The Art Assassin

a nonfiction novel by Albert Wang

Chapter 53: ASSASSINATION: Anne Becker, Artist Represented by Art at the Main Gallery

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Photograph of Anne Becker. Courtesy of Facebook.
Anne Becker: Welcome, 2009, acrylic on canvas, 20 by 20 inches. Courtesy of Anne Becker.

Having met Anne Becker one day a few weeks ago at the Art at the Main Gallery down near the public library in Salt Lake City was quite a relevatory experience. Her quiet demeanor and powerful lyricism evident within her personality and thus her artwork manifests a rather beautiful outlook in life that continues strongly in the modernist vein.

Her paintings are marked with clear cut yet impassionated brushstrokes with geometric lines and loose blocks of color. With a surefire mastery of the muted palette, Becker can evoke the silent beauty of landscape with the arrangement of the colorful prisms across the densely applied background. Her earlier figurative work incorporate elements of collage to create scenes of the suburb, often with figures placed in the foreground.

I decided to talk with her before her debut at the Art at the Main Gallery in her first group show “Introductions” starting today during the February Gallery Stroll. Guess that THE ART ASSASSIN had a lot of free time on his hands.

If you have any questions about Becker’s artwork, feel free to contact her gallery at (801) 363-4088.

Now here are the details of the “assassination”:

qi peng: Since you are represented at Art at the Main gallery, what excites you most about your first group show there? Which pieces did you select for the show and why?

Anne Becker: Having a show is always exciting, whether you have one painting or forty to show.  I created some new pieces for the show because I like to have something fresh to put out there when I’m having a show.  The new pieces are not collage like the others, but that may show up again in future paintings.

qi peng: What are some of your hobbies that you enjoy? Do you have any music, art, books, etc. that influences the themes and style of your artwork? What fascinates you about the work of Diebenkorn and Scully? Do you see yourself as a painter working in the modernist vein?

Anne Becker: I spend my days painting, doing family things, reading, going to pilates, hiking a little in the summer,  cooking healthy food, and getting together with friends.  Some of my past  work was influenced by a book I read called Suburban Nation.  The book examines how modern suburban planning effects how we live.  I also recently read Johannes Itten and the Art of Color.

What I love about Sean Scully is his ability to paint with such simplicity and elegance.   I first saw one of his paintings in London and it was very powerful for me and I felt his language is one that applies to my own thinking about order, repetition, and beauty.

Deibenkorn is also of some interest to me.  I have certainly spent time looking at his work, particularly his use of color.  Color interaction is a favorite interest of mine and I would consider myself a modernist.

qi peng: Considering that you do a lot of works on paper, are these preparatory studies for the larger paintings or complementary? In what ways do you choose to explore different types of visual vocabularies?

Anne Becker: I don’t actually do a lot of works on paper, although I have a couple in the gallery.  The ones in the gallery were simply me having fun exploring abstraction.

qi peng: Do you believe that working in the studio is result of practice and habit or brute inspiration whenever you feel like it? Do you consider yourself a formalist and how do you incorporate your personal emotions and social concerns into the work itself?

Anne Becker: I have to schedule time in my studio or it won’t happen.  Once I set the time I tell people I am unavailable.  Inspiration comes at the most inconvenient times so I have to take notes and wait until studio time comes.

I am definitely a formalist.  Beauty, or at least visual interest, is something I look for everywhere I go and try to incorporate into my work.  When painting, I try not to get too bogged down in negative emotions or social agendas because that is not my ultimate goal.  If I have something to say, an ax to grind, I might incorporate the idea in a subtle way while keeping the formal aspects of the painting in the forefront.  Matisse said something to the effect that he wanted his paintings to uplift the tired businessman at the end of a hard day.  I like that philosophy and think that moments of visual enjoyment can stir one’s soul in a powerful way.

qi peng: How does being part of an artist’s collective help your relationships and perception of the art world? What do you think about being within the Utah, and specifically the Salt Lake City, arts scene here? Do you think that the monthly Gallery Stroll helps to get people to interact with art better? If so, how?

Anne Becker: Being a part of the collective keeps me motivated to paint and provides some interaction with other artists. It is a great place to try out new ideas too.

Salt Lake City has a lot of talented artists working in varied styles and mediums and it has wonderful resources for local artists.  Gallery stroll is an example.  The more people get out and look at art, the greater chance they will experience something extraordinary and get hooked on the pleasures art has to offer.

qi peng: How does being a mother and a wife within a family help to inform your viewers about the nature of your subjects and your collage-influenced style? When you set to plan a piece, how do you decide to pursue a more figurative or more abstract style?

Anne Becker: My life experiences have everything to do with what I paint.  I paint entirely about my own life experiences and impressions.  My collage-influenced work has to do with the nature of living in the suburbs of America, piecing our lives together, facades, but also emphasizing the formal elements of design and shape as part of what I see in the landscape.
I have been experimenting a little with abstract painting since I received my degree in painting and drawing from University of Utah last year.  In art school we were asked to create mostly figurative works.  Ideas can be expressed just as well,  and in my opinion, sometimes more poetically, through abstraction.   At the moment my work lies somewhere in between.  I love the abstract work of Sean Scully, Brice Marden, Joan Mitchell, Franz Kline as well as the more figurative work of Alex Katz, Milton AveryEdouard Vuillard, and Pierre Bonnard.   I like to look at my favorite artists, steal what I like, mix it up together and try to make something new that speaks of my own experience.

qi peng: How does your undergraduate studies in art and sociology and graduate studies in information science influence what you pursue within your artworks? How do you examine the relationships among people, cities, and the physical environments?

Anne Becker: I majored in sociology my first time around in college and have always been interested in why people behave in certain ways and how societies are set up to perpetuate certain behaviors. The current credit crisis is a fascination of mine and I was painting about the endless sea of houses that played center stage a few years ago before we really understood what was happening. In fact, quite a few artists, photographers, and writers, were finding the endless sprawl an interesting subject.  Our daily lives are influenced by our physical environment.  For instance, in the suburbs, we all drive cars to the store, rather than walk.  This means less human interaction, less exercise, we can buy more because we can put it in our cars, and on and on.  All because of the way our environment has been designed.

qi peng: What are some galleries or recent exhibitions you wish to tell us about? Any memorable experience interacting with other artists’ work in either a museum or gallery setting? Which paintings touched your heart or impressed your mind?

Anne Becker: I look at art whenever I can in galleries, museums, hotels, the airport, wherever it can be found.  I go to New York every couple of years and try to enjoy whatever is on display.  I love to take the docent led tours because you can learn so much.  I recall a wonderful tour I took of the Sol LeWitt exhibit at the Whitney, as well as another very interesting tour of Alice Neel‘s work.  These were both quite a few years ago but they made a big impression.  I love the Rothko room at the Tate in London.  I fell in love with the work of Sean Scully and Cy Twombly in London as well.   I even went to the Marlborough gallery in London and got a special peak at some Euan Uglow paintings which was a big thrill since I was deep into figure painting classes at the time and admire his style.  I could go on and on, but these are some more recent highlights.

qi peng: Do you have any recommendations for emerging artists or students in fine art programs during their programs that would help their careers? Do you have any memorable experiences with your fine art professors? If so, what were they?

Anne Becker: If you really have the desire to paint then you have a chance at being good at it.  People always say they wish they were talented enough to paint.  I don’t think all artists are talented to begin with, rather, their desire to paint  is so strong that they figure out eventually.  I hear it takes ten years to become good at painting, so patience will help too.

One of my professors never shied away from an opportunity to tell you that your painting was not working or that a color choice was not good.  I appreciate that and have learned to constantly question myself while painting.   Another professor did a painting demonstration one day.  He painted a figure and when he had made it just perfect, he began destroying parts of it by putting large globs of paint on, claiming it was too fussed over and not very interesting.

qi peng: What are some of your future plans as a new member as part of Art of the Main Gallery? What is the upcoming direction for your artwork that we can expect?

Anne Becker: Art at the Main is a great place to show small to medium sized work.  My style is unique to the gallery and I am happy to bring something new and different to the collection.  I plan to bring in some larger pieces that will be displayed next door in the Artists Studio on occasion.

qi peng: Is there anything else that you wish to share with us?

Anne Becker: Not at the moment.  Thanks for the interview.

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at qipengart@gmail.com
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Written by qi peng

May 12, 2009 at 2:42 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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