I first meet Anne Siems at her home and studio in Ballard. As we exchange greetings, I’m immediately taken in by the comfort I feel in her presence. Anne’s house radiates a warmth and tranquility, her shelves adorned with handmade art objects, plants, and books. She shares the space with her husband, teenage daughter, and two dogs. She makes us tea, setting out strawberries as we lounge in the garden.
Anne moved to Seattle from Germany in 1991 after finishing her MFA in visual art. First represented by Grover/Thurston Gallery in Pioneer Square, her artwork has traveled through more states and cities than I can name.
Anne’s paintings have a quiet otherworldly ambiance, like haunted relics lifted from fairy tales. Working in a variety of media and scales, Anne largely paints portraits of women and children. Their expressions are liminal, as if caught between one emotion and the next. In their semi-translucent garments and distorted bodies, they often seem regally serene yet uneasy in their surroundings. Magical realism echoes through each of her pieces, creating an atmospheric lightness in their abstractions.
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Works on Paper
Works on Fiber Paper
Edges of Mist
December 2014, Anne Siems
"When I look at the body of work dedicated to a show, I stand and wonder from where this work has emerged.
I look back at the year that preceded it and see all my experiences sublimated into paintings and drawings. I see the travels I have made, the hikes I have walked, the books I have read, images I have viewed, dreams I have recorded, clouds I have observed, ceremonies I have witnessed and workshops I have taken.
I am often a bit surprised when a theme I have worked on for a year or more dissipates or even ends abruptly. The Trees were a big topic for me in 2013/14. Then a painting emerged in which the landscape had given way to a mist or cloudscape, pushing the figure forward in a new way. Rocks, crystals and minerals, keepers of time, witnesses to history accompany my people.
What keeps me interested is the joy I feel when exploring ideas, new and old, in my studio. What will come next? I do not know."
By adopting 17th- and 18th- century American folk motifs, Seattle-based Anne Siems' portraits and still life paintings emit a haunting awkwardness. With rosy cheeks, haunted gaze and flattened features, Siems' highly stylized figures inhabit a dreamy colonial landscape. As the world itself seems frozen in time, the transparent figures float in the foreground, forever youthful and mysterious. The delicate patterning found in traditional embroidery is the main element used to define their clothing. A thick application of paint, at times intentionally crackled to create the effect of an aged surface, emphasizes folk painting and faux antiquity. Siems' paintings 'borrow backwards' with a refreshing whimsy and off kilter grace, participating in the current revival of 'old, weird America.'
-- ARTDAILY.ORG March 2011
Siems, who is German-born and now living in the northwestern United States, has drawn inspiration from the Guide on Wildlife in Europe, featuring unforgettable animal portraits. These, along with her youthful cast of human characters, celebrate the joys and mysteries of life. Distinct identities emerge in each portrait with fable-like stories becoming the narrative. Ritual elements from Native American medicine and culture, rabbits, deer, owls and mythological animals, their pelts and feathers, are prominent subjects in Siems’ menagerie. The muse of the artist is both real and imaginary.
In 2001 it seemed like I never recovered fully from a flu , I constantly felt fatigued and achy. Several years later I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Ever since, I have been on a path to find healing. My work in psychotherapy has helped me to shift my nervous system to a calmer, less exhausting “gear” (in Fibromyalgia the nervous system is in a constant fight or flight pattern). This work has also gotten me more deeply in touch with the earth as a sacred being.
For a while now I have longed for more ritual and ceremony in my life. I was raised with little religion, but connected to Christianity through my time as a child in South America and my upbringing in Germany.
Lately, I have found my yearning for spiritual practice in the Native American traditions of shamanic medicine making. I believe in all of us is the genuine desire to connect first and foremost with that which sustains us. All of our ancestors were originally oriented toward ritual and ceremony that honored and celebrated the earth, the sky and all that exists in between.
I believe we can attain healing for the body, soul and planet by rediscovering our relationship to these roots of worship. Consciously thanking that which sustains us –the air we breathe, the earth that holds us to her and everything that surrounds us- allows for just that.
-- Anne Siems, 2013
Siems, a Fulbright Scholar, has exhibited in Canada and in Europe and widely throughout the United States.
Her work is included in such collections as the Arkansas Art Centre, Boise Art Museum, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, and the Tacoma Art Museum.