Bio~ Abigail Woods Anderson is a Minneapolis-based artist. She received her BA from St. Olaf College where she studied fine art and biology. In her art career, science continues to inform her work. This transdisciplinary ethos is exemplified byOpen Phenology, a series of nature walks and online documentation that turn our attention to biological phenomena and the ecology we inhabit. In addition to Open Phenology's action- and inquiry-based creative practice, Anderson works as a fine artist producing letterpress prints and ephemera, paintings, and drawings. Anderson currently works at the Walker Art Center in the department of education and community programs.
Across town, the other "Center" in Anderson's life is Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA) where she volunteers, occasionally teaches, and puts in productive studio hours as a member of the artist cooperative. Anderson had her curatorial debut in 2011 withWhat Follows What Came Before, a group show examining the theme of sequence, installed in MCBA's Lerner Bindery Gallery. Goals on Anderson's horizon include: editioning an artist book about tardigrades (water bears); authoring a section on letterpress for Wikipedia’s printmaking article; and pursuing an artist residency experience to shadow research biologists in the field. Tell me about your work? What are you currently working on? How is this different from past projects? I've just completed a body of work titled The Deciduous Series. This work grew out of a reverence for the urban forest---specifically the lost grandeur of elm-lined boulevards. The work is also a meditation on how time alters the places we know. This notion of change led me to the word "Deciduous," a term intentionally chosen for its connection to trees. My process has always hybridized direct observation of the natural world with intense imaginative revision in the studio. For Deciduous Series, the starting point was a tree stump. I started looking closely at tree stumps, their convoluted contours that that resemble maps or continents, their growth rings that physically mark the passing of time. My specific interest in elm trees and Dutch elm disease came from a snapshot my mom took of me at one year of age, seated on an enormous elm tree stump outside my childhood home. Reading about elms, (http://bit.ly/N7FVht) I learned that the year of my birth, 1977, coincided with the peak loss of elm trees in Minneapolis. I thought some interesting work could come from considering these overlapping histories. The Deciduous Series began by placing a call to the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board requesting data on Dutch elm diseased trees close to my childhood home. They generously supplied information on 30 tree stumps, listing each specimen's location and diameter. To me, this sampling served as a cross-section of recent changes to our urban forest, a tangible, specific way to visualize a place changing with time. With the tree stump list in hand, a large roll of vellum secured to my bike, and markers in my backpack, by boyfriend and I biked around south Minneapolis locating the stumps. When we found each subject, we tacked the vellum in place and traced what we saw. I took a keen interest in the specificity of this raw linear information, found drawings that through the act of translation, were recorded and archived.
I took these large field drawings back to my studio to contemplate my next steps. Next, I segmented and translated the linear information for a final iteration, resulting in seven small compositions. I took care to maintain the veracity of the found drawing, so that each painting functioned like a map to the actual object in the world. I then undertook the task of embellishing the surface with gouache, using source imagery I gleaned from my readings on urban forest management and the pathology of Dutch elm disease. This process brought additional layers of meaning to the work. I gave a lot of thought to the ecological links between the tree, the fungal disease agent, the insect vector, and the human role in managing the epidemic. This work differs from my past projects in that it is more abstract and conceptual. Because it was research-heavy and serial in nature, it could have taken form as an artist book.
Deciduous Composition V (florescence)
How did you decide to become an artist? I'm often reminded by others, "you must be an artist," when they are struck by how I notice things. And it is true that energetic noticing is a quality I have when I am most awake, most present. But as for deciding to be an artist, this is something I consciously do every time I sit down to work. Sometimes it's not so much deciding to be artist as it is deciding I don't want not to be an artist. And so what follows is to do the work that is art. The instant I begin making, my mind becomes engaged in the ideas and decisions at hand, so the self-conscious concerns of self-identification ("Am I an artist?" and so-forth) are quieted.
What was the best advice given to you as an artist? Don't wait for lightning bolts. Just start working. This paraphrased advice from Wendell Arneson dispells the commonly held myth that artistic inspiration strikes like lightning. Great ideas don't tumble out of the blue, fully formed and impatient for you to actualize them. That's not to say that inspiration and intuition don't play a roll in creativity, because they do. But ideas don't take purchase in a lazy mind, and they don't gain momentum in idle hands. So to have ideas, begin with work. Work, mind you, can often take the form of play. Play with materials. Play with formal elements and principles of design. While making studies or even doodles, ideas (or even dozens of them) are likely to get tangled in one's consciousness and take root. Meaning-making emerges during the process of making. "Making" is more than a means of manufacture. It is a method of discovery and an opportunity to dwell in ideas. The challenge is not finding inspiration, but rather taking grip of its reigns.
Deciduous Composition I (dendrochronology)
Many artists struggle to find ways to sell their art. How do you sell your work? How do you market yourself?
The work of an artist doesn't end when the paint dries. A lot of effort goes into verbal and written communications. By this I mean authoring artist statements and other kinds of information to contextualize one's practice, intents, and production. It might sound base, but the reality is that artists put care into marketing or "packaging" their identity. Even works of art need to be "packaged" by adding titles. I'm grateful to have Groveland Gallery's involvement as artworks are ushered from my studio into the hands of art patrons.
Open Phenology broadside
Who are some of the Minnesota artists you enjoy? I've had several stellar teachers who were also artists. My high school pottery teacher Nancy Hanily-Dolanhttp://lakeminnetonka.patch.com/articles/wayzata-honors-career-teachers is one such person. She taught us about wabi sabi. She managed to make me, a humorless, sullen teenager, laugh and get through it.
Not only do Tom and Jeff Larkin of Featherstone Potteryhttp://featherstonepottery.com/ make beautiful, functional wares, but they are immensely generous with their process, expertise, and friendship. When it's time to fire their wood kiln, an assortment of hard working friends flock to their farm to partake in the ritual and share a long evening of good company. Since I first spotted it, I have enjoyed work by Jody Williamshttp://flyingpaperpress.com/. I feel she and I have an alliance. An alliance of telescoping inward and tiny archives. A simpatico based on silica, calcium carbonate, and chitinous substances.
I admire the ever-evolving practice and prolific work of artist Sean Connaughtyhttp://seanconnaughty.com/. I especially appreciate the way he experiments with materials and sets his mind to learn by doing.
My Uncle Roy repeatedly advised me to become a "duck artist" and get rich by winning the Federal Duck Stamp Contest. I was a bit too young to discern the humor in his delivery. Roy McBride (1943-2011) http://youtu.be/DJVSWHWwVcU
I have the privilege of working with artist, educator, and fellow Taurus Ilene Krug Mojsilovhttp://www.mnartists.org/artistHome.do?rid=235829. In addition to being a skilled and sensitive artist, she touches hundreds of lives every month with her creative influence in the Walker Art Center's Art Lab.
I enjoy the politically-conscious, shape-shifting, "reality art" sculpture installation by Andrew Moorehttp://minnesota.publicradio.org/features/2009/08/11_lawn_art/. I like that his art is defiant and that he persists. I'm intrigued by the ongoing processes of construction and decay --- not only as they apply to the sculpture's physical form, but also to Moore's messages as they surface and recede.
I enjoy Alison Nguyen'shttp://mnartists.org/artistHome.do?rid=285124 ability to blend styles and influences (for example, fantasy art, graffiti, scientific illustration, comics). She's also a brilliant colorist and has a quirky sense of humor!
Re-embroidered Composition II
I've got to put a word in for Joan Vorderbruggen, project lead for Artists in Storefronts http://www.artistsinstorefronts.com/. I admire Joan for her unrivaled enthusiasm, charismatic energy, and socially-engaged actions.
If I were to follow you around to see art in Minnesota, which places would we go? What would we see? I frequent the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. But to be perfectly honest, I'm so busy keeping up with my Open Phenology project (@openphenology) that wildlife is in the foreground for me. However, if I'm in the Garden on a windy day, I like to pause by Pierre Huyghe's Untitled (after Dream). Next, I'm likely to be found at Minnesota Center for Book Arts. If you haven't been there before, I recommend going on a Tuesday evening when the studios are bustling with productivity. And every time I visit the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, I set aside some quiet time to pore over the Persian paintings and calligraphy.
In addition to www.Local-Artist-Interviews.com, where do you go online for good art resources, whether to find a new artist, or to see what is going on in the art world locally and otherwise?
mnartists.org, a one-stop shop for arts writing, calls and opportunities, and a virtual artist directory.
ArtsConnectEd, http://artsconnected.org/, for free, interactive access to the collections and resources of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Walker Art Center.
Deciduous Composition VI (dissemination)
Do you have any exhibits to promote in the near future?
Saturday, July 14, 2012: For the final day of The Clearest Way, Groveland Gallery has invited me to spend the afternoon onsite demonstrating my process. This informal, drop-in event will include me proofing prints on a small platen press (courtesy MCBA).
Saturday, July 28, 2012: Minnesota Center for Book Arts is throwing a party---an Unabashedly Bookish Bash! With the feel of a backyard get-together, the evening will include refreshments, music, a raffle, and exclusive shopping for art patrons. I'm making a few small works which will be available for sale. This benefit is all about supporting Artist Programs at MCBA, so naturally I'm an enthusiastic advocate! Please join us. Buy tickets here: http://mnbookarts.org/events/bookishbash.html
Monday, August 27: I'll be a featured artist at 12'12'12', an art exhibition at the Minnesota State Fair. Presented alongside the annual juried show in the Fine Arts Building, this eclectic group show will give fair goers a window into the work of an artist. Each of the twelve artists will spend an entire day inhabiting the gallery space as a studio, producing work, and demonstrating their practice. My "in-gallery residence" is Monday, August 27, from 9 am to 9 pm.