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Beauty and Terror of Anna Pipes

By Terri Ciccone

By Terri Ciccone

The wind is knocked out of you. You can’t figure out if you’re so incredibly happy or so impossibly mad, and you’re confused how they can feel so similar. You might burst, explode, boil over, your face hurts from smiling, your gut hurts from crying, your throat hurts from screaming and laughing, you’re being stretched in two different directions but going the same way. You don’t know if you’re in heaven or in hell. Yet there is serenity.

This sounds intense, but they are the emotions conveyed in Bushwick artist Anna Pipe’s work on view at Variety Café.  Leaning right over and above us as we started our interview was an image of a girl. She seems to blend into the painting, as if she’s being born from the paint. She tries to separate herself from the canvas she’s stuck to by leaning forward, laughing, emitting an almost manic smile. She is surrounded by bursts of color and energy forming from her abstract world. There is a feeling of both happiness and tension; you can almost hear both laughter and screams.

“The feeling I really wanted to show was a really saturated intensity of an energy,” said Anna of this piece, and others in the show, “almost to the point of overwhelming and threatening energy that is almost bubbling over, but it isn't quite there yet. It could either be really beautiful or really terrifying.”

This contrast of beauty and terror give her visually stunning pieces an entirely different layer of depth. In a series of three red paintings for example, a sort of angel vs. devil vibe is happening. The paintings are of abstract red angles with faint gold veins running through them. They reminded me of a sort of fiery landscape, like a topographical map covered in lava. Yet one can make out faint figures lurking under thick swirls of red.

“Of course we're all interested in humans. But I don’t like how with a portrait of someone, you know looking at a specific person, because you can’t really interpret as much, or you relate to it too much,” Anna said. “It doesn't hide anything, so with these ones I like that you know it’s a human or some sort of entity but you can’t tie it down to a specific place or time, it becomes more ethereal.”

In the series, one figure, seemingly female, seems so at peace in her red world. She floats effortlessly, her soft otherworldly features barely distinguishable between the curves of the abstracted lines and shapes in the work. This painting’s counterpart however, is the exact opposite. She faces you head on. Her facial structure is angular, she appears to be fighting with the painting rather than enjoying her surroundings.

What adds a new layer of curiosity to Anna’s work as well, is that she paints from photographs. And not in the way one would thing. She doesn’t paint what’s in the photograph, but the object itself.

“I like the idea of painting the photograph instead of painting what’s in the photograph. It’s not trying to take the subject out of the picture and turning into something else, its painting an actual object,” Anna explained.

After hearing this, I looked up at the red pictures and thought…ok, what on earth (literally, what of this world!) could those be pictures of!  Anna explained to me that they were a happy accident that resulted from multiple occurrences like a wonky camera that picks up subtleties in a room, and a red lamp from the '70s.

These successful images were a combination of unintentional events. Where as many of us go on camera walks or head out looking for amazing instagram photos to take, Anna thinks her next project will be painting found photographs. “I feel like if I go out and look for things to photograph it might be forced,” she mentioned.

I have seen some really cool, creative, beautiful and conceptual work as of late. But I haven’t “felt” a painting like this in a while. Most artists strive to achieve something more than a visual experience, and Anna’s works give you that almost instantly. If you can head over to North Williamsburg this weekend, I would highly recommend checking out her work before it gets taken down.

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