Artist Interviews 2023

Anne Siems  
By Julia Siedenburg

Anne Siems is one of those extremely versatile artists where you simply can’t help but excitedly wonder “ What will she be creating next ?”. I immediately fell in love with her magical baroque imagery when I came across it. But then I kept discovering some of her latest work and was blown away by the artistic journey she had behind her. Besides showcasing her work at exhibits and creating art books she has also been hosting workshops to mentor young hungry artists of tomorrow.

I hope you are as fascinated by her work as I am, dear reader. Please enjoy the interview with the great Anne Siems below.

I was immediately drawn in by your work when I came across it. On your website, you state “ My work has moved from semi-abstract, room-filling plant, and insect drawings, to paintings of detailed botanical and anatomical imagery on waxed paper bags. What or who inspired you to work in the semi-abstract world and what made you change your style?

I was inspired by various artists at that time, notably Terry Winters and Shelagh Keeley, but also always loved ephemera of old plants and medical illustrations. The shift was gradual. I guess my interest in the human face and figure pushed itself forward.

You have a true gift of painting portraits of people. Your beautiful renaissance-like artworks showcase the most amazing dresses and locations, sometimes accompanied by animals, yet mostly your subjects remain alone. Please tell us more about your motivation and references for these pieces.

I have always loved the old Dutch master’s paintings as well as Velasquezs‘ style of portraiture. Equally inspiring is photography, eps. Tintype and Daguerreotype, where the subject had to stand very still and somewhat stiff. There is something very enigmatic about capturing a person in a still moment.

Even though you could say the overall idea and feel of your work stays the same, your subjects have changed dramatically through the years. Your recent work showcases mostly half-nude subjects covered in writing and tattoo drawings. And most of them are without hair. What message do you want to give to the people with these images?

My interest is never in sending any messages. My work is all about my personal reflections, experiences, and dreams. It’s about my way of understanding the world, to make meaning of what presents itself to me.

I am a politically interested person and always try to learn about the deeper stories that lie behind everything that happens in us and outside of us Human development, science as well as psychological knowledge, and the meaning of myth.

Your series ‘Her Hands are Wild and Dangerous’ is one of the ones that stand out more as a hybrid of your work due to the new round shape of the images, the beginning of the tattoos, as well as the hairstyles and colors that have become more vibrant. What did creating this specific series make you feel?

This series was the big step in moving away from the more innocent and fairytale-like imagery that I created prior to the election of Donald Trump. I think that time was a pivotal point of awakening for many of us. What had simmered in the dark had been pushed into the light. It opened us up to the comfort and white privilege many of us had enjoyed up to now and our living in a bubble. So I didn't feel like doing political paintings, and I never will, but the women depicted are not delicate and innocent anymore. They are raw, loud, and wild when they want to be.

Your life involved a lot of traveling. You were born and studied in Germany, you lived a few years as a child in Argentina and now you call the United States your home. Please tell us a bit about your childhood and upbringing. Has art always been a part of your life?

I have been very fortunate to have been born into a family of curious and smart parents, who enjoyed new experiences and who shared their love for art, literature, dance, and music with us. Seeing modern art exhibits as well as baroque Catholic Churches in South America, as well as experiencing the social injustice in Latin America was pivotal for my development. I was supported and encouraged to draw and paint, as well as dance, and never stopped since.

You have been exposed to a lot of different environments and cultures in your life. Have those places influenced your work and your style? If so, why and in which way?

I think it has been a mix of just a lot of exposure. Seeing lots of art, and looking at huge collections of art books and magazines that were freely available in my home have formed my very own style. I have always been interested in the human form as a vessel for deep inner workings. People are what I drew as a kid ( versus cars, trains, or houses) and I am to this day deeply enthralled.

Besides selling paintings and prints you also self-published an art book in 2011. What was that process like and are you planning to create another one soon?

Firstly, I have been very lucky to have worked with galleries from my earliest days as a professional painter in 1992, just a year after earning my MFA. I wish I had more publications that would be put out by my galleries. It takes a lot of work for a person with no Photoshop/design skills and it takes too much time away from making art. So I could use someone who would take charge of this. Also, there doesn't seem to be any or little demand. So for now I am not working on a new one. That doesn't mean I wouldn’t love a new publication!

Next to crafting amazing art pieces, you also offer mentorship and workshops to the next generation of artists. Please tell us more about your mentorship work. When did you have the idea to do it and how has your experience been so far?

I taught my first invitational workshop at OCAC in Portland in 1996. That experience got me excited to teach more. After years of workshops -which require a lot of preparation and are often emotionally very challenging ( there always seems to be one person who needs all the attention, as what they need is not an art workshop but therapy….) I decided to shift to one on one mentoring. I realized that although I am very comfortable in front of larger groups, my sweet spot is one on one. I love diving deep with my students and using my intuitive skills to help them navigate the terrain of authentic work that is “mined” in their souls.

A lot of artists struggle with figuring out how to best promote themselves. Your work has hung in many different galleries and art shows all around the country including the recent Los Angeles Art Fair. Do you like working with galleries and attending art fairs in order to promote your work and is it something that came easily to you?

In the early years, there was the simple act of either walking a portfolio into a gallery or sending out slides. I have to say that in my case the work spoke for itself. Gallerists found the paintings compelling. What really helps is to get into one reputable gallery. That opens the door for many other galleries to follow suit. I also work very reliably and am ( mostly) well organized and so am a great business partner for my gallerist. I have never canceled a show or missed deadlines. That’s just part of my nature. personally, I don't attend art fairs, I am just great full when my galleries ( and not many do) participate in them. They are a huge undertaking -logistically and financially for the galleries. I am very grateful to be working with so many outstanding galleries!

Nowadays there are so many ways to promote one’s work and I find using social media easy. However, it does eat up a chunk of time and needs constant attention.z I use it mainly to share my work for free as well as to promote my mentoring and the release of new prints that are produced and sold by Sebastian Foster. It is another way to have some income and I love that it allows collectors of a wide income scale to buy my work.

What are your plans for the future? Is any new series planned?

I don't have specific plans. I always want to be able to paint what is authentic to me at the moment. It is fluid and inspiration comes from what moves me internally and externally. I am always inspired by my older work as well and review the images to search them for new ideas and things I haven't explored yet. My current series is painting men. That is a first in my career as a professional artist. Even as a kid I never cared to paint men. After my last show, which focused on the adolescent sons and daughters of my friends, I found myself fascinated with the male body. The sharper contours, the musculature, and expression.

I have delved deep into the questions around Me Too and patriarchy and know that we are all adversely affected by the system we are living in. It is a system in which none of us can fully explore the many sides within us- the feminine and masculine and the fluidity therein. That can lead to depression, anxiety, and violence against others but also ourselves. The series of men that I am working on right now is my exploration of many facets of masculinity-what I have experienced with partners but also how I view men and the system they grow up in. Through surrealistic means, I navigate a space that has personal meaning but hopefully also resonates on a visceral level with the viewer.

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