Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Art Seen: Brush with the wild side

Susan Anderson is basically a Fauvist, as far as I can tell. I’ve been watching her work for years now and am continually intrigued by it.

Stephen Sanders, who created a Web site dedicated to Fauvism, explains Fauvism as this: “Shortly after the turn of the century, (it) exploded onto the scene with a wild, vibrant style of expressionistic art that shocked the critics but has since been recognized as one of the seminal forces that drove modern art. They were called the fauves, French for ‘wild beasts,’ a term of derision used to indicate their apparent lack of discipline. Today fauvism, once thought of as a minor, short-lived movement, is recognized as having paved the way to both cubism and modern expressionism in its disregard for natural forms and its love of unbridled color.”

Disregard is not the word I would use, instead preferring the idea of a supra-regard translating into the joy of expression through the happy mimicking of the wondrous and varied forms in the natural world.

Anderson was not formally trained, apparently, but rather lived and breathed art in the context of a family full of artists and art educators. The folk appeal and seeming naivety of her pieces work best when she uses simplified images without an abundance of detail.

The landscapes in her solo exhibition at the 4-D Interiors upstairs gallery space generally lack the unusual and psychological drama the others obtain. One exception is “Paris Taxi,” a watercolor whose irregular perspective and loose handling serve it immeasurably. The feel is of a street more alive and holding greater character than any photo or photorealistic rendering could capture.

In “Hanging Out,” she has let the bold strokes and large areas of color and texture create a ground for the three figures who seem to be constructed of stacked shapes. With less detail, the viewer is allowed to wonder all sorts of things about the subjects, as well as simply enjoy the bold brushstrokes.

“Jazz Guitar Man Jeff Golub” is almost too slick to be included in this exhibit; the effect is clean and predictably composed. She painted it from an image she captured with an iPhone at a concert, a technique also utilized on the more interesting “Soulman Sam and the Band,” which brings us back to the quirky style I so appreciate. The figures appear to grow from the bottom of the canvas, and the composition has a drunken, vibrant feel. The sharp angles and high contrast between the complementary colors of blue and orange create a mysterious energy.

“Greek Harbor Lights” is a sweet watercolor, fancifully created and left simple, as is the small portrait “18 Going on 30,” which has the brazen marks I’ve come to really love about Anderson’s work. “Into the Finish” is unusually composed and encapsulates both the energy of a sled-dog race and the chaos of inclement weather.

Anderson’s most successful piece has got to be “Man in Thought,” done in encaustic on a small panel. The ancient medium, a combination of beeswax and resin, is extremely inviting. One has to be disciplined in order to not reach out and caress the smooth surface and luscious, lumpy buildup. The piece consists of basically two panels. The separation is created with the pigment, rather than the substrate, but the effect is complete. The left side compromising of two-thirds of the image is entirely abstract, with two floating squares that create tension and, alternately, solidity. The right side has a discernable figure of a man, but is handled in the same spontaneous quality as the rest of the piece.

“Blue Note” is also done in encaustic, but lacks the anchored design needed to hold the floating paper in a context. It is an inviting medium, however, and one I am never unhappy to run across.

Anderson’s exhibit runs through March.

Zirrus VanDevere is a local mixed-media artist and owns Art Works gallery in Soldotna. She has bachelor’s degrees in fine arts and education.

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