“I build my paintings with many layers of oil paint, wax and natural materials such as pigment and marble dust. The markings in my paintings are reminiscent of those I may see in my environment, but because it interests me to connect imagery from the land with my own life, I often include narrative elements from my journals. Over years of working, I have developed a personal language of symbols that I incorporate into my work, though they may be barely discernible and often appear simply as markings within the layers of the paintings.”
The work Anna Patricia Keller completed for her solo exhibition at The Gallery at Pioneer Bluffs includes paintings that are inspired by the stark, dramatic openness of the desert and the eastern grasslands in New Mexico, the prairie landscape in Kansas, and the Dust Bowl area. She became intrigued with the region after reading ‘The Worst Hard Time’ and making numerous drives to see the land that had been so affected by the 1930’s ordeal. “I am astounded by the raw beauty that I encounter there, beauty that is at once both desolate and majestic,” Anna says.
The paintings in this series of work also include autobiographical elements and refer to recent events in her life that have shaped her work. “Other elements are simply part of my ongoing exploration of the mystery and beauty of this magnificent land that so touches me.”
“The connection between my inner self and my hand is a strong one,” says Anna. “When I am working, and get to a place of feeling in touch with the visual stimuli and tactile quality of my materials, my personal language asserts itself. During my process of layering, revealing, and revising, a type of automatic pictorial ‘writing’ comes into play. I see this as the visual and symbolic form that my thoughts take while I am at work.”
Anna continues to maintain a close connection with the natural world. Her ritual morning walks take her into the landscape rather than across it, and she always packs a journal/sketchbook as well as a camera. The journals become filled with drawings, descriptions, snatches of thought, unintended markings, and ephemera found along the way that get tucked between the pages. This content becomes the very stuff of Anna’s work, as much a part of her palette as the paints, pigments, and waxes she uses in building her mixed media paintings.
Having once studied geology, for Anna the outer landscapes into which she treads bear the residual marks of what must have been before, as the earth worked away on itself for long periods of time, building up and scraping away with fire, wind, and water. Endlessness is not just measured in distance and time, it has depths. Such a layering also takes place in the mind, as memories true or false, sensations, sounds, dreams, symbolic associations, witnessing – all settle on top of each other.
Anna works her paintings in the same vein. During a painting’s process, it all starts out with some simple movements in paint and perhaps a questioning stance from Anna of where to go. Soon the hand and mind are in an empathetic act of construction — painting, scraping, inscribing and imbedding the symbols, drawings, numbers, and snatches of poetry that come to her. Actual bits taken from the pages of her journals are often incorporated as well. Many of these elements get entirely obscured within the painting’s layers, yet in the process they have left their psychological imprint on what comes next. Other elements will be partially unearthed in later scrapings like a hearkened memory association.
“Prairie’s Edge” is a body of entirely new work. When Anna was invited to produce her show at Pioneer Bluffs, a swell of fresh ideas and a particular memory clicked into place. “Seven years ago, while driving through the tallgrass prairie, I was astonished.
I took my time, and just drank in all the beauty. I recently found a lot of my drawings and notes from this trip. I found myself drawn emotionally to the prairie’s edge.” With her new larger pieces Anna feels unrestrained, able to go deeper. “My paintings breathe big, just as the prairie does. My mind feels at liberty to roam the expanses, and my peripheral vision feels activated by things happening just beyond sight’s connection with consciousness.
All the elements add notes, sounds and bits of lyrics to the compositions.”
Anna has learned to steer clear of interpretation when she feels that intuition is in play and the possibilities seem endless. She says, “Questions will always present themselves. And the answers? They are not necessarily clear, but walking, writing, drawing and painting are how I find my solutions.”
From text by Margaret Bralds (Santa Fe, NM)
Anna Patricia Keller studied Painting and Illustration at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). She graduated with Highest Honors from the George Mason University Art Studio Program (BA, Studio Art; Painting and Printmaking) in Fairfax, Virginia where she was awarded the Joanne Johnson Scholarship for Art and the Excellence in Art Award.
Her work has been exhibited at
the McLean Projects for the Arts at Emerson Gallery in McLean, VA;
The Foundry Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Rockville Arts Place, Rockville, MD;
The California Center for the Arts, Escondido, CA;
The Tin Moon Gallery, Abiquiu, NM;
The Albuquerque Museum, and the Coleman Gallery, both in Albuquerque,NM;
and The Fuller Lodge Art Center, Los Alamos, NM, among others.