Ann-​​Marie Manker

Atlanta, GA | by September 7, 2010

When I saw Ann-Marie’s work for the first time, the first thing that came into my mind was the word “trend”. Ann-​​Marie adapts an illus­tra­tive style to draw girls with big dreamy eyes and cutesy ani­mals who are often lying down in a fan­tasy land in soft pas­tel hues. One can­not help but think about pop­u­lar trendy cloth­ing com­pa­nies, or design bou­tiques such as Urban Out­fit­ters, or Anthro­polo­gie, look­ing at her work at first.

Well, it is well known that those stores often are directly influ­enced by artists’ work for their win­dow dis­plays with­out giv­ing any credit to the artists who inspired them. Now, they also sell arty books and art toys. I always think they are tar­get­ing the younger, hip­ster gen­er­a­tion to sell not only prod­ucts but their whole hip­ster style as well.

Like those trendy designer bou­tiques, there is def­i­nitely some­thing irri­tat­ing yet attrac­tive about Ann-Marie’s work.  At first, I found her work online, on her blog and on Face­book. I wanted to know more about the work because I have been build­ing my curios­ity towards her images. Although Ann-​​Marie doesn’t quite enjoy the word “Trend” there is some­thing impor­tant about this in her new body of work. I think it plays a stronger role in her new works which she will be show­ing at White Space Gallery, this com­ing Sep­tem­ber in Atlanta.

The female fig­ures Ann-​​Marie paints look to be in their teens or in their early twen­ties: adolescence/​ early adult­hood. They often appear naive or appear­ing cute, posed toward the cam­era. The envi­ron­ments are strange enough to be scary but are rather charm­ing or fan­ta­sized with candy-​​coated col­ors. It seems like every object, the ani­mals or even the girls them­selves, are muted in the sit­u­a­tion. Or per­haps, they might be under some sort of spell? Because of all these like­able images and col­ors, you as the viewer, are under the spell, and have a hard time under­stand­ing what is really going on in the pic­tures. Seduc­tion is a big part of Ann-Marie’s new works. (Ann-​​Marie refers to her girls as “femme fatale.”)

Ann-​​Marie is inter­ested in the idea of how media affects peo­ple in Amer­ica. She says that her inter­est of mut­ing vio­lence relates to how Amer­i­cans (per­haps the rest of world, too!) are expe­ri­enc­ing a war in the Mid­dle East only through the media– dis­con­nected from the true real­i­ties of war.

Her recent dis­cov­ery of the female sui­cide bombers who are empow­ered to kill them­selves in the Mid­dle East is an impor­tant sub­ject among her paintings.

In “Road Block“ the girl is wear­ing a strange ban­dana made out of panties! She is stand­ing against a black river where swans swim around care­lessly. How amus­ing for the girl to wear a panty as a ban­dana! And yes, those pretty faces with big-​​eyed, naïve-​​looking Urban Out­fit­ter girls could be any one of us.

Excerpts from Interview:

JM: Why did you decide to use female fig­ures in your recent work? I see women of a cer­tain age tak­ing a big role in your recent works (from your pre­vi­ous solo at White­space in 2008 and recent works) Is there any spe­cific or impor­tant rea­son why your work shifted? I see your pre­vi­ous work, such as Cat Fight at Swan Coach House Gallery, as quite dif­fer­ent. You have made sim­pli­fied fig­ures or graphic land­scapes before.

AMM: In the past, I used ani­mals sym­bol­i­cally and as metaphors for emo­tive themed work. They were stand-​​ins for the fig­ure or myself. Since emo­tions can be all over the place, depend­ing on the cir­cum­stance, the imagery would change accord­ingly. The Cat Fight exhibit was dur­ing a time of great per­sonal change/​happenings in my life and there­fore is reflected in the work. The shift from ani­mals to the female fig­ure was a slow process. I began by mor­ph­ing ani­mal char­ac­ter­is­tics with my female model. After the dogs, she was part rab­bit and part human. It even­tu­ally led to pure human. The “Trip for Two” series that was at White­space in 2008, was the begin­ning of the model as human and metaphor for myself and feel­ings. For that exhi­bi­tion, and work there­after, I tapped into the mem­ory of a draw­ing that I made from child­hood that was so con­nected to my draw­ing style today and who I am as a per­son. It was a draw­ing of mul­ti­ple ani­mals, birds and insects in love, so the “Trip for Two” draw­ings became a love expe­ri­ence between the model and sur­round­ing ani­mals along a river journey.

JM: There is an under­ly­ing cur­rent of vio­lence or implied vio­lence in your work. Can you talk a lit­tle bit about the “mut­ing” or dis­place­ment of vio­lence tak­ing place in your images?

AMM: The vio­lence is com­pletely implied or muted for two main rea­sons. One, as a non-​​military Amer­i­can who is fed the war via tele­vi­sion and the Inter­net, I am com­pletely, along with the major­ity of Amer­i­cans, dis­con­nected from the true real­i­ties of war. How can I begin to under­stand what war is really like? I don’t go there, because I don’t know there, so the work is an hon­est reflec­tion of my cur­rent state and poten­tially the state of many oth­ers. Sec­ondly, I can’t even watch vio­lence on TV, or most of TV for that mat­ter. Really, I don’t watch tele­vi­sion at all, but one 45-​​minute pro­gram a week. I have to self-​​preserve or I would prob­a­bly be in tears every­day. There­fore, the implied vio­lence is com­plete fan­tasy. It is like the game Can­dy­land went to war.

JM: When I look at your images, I can’t help but think that they would not look out of place in Urban Out­fit­ters or Anthro­polo­gie, or other hip design stores. Is fash­ion some­thing you think about when you are working?

AMM: Ha, ha! I never thought of that and it is an inter­est­ing obser­va­tion. Per­haps, because when my model shows up, she is wear­ing what­ever she had on that day. I don’t dress her and I do think that her clothes very much rep­re­sent a large group of young women…at least those who live in the city. I’m sur­rounded by art stu­dents when I teach and a plethora of young artists and their style is all their own. Per­haps, if I lived out in the coun­try my model would be wear­ing bag­gie jeans and an over­sized t-​​shirt from Wal-​​Mart. I can say that I have specif­i­cally stayed away from any kind of tra­di­tional, oppress­ing fash­ion such as that of the Burka. I couldn’t paint that if you made me. It is not my goal to be so direct or lit­eral. Instead I ref­er­ence slight cov­er­ing of the face with a mask that I made out of lacy panties, dish clothes, rab­bit furs or designs that I just made up.

JM: What does the word “trend” mean to you? Can you tell me if trends have any value in your content?

AMM: I wouldn’t say the word trend crosses my mind, but I did want this new body of work to be con­nected to a cur­rent event. In the past, the works were psy­cho­log­i­cal nar­ra­tives, but not about any­thing polit­i­cal or cur­rent. I found that research­ing the female sui­cide bombers was a way to tie in the fem­i­nine psy­cho­log­i­cal qual­i­ties that I like to explore with some­thing rel­e­vant world­wide. Addi­tion­ally, the BP oil dis­as­ter occurred while this work was in progress, and I have been using black paint more lib­er­ally in larger flat areas of the com­po­si­tion. Some­one who looked at the work men­tioned that they thought the black road I painted looked like a river of oil. I guess when things like that are out there, one begins to make those con­nec­tions, whether they are sub­con­scious or not.

* The rea­son why I men­tion “Trend” is because of your style in your work. It is catchy, style of pop­u­lar illus­tra­tion that could appear in fash­ion mag­a­zine or design cat­a­logue. The girls also seem posed and has strong gaze towards cam­era like mod­els of those mag­a­zines. Your color choice seems to add that as well. For me, it is not a bad thing at all espe­cially for your new body of works, it shows your expla­na­tion of how naive we are as peo­ple who only expe­ri­ence war in the Mid­dle East through such media. It makes con­trast and mys­tery. I think it is a statement.

JM: Tell me about your new focus on your upcom­ing solo show at White­space? The title Soft­core War is intrigu­ing. Can you elab­o­rate on that?

AMM: I recently have been intrigued by the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of female sui­cide bombers in the Mid­dle East. For once, a woman was empow­ered to be a part of some­thing pow­er­ful on her own terms. Yet, the hor­ri­ble real­ity is that they are only empow­ered to die. I read an arti­cle about a young female sui­cide bomber in a New York Times Mag­a­zine and dis­cov­ered more infor­ma­tion about their plight. I was also intrigued to find out that some­times these women were caught before they exe­cuted their mis­sion because they would stand out after hav­ing applied heavy make-​​up. They would apply the make-​​up to look beau­ti­ful in heaven. There would also be dual remote bomb det­o­na­tors in case the woman got cold feet, some­one else nearby would press the but­ton for her.

Ann-​​Marie Manker’s work is on view at the National Museum of Woman in the Arts in Wash­ing­ton DC. As part of the group show: Women to watch 2010, body of work: New per­spec­tives on fig­ure painting.

July 2, 2010-​​September 12, 2010

Her solo show will open this com­ing Sep­tem­ber at White­space in Atlanta

Exhi­bi­tion dates: Sep­tem­ber 10 — Octo­ber 9, 2010

Ann-Marie’s blog

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