Ann Baldwin and Using Literature in Painting and Collage

I'll be taking a class -- Collaging with Words and Paint: Text and Texture -- with artist Ann Baldwin at Art and Soul in May. Art and Soul is a week-long "art retreat" to which students (hobbyists, mostly) come to create, play and learn from a variety of artists. I've never been to anything like this, so chalk it up to another new experience. I thought it would help me explore forms, such as collage, and techniques, such as working exclusively with black-and-white media, that I might be able to use in my work with books.

But back to Ann. I was attracted by the subject of the class and by her background. She began painting seriously in 1991, following a career teaching literature. Her first collages were inspired by her love of theater. She layered images from old programs, incorporated excerpts from scripts, and used strips of fabric and wallpaper. She also used French literature, and the works of Marcel Proust in particular, as a jumping-off point for collage focusing on memory and time. Her Artist's Statement (below) struck a note of recognition for me. We seem to share a love of literature, theater, books and reading, and want to make art that incorporates those passions. I'm very much looking forward to her class.

"In my mixed media abstract paintings I have set out to explore both the visual effects of text and its tendency to carry meaning whether intended or not. Although I often present words, letters, and symbols merely as shapes and patterns, so accustomed are we to interpreting these as narrative that it is sometimes impossible to see the forms alone. Color, too, gives added connotations to the words. Some pieces have been deliberately engineered to appear theatrical and, in fact, include pages from Shakespeare's plays. sone have the glow or patina of old manuscripts, while nevertheless containing mre mechanical reproductions of calligraphy. As I paint, I also write annotations 'in the margins,' commenting on a particular text or simply expressing separate thoughts and ideas.

"As a teacher of literature, an avid reader and writer, books have shaped my identity and given direction to my ideas. Each novel I encounter affects the meaning of subsequent novels. Hand annotations in the margins of used books give a clue to the reactions of other readers before me, often very different from my own. In theatres in London, where I lived for most of my life, the words of well-known plays were constantly being reinterpreted from one production of a play to the next.

"I have adopted a method of painting with multiple transparent veils of paint through which collaged images or words appear and disappear, representing layers of memory and understanding. Lately I have been painting in encaustic (hot wax), a method which involves etching and incising. Often the process itself takes over from intention and I find myself erasing or covering messages which originaly I intended to use to communicate an idea more directly. Thoughts get buried as others surface. Almost like the act of reading itself."

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