The Fairytale Protestors
Jan 18 - Feb 24, 2019
Honey Ramka, New York, NY
By NOAH BECKER February, 2019
I had a conversation with the great painter Ana Wieder-Blank on the eve of her solo show at New York City's Honey Ramka Gallery.
Where are you from and where do you live and work?
I grew up in Silver Spring Maryland, right outside of DC - I live in the Lower East side. This year I am a Sharpe Walentas Studio Program Fellow, so I have a really beautiful studio in Dumbo at 20 Jay Street.
Your paintings have a lot of color and a lot of texture, is the texture a result of painting in layers and building up beneath them?
The texture comes from a mixture of acrylic crackle paste, which is often the first layer I put down, then layers of oil paint mixed with cold wax medium and impasto paste.
How to do you think about color? I could compare your work to other artists in history but I'm curious what you think about?
The color in my work serves three functions. Most importantly it is an expression of my character's inner states. Much of my work shows characters during great trauma, the color scheme expresses their internal struggle. Secondly, I use color to convey the inside of the body. Gender, ability and size impact my figures in their outsized distorted and often amputated forms but also in the swirling colors that can evoke muscles and organs, and tissue matter. Color and texture are used to abstract the anatomy in this way. Thirdly I use color to separate one figure from another and the figures from the background.
Do you make sculpture?
I do. Most of my sculptures are glazed ceramic sculptures, sometimes they have acrylic or spray rubbed into the surface. I did a residency a few years ago at Alfred University where I got to do Raku for the first time. I also got to make a 3-foot-tall sculpture; the largest I’ve made yet. I’m also experimenting with plaster, papier Mache and air-dry clay.
Are you following the news or politics?
I describe my work as contemporary feminist political allegory. In my solo show The Fairytale Protesters, the painting Badass Womyn (Dinah, Kali, and Persephone) Tear Down the Statues of Murderers and Rapists relates to both the events of Charlottesville in 2017 and to the recent synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. Dinah's Rape Trial Installation references the Kavanaugh hearings and the moving testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford. The show The Fairytale Protesters is comprised of work from The FairyTale Protesters Installation, an immersive installation that combines paintings, ceramic sculptures, stop, motion animation, and performances.
If there are influences in art history that inspire you what are they?
I am tremendously influenced by art history. My work is visually influenced by artists ranging from the German expressionists to Joan Brown and Elizabeth Murray. I also am very influenced by outsider art. I am also influenced by my family's history (my maternal grandparents, aunt and even my mother are holocaust survivors). However, I would say that my work is much more inspired and influenced by mythology, biblical narratives, and fairy-tales then actual historical events. Using these narratives, I can create allegories that reference contemporary events.
Your work has wild fauvist colors and forms, do you make plans or drawings first or paint intuitively?
I go through phases of making preparatory drawings. Lately I have been drawing before painting because the paintings are becoming more complicated. The number of figures and their movements are becoming more elaborate. However, the relationships between drawings and paintings are elusive. The painting never really looks like the drawing, nor do I expect it to. I'm thrilled when the paintings take an unexpected turn because it means I'm venturing into unexplored territory. It's both terrifying and exhilarating.
If you could be one historical figure from any occupation who would you be?
Well I've always deeply admired Frida Kahlo's work and her immense determination. She lived a fascinating life but I'm not sure I'd want to live it. She suffered a great deal.
What do the figures represent in your work? I'm not that into giving explanations when people ask me what my paintings are about so feel free to answer this in your own way.
Each figure represents a mythological character that has dealt with great struggles and trauma. In the Show The Fairytale Protesters Dinah and Persephone are represented in some way in each painting and installation. Other characters that make frequent appearances are Kali, Miriam, Medusa, Vashti, Lilith, Esther, Leda, La Loba, Baba Yaga and many more. They are taken out of their individual narratives and brought together to help each other, heal each other, create new worlds and new ways of living and governing once they dismantle the patriarchy together.
What do you say to people who think painting is dead?
I'd say go to any gallery and you'd be immediately be proven wrong. Not only is painting not dead, it's amid an immense resurgence. Painting is more alive and vibrant now than it's been in years and womyn are at the forefront of this resurgence. Nicole Eisenman, Dana Schutz, Allison Schulnik, Angela Dufresne, Vanessa Prager, Caroline Larson, Jennifer Coates, Alison Gildersleeve, Lou Fratino, Erick Hernandez are just some of the painters making really exciting and invigorating work now.
What's next for you?
I’m looking forward the Sharpe Walentas Studio Program's open studios. April 27-29. WM
Noah Becker shows his art internationally. A visual artist and the publisher and founding editor of Whitehot Magazine, Becker has also written freelance articles for The Guardian, VICE, Garage, Art in America, Interview Magazine, Canadian Art and the Huffington Post and contributed texts to major artist monographs published by Rizzoli and Hatje Cantz. Becker also directed the New York art documentary New York is Now (2010) viewable on Youtube.
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