Anne NeelyWater Stories

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My parents fostered in me and my siblings an abiding love for nature, its tangible manifestations of sky, sea, and land as well as its intimations of the unseen, the infinite, and its invitation to imagine.

I found painting to be the most compelling way to continue my connection to nature and delve more deeply into the unseen. It has been through the practice and process of painting that I reference those early childhood memories viscerally, triggering them with what I observe, read, and know in my contemporary world. Because it is very important for me to "wonder" as I paint, I approach painting by asking questions, just as a scientist does, and it is through my investigation of these questions that a painting is built. With one curiosity layered on top of another, my paintings begin to come to life. I start by pouring paint on a canvas to make a base and further define a structure. As I paint I find that each piece gives me a thread to follow for the next painting, and gradually a body of work emerges.

My own visual language of mark-making has developed over the years, so that each painted stroke helps me find new configurations of the natural world through space, color and form. These marks consist of circles, squares, and rectangles and the sum total of these gestures explores uncharted territories of imagined landscapes. In their labor-intensive accumulation, the marks help define the passage of time both in the work and in the course of making it.

In 2004, reading Water, by Marq De Villiers, I initiated a decade-long search to find ways to paint unseen aquifers and to interpret the growing dilemmas around rivers, streams, lakes, and oceans. Water is mysterious, powerful, and staggeringly beautiful; but unfortunately water is in such peril that it will deeply affect our future. To cherish water, like anything in life, is to pay homage, gratitude, and honor the things we love. So my paintings evoke beauty, but also linger on the edge of foreboding as they address these water issues environmentally, ecologically, and culturally in our times.

Anne Neely