Shapes and Séances
Oregon State University
featuring: Anna Fidler + Julia Bradshaw
Show runs October 3 through November 2
Artist talk and reception on October 20, 4:30pm
Shapes and Séances
I am interested in seemingly small, feminine revolutionary acts that lead to massive-scale positive change. My series references the four seasons, and occurrences of energetic exchange between individuals and the forests that surrounds them.
Harmonic Convergence depicts women dancing around a cell tower. Much like a maypole, the tower represents the beginning of a powerful new era—the birth of the age of communication in which we now live.
While making this exhibition I became aware of the artist, Hilma af Klint, who was one of the earliest artists to work with abstraction. She was a member of a female group of artists called ‘The Five’, who were interested in complex spiritual ideas and practiced séances to be in touch with higher spirits. My painting of The Five depicts these women working on their abstract paintings in a Swedish forest.
We Can’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow references the 70’s rock band, The Runaways and takes it’s title from their lyrics. This era introduced the mainstream to the concept of an all-female rock band. My painting shows these women playing music in a forest—without an audience—playing purely for themselves.
My work for Coastal Coven is an elliptical narrative with a cast of characters stemming from non-existent fairy tales, science fiction books, and 19th century poetry.
I’ve been observing the transformation of book covers from the 70’s through present—by luminary authors such as Ursula K. LeGuin and Madeleine L’Engle. The 70’s covers look markedly more interesting, bearing a pre-digital age quality of artist’s hand and muted palettes. Burst of Harmony So Brilliant is both compositionally referential to the book cover from A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle in 1973 and takes its title from the book’s quote:
“A burst of harmony so brilliant that it almost overwhelmed them surrounded Meg, the cherubim, Calvin, and Mr. Jenkins…we are the song of the universe.”
Another piece, A Winged Spark Doth Soar About, takes its title from an Emily Dickinson poem. As with much of my work, this piece exemplifies my fascination with energy and in this case the harnessing of light. My topographically layered paper children take inspiration from early twentieth century children’s books by Scandinavian author, Elsa Beskow. Beskow’s books Children of the Forest, The Sun Egg, and Woody, Hazel and Little Pip feature timeless illustrations of imaginary worlds. Victorian fairy painters such as Richard Dadd and John Atkinson Grimshaw also come to mind as relevant artists from the mid-late nineteenth century.
The Ghost Parade depicts a celebration of female revelers celebrating the end of summer into fall. During the Celtic festival, Samhain, it is thought that the spirits or fairies can more easily come into our world. This piece serves to welcome the forest spirits.
Mummers also references traditions stemming from Samhain, involving people going house-to-house in costume usually reciting verses or songs in exchange for food. My topographically built mummers are derived from an early nineteenth century photograph from the British Isles. The silhouetted forms include a general, a wizard and a soldier.
Our Electric World was begun in 2008 and completed in 2015. Originally influenced by aboriginal artwork, I found the need to add two individuals with what I call positive energy. To this end, I found a photograph of two female roller-skaters from the 70’s. They were close friends and the image had a sense of pure joy—an electric spark emitting something unseen and powerful. The piece is about vibrant friendship.
A wolf tree is a tree that grows in an open area such as a field or pasture. Most wolf trees are huge and dwarf other trees— stealing their nutrients and sunlight. Frequently wolf trees are struck by lightning being the only tree in an open field. My piece Wolf Tree depicts two witches seeking shelter under a wolf tree at sunrise.
All of the works that I have included in Coastal Coven relate to one another by way of narrative. One piece hung next to another gives a particular story, which is interchangeable if rearranged. For instance, Wolf Tree next to A Winged Spark Doth Soar About might mean that the witches are potential threat to the children or possibly that the lightning bugs caught in jars will keep the witches at bay.
I wish to invite my audience to interpret the link between images and create their own narratives.
A Dream With a Dream
My exhibition title A Dream Within A Dream is taken from a film, Picnic at Hanging Rock by Peter Weir (1975) in which the heroine—a young girl says “What we see and what we seem are but a dream, a dream within a dream”—a quote from Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem under the same name.
Picnic at Hanging Rock is an important influence on this body of work. Slow and hypnotic in style and mysterious in plot and conclusion—I enjoy the way by which the female forms interact with nature—Victorian silhouettes against a heightened—almost supernatural beauty of the landscape.
Each piece in this series deals with transformation—and a specific act that significantly enhances our awareness of the world around us. Longhaired Victorian women dancing around a maypole were in a sense—misbehaving—and celebrating. The actors in Voodoo Macbeth by Orson Welles in 1936 wore Haitian costumes and transformed the Shakespearean play into a Caribbean, all-black performance. The snake charmer was able to hypnotize the snake with his music. The antler dancers used costume and movement to embrace the equinox. The figures in my piece, Revolution Tree, prevented the uprooting of a tree with their bodies.
During the making of A Dream Within A Dream’, I took walks in Portland’s Oak’s Bottom Wildlife Refuge and photographed what I saw—often using the fragmented, silhouettes of trees and reflected water as catalysts for paintings.
I returned to a dimensional and topographic way of working with paper after a six-year hiatus last seen in the ‘Portals’ series. I simply didn’t feel ready to stop. My figures are rooted in found images and borrowed silhouettes that I find based on form and energy. I collect images of important minor occurrences—actions that emit a spark or a shift. The people in these photographs transform into topographic abstractions and at times lose their context. I am interested in what I cannot see—the energy that occurred at the time of the photograph. Through painting, I try to depict the sensation of doing something euphoric, rebellious, and celebratory
Vampires and Wolfmen
My series Vampires and Wolf Men includes monumental portraits of individuals from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as vampires and werewolves. The legend of the vampire is of particular interest to me due to the subject’s innate romanticism fused with a form of energy exchange—in this case the transference of life from one being to another.
I am interested in the rise in popularity of vampires and werewolves through the filter of the entertainment industry. My work offers commentary and dialogue with our twenty-first century fascination with a subject that is both timeless and of-the-moment.
My photographs were sourced from the Oregon Historical Society and include images from families both prominent and unknown. My decisions to use specific individuals were based purely on facial expressions and features that could be interpreted as mysterious, haunting or strange.
This series seeks to create a myth surrounding characters of the past.
Cherry Bomb depicts eight internationally recognized female musical icons from the seventies: Donna Summer, Stevie Nicks, Heart, Joan Jett, Nina Hagen, Kate Bush, Patti Smith, and Karen Carpenter. In many ways this exhibition began as a simple homage to my heroines of the musical world into which I was born. Having grown up in the 70’s and 80’s, my first musical experiences occurred in record stores in the Midwest—buying a Blondie album or a 45 by the Go-Go’s as a seven year old. I adored these bands and specifically the women who made that incredible music. Specifically, I remember seeing Debby Harry surrounded by her black leather clad male band mates on the interior record jacket of her album, Eat to the Beat. I loved that she was pretty and could both rap and sing great lyrics—but most of all I liked that she was the only female in the band. This seemed important to me.
My series, Cherry Bomb, is bedroom poster-inspired and reverential of those whose footsteps predated my own.
Cherry Bomb depicts women from different musical genres such as Pop, Disco, Punk, and Rock. My selective process is twofold: Women whom I feel were important to their era—iconic, strong and visionary. Formally, those whose facial features inspired me enough to engage in the process of making a portrait.
– Anna Fidler