Thursday, April 26, 2018

We Sit Together the Mountain and Me

Anne Appleby  at Tacoma Art Museum
By Alec Clayton
published in the Weekly Volcano, April 26, 2018
"Moving Trees," single-channel digital pojection, by Anne appleby, courtesy of the artist and Anglim Gilbert Gallery, San Francisco
There are artists with whom art lovers simply cannot connect. They can’t enjoy their work even though they understand and appreciate its importance. Picasso is a prime example. Surely everyone knowledgeable of art appreciates the importance of his work, yet there are many who, despite this appreciation, cannot stand the harsh distortions of some of his images. Mark Rothko is another artist we can admire, but whose paintings are boring to many people — some who do not like Picasso or Rothko or other acknowledged masters might even be ashamed to admit their dislike. I say all this by way of explaining my reaction to Anne Appleby’s art now showing at Tacoma Art Museum. I admire the work, dedication and intelligence manifested in her paintings, but they leave me feeling as blank as her mostly monotone canvases.
Appleby lays down layer after layer of paint — up to 20 layers, I was told — to create a luminescence that mirrors the light of the snow-covered mountains near her home studio in Montana’s Elkhorn Mountains. I can’t imagine any other artist being so close to nature.
“I think my role is to capture beauty. I think so because it's the central doctrine of so many religions — it's the reverence for the creator of the creation. It’s a feeling, like beauty, both inside and out,” Appleby says.
Many of her paintings are executed in multiple panels, each panel a square or rectangle of what appears to be a single, unmodulated color representing trees or mountains during different seasons or times of day. There are subtle modulations in color and texture, however, that can be detected only with extreme attention to detail.
I must confess that I am like the people who might be capable of appreciating certain masterworks even though they might not particularly enjoy them. The appreciation of art might be mostly intellectual, but the enjoyment of art rests on pure gut feelings.
I trust some of my readers — hopefully many — will be able to get the full contemplative and reverential effect of Appleby’s paintings.
“I’m interested in getting people to slow down a little bit, so they can see the world differently by awakening their sensibilities,” Appleby says.
One large gallery at TAM is filled with her paintings, most created within the past year or two. In addition to the paintings, there is a digital projection that runs on a 3-minute, 24-second loop called “Moving Trees.” The screen hangs from the gallery ceiling like a room divider. On it we see trees slowly moving in the wind as snow drifts down. Like some of the paintings, but perhaps even more compelling, this digital image creates the feeling of standing among the trees on the mountain and being engulfed in nature.
I hope readers of this column will take the artist’s advice and “slow down a little bit, so they can see the world differently.”
Anne Appleby, We Sit Together the Mountain and Me, Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., through June 3, $13-$15, third Thursday free 5-8 p.m., Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Ave. Tacoma,

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