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We Are All Connected
Anne Siems at Littlejohn Contemporary, Manhattan
13 FEBRUARY 2018,
Bruce Wilshire, in The Primal Roots of American Philosophy, argues that even though the US government almost completely eradicated Native American religion and culture, there were those among the white, dominant culture who became deeply influenced by Native American thought. Indeed, Wilshire argues that the influence was so deep that Native American thought forms the core of the American philosophical tradition and differentiates US philosophy significantly from European philosophy. To Wilshire this is seen most clearly in folks like Emerson, Thoreau, James and Dewey. I mention all this because Anne Siems appears to play with the notion that women and children from the dominant culture might just be one short step away from full blown paganism, or, perhaps, might be there already. Her marvelous, winsome and enchanting work, currently on display at Littlejohn Contemporary in Chelsea, appears to take the historically unique American artistic tradition of folk art portraiture and to deliberately infuse it with shamanistic and transcendental meaning.
Folk art portraiture from early 19th century America possessed certain conspicuous characteristics. Perspective was abandoned for a flatness of finely defined, boldly colored and symmetrically arranged images within the context of a non-specific source of lighting. The painters were shooting for a semi-idealized likeness which displayed identity without reflecting personality or emotional state, but which might betray class status. These painters were, generally, craftsmen meeting the needs of their sitters. Animals often are presented in the paintings but they tend to serve moralistic or emblematic functions and nature is a pleasant backdrop often denoting property ownership. These were basically pre-photographic images serving the function daguerreotypes would soon serve as personal and occupational photography. Psychological insight into the sitter was not the point. Documenting the person’s attainment of a social niche within the burgeoning American society was the goal.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WE ARE ONE
January 17 – March 3, 2018
New York, NY (CHELSEA) - Littlejohn Contemporary is pleased to present a one-person exhibition of recent paintings by Anne Siems. The exhibit, We Are One, will run from January 17 through March 3, 2018.
In this body of work I have moved back to a more clearly representational narrative. There continues to be important abstract elements (loops, dots, circles, and hazy backgrounds) but the interplay is now greater between those and the more fully rendered - yet transparent - animals’ and children’s bodies.
Mine is an ongoing inquiry and desire to transmit a sense of energy, a state of being and feeling into my paintings. When one inquiry feels resolved I move on, often revisiting places in my older work and finding new ways to interact with it.
‘We Are One’ follows the longing of my heart and the knowledge of my mind about the interconnected web of all life on earth. The deeper we come into contact with this knowledge-- not only abstractly, but with visceral experiencing-- the more urgent become the actions we need to take to protect that Oneness.
In my work I try to be as honest and true to myself as I can without losing discernment. I aim as best as I can for sincerity, intimacy and openness in my paintings. In them I find the beginning of something that touches the universal. It is a place where others can touch the magic and sensuality that gets exposed in the process.
I think deep inside all of us lives a longing to experience a sense of 'falling in love' - a visceral experience without words. For that to happen, this place needs to be free of irony, social commentary or conceptual humor. I am looking in my work to find the point in which we feel a certain ache – the ache caused by the knowledge that life is full of light and dark, sacred and profane, beauty and ugliness, life and death.
Anne Siems, November 2017
Anne Siems, who is German-born and now living in Seattle, has drawn her inspiration from the natural world, its flora and fauna, as well as mythology. A Fulbright Scholar, she has exhibited in Canada and in Europe and widely throughout the United States. Her work is included in such collections as the Arkansas Art Center, Boise Art Museum, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Fidelity Investments, Hallmark Collection, Microsoft Collection, Nestle USA, Nordstrom, Safeco, Seattle University, Sonoma State University Art Collection, and the Tacoma Art Museum, among others. This is the artist’s sixth solo exhibit with Littlejohn Contemporary.
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.
Read more here.
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."
ARTDAILY.ORG, March 2011
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.'
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.
Anne Siems, 2013
"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.
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.