period of time. The two works above are “a day and a night” of One Day In The Life.
IMG_9759 Still Life/Deconstructed/Reconstructed #48
22″x22″ gouache on w/c paper
A series I called Still Life/Deconstructed/Reconstructed followed, and it was very important, as I allowed me to graduate with gouache (which is a very difficult thing to do) and weave the work together. If you follow each color, you will see it moves from mid-tone to lighter. Which showed me the way to continue to the current work, Fragments Geometry and Change.
Sherry: I have been watching this evolution, with interest. Annell, for those who do not know, there was a tragic event in your life when you lived by the ocean. One year after your husband’s death by drowning, you made a huge life change, moving to Taos. Would you tell us a bit about that move? Did you think the desert would offer you a fresh canvas?
Annell: Sherry, I just needed a new point of view. I had lived on the Third Coast of Texas all my life. It was hard for my friends to see me grieve. I needed a place I could howl, and I found it on the mesa above Taos. My work was represented in Taos and in Santa Fe; it just seemed right to me. So I moved to the dry desert. You can’t drown in the desert. It is not that I was afraid I would drown; it was just time for a change.
Sherry: It is beautiful there. Would you tell us a bit about working on a grid?
Annell: Actually I had been working with the grid since 1986. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. And at first I didn’t succeed. So I kept trying to find a way to allow the grid to be a part of my work. It was around 1990, I went into the studio and closed the door…alone with myself, I determined what I had to say that was special, that was my own. What made me different than everyone else.
For me, the visual arts, are a language, and the artist is saying something every time he touches his brush to his canvas. For the artist, we spend many years learning techniques, but then we have to learn who we are and what we have to say. This could take from five minutes to a lifetime. It is not just about painting a pretty picture.
_MG_0730 Fragments G&C #130 20″x30″
gouache on w/c paper
_MG_0181 Fragments Geometry & Change #165 2014
30″x30″ gouache on 300 lb w/c paper
IMG_0027 Fragments Geometry & Change #183
30″x30″ gouache on w/c paper
Annell: Sherry, it is especially good of you to let me show several of the grid paintings. You might think as you narrow your options, the work would be boring. But actually as we narrow our options, we are forced to be more creative.
Sherry: It is my pleasure, Annell. Your work is fascinating. I can see what a journey your work is. And how different each canvas is. The longer I look, the more color and movement I see in each canvas.
In a recent interview by Ann Landi at Vasari21, you stated, “My work is not so much about the external world, but about finding that place where internal and external worlds meet. I call the series Fragments because my thoughts and memories are like fragments. Nothing seemed really whole, but the pieces came together to be the experience of my life.” I really appreciate that quote.
~ the place where internal
and external worlds meet ~
In your life you have had a heartbreaking series of losses, first your husband, then your mother, and, in 2014, the tragic loss of your son, Jim. You move through your grief with such dignity and grace, Annell. I so admire you.
It seems to me, it must be peaceful and comforting to go into your studio, bend to your canvas and enter into the grid, hour after hour. Would you tell us a bit about this?
Annell: For me, painting is what is called active meditation. There is a certain ritual to it. And I go to the studio every day. I begin the day writing, and then go to my work. I don’t finish all I know at the end of the day, therefore the work waits for me, and I can go right into it, no time wasted wondering what I will paint today.
IMG_0535.jpg Fragments Geometry and Change #247
36″x36″ acrylic on canvas
Sherry: Oh, I love the red square in the centre of this painting. Not long ago, you wrote a poem about what it is to be an artist. I would love to include it here, if I may.
As a painter I invent everyday
I create something new
Something never seen
In exactly the same way before
You ask, but what am I to think
And I will answer
That is up to you
I pick the color
I mix the paint
I apply the paint
I allow the painting to come alive
And I need the viewer to have his own thoughts
To complete my work
But the viewer has to slow down
Take a fresh look
Be aware of his thoughts
Go with it
Perhaps it is based on a memory
Or a thought forgotten long ago
Suddenly it is in this moment
The thought is renewed
Seen in a different way
There is a dialogue
Between the viewer and the painting
Something is revealed
You will tell me
How your Grandmother cared for you
The first time you flew
The little dog you had when you were small
You will tell me about your love
And when you first met
Your story will be unique
April 18, 2018
Sherry: I like the idea of a dialogue between the artist and the one viewing the painting. There was another poem in 2011 that lends itself to this conversation. Let’s take a peek:
As an artist
Is what I do
Can I say how it is done
Starts with an idea
We have don’t know
How to do it
We don’t even know
What we want
But we try
We try to discover
It is trial and error
It is “what if”
We seek patterns
Related to every
Kind of creativity
We look for clues on how
To be self-creating
All art is improvisation
Some we present
Whole and at once
Some we present
Revised and restructured
We seek our own way
It begins with an idea
And we stumble
Through the journey
The finished piece you
See or hear
Is but a relic or trace of the
Journey that has
Come and gone
All art is performance
Even when you are the
Only one in the studio
For all is revealed in
The finished product
It is a record of the
Process of improvisation
The process comes
From the deepest
Part of ourselves
It is a spiritual path
It is about us
About the deep self
It is a soul journey
Sherry: Would you talk about about this soul journey, my friend?
Annell: I am not sure about the “soul,” and don’t think I have ever seen one, but someone dear told me, it is the authentic you, of you. And that is what I try to do in my work. To be authentic. I do my very best. I sign my work, I put my name on it, at the end of the day.
Sherry: Taos so often creeps into your poems, the beauty of the landscape woven through your words. Do you feel the influence of the desert in your painting as well?
Annell: When I first came here, I wondered would I get tired of the scene. And after over 20 years, I can say, “no”. I am still thrilled, by mountains, the Rio Grand, and the forever sage brush across the mesa.
This is the sun rise over Taos Mountain. Sometimes the sun rises are as colorful as the sun sets.
Sherry: One could never tire of such a landscape. What a blessing, to live there!
This is a sun set looking west.
Sherry: The beauty is truly spectacular. It calls to me much as the ocean does. The power of that sky, the colors of the sunrises and sunsets – perfect for an artist! I would like to close with a photo of Taos in a most beautiful sunset, and with a poem you wrote to celebrate the beauty of your beloved mountain.
Taos, New Mexico
My chosen home
Beyond what we might call beautiful
Perhaps there are no words for it
On the mesa
I can see
The sun rises in the east
Above Taos Pueblo
Lights Taos Valley
And the mountains that circle
Sets in the west
Glorious end of day
The low flat light
Crawls over sage brush
Reflects off adobe houses
Where everyday people
Go about their everyday lives
April 20, 2018
Sherry: You truly live in a beautiful place, Annell. Thank you so much for this wonderful chat. We so enjoyed hearing about your work as an artist, and visiting your beloved Taos.
Friends, Annell’s website is at www.annelllivingston.com
The Color Book : Poems and Paintings
is available here.
Annell’s Red Shoes Artists Book Project
is available here.
My friends, we hope you enjoyed this chat about art, Annell’s wonderful paintings and poetry, and the beauty of the Taos landscape. We enjoyed bringing it to you. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!
Labels: Past Poetry Blogs of the Week
- Kim RussellJuly 16, 2018 at 1:10 PMReply
- Thank you so much Sherry and Annell; I enjoyed this interview so much and love the artwork and poetry. You can really see the influence of New Mexico on her art. May I suggest using one of Annell’s pieces of artwork as a visual prompt some time in the future?
- Sarah RussellJuly 16, 2018 at 1:50 PM
- What a wonderful interview! Annelle, your work is o