My work explores the interdependent relationship between mind, body, and society via exaggerated distortion of the flesh. Today, the body is often cast aside as separate from the mind, a host for the self, despite the mounting evidence to the contrary. With no life models they are responding to, the bodies are created out of the internal state of the artist and the external factors that have influenced it. There are no mistakes, no erasing, the process is a conversation that can’t be taken back. My work holds a singular moment. One of those stand still moments that contains a whole set of moments. The feeling that’s in your chest as you lay on the floor when you’re alone after something significant happened, and the sun just went down.
Recent explorations have been inspired by having a desk job, rejoining the whole swath of society after college, and living with a romantic partner for the first time. All of these have changed and been processed through my internal and external body and have trickled down into my drawings.
As a young girl fantastical stories and images allowed me to escape my regular life and explore unique worlds that put my own life into a useful perspective. These fantasies whether courageous, mysterious or sexual always found their way to the paper in front of me: I drew dolls, mermaids, heroines and monsters. As I grew older, I continued to develop work that examined my experience as a woman and often portrayed myself in or abstracted worlds. Over the years, the work itself has, paradoxically, both provided me with an escape and–particularly when working with the human form–provided a deep medium for connecting with the people around me. After studying painting at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, I have been living and working in Baltimore, immersing myself in the rarely-taught techniques of the old masters at the Schuler School of Fine Arts.
The figure and my connection to the figure, which often reflects my own experience of the people closest to me, drives my work. Sexuality, desirability, or the dissatisfaction in these realms play with the sensuality of the physical paint or charcoal. Symbolism in still life and invention in portraiture allow the paintings to take on narratives that expand on the basic components of the composition. When a portrait transforms through decoration, design and invention, it expresses more than a photograph. The techniques taught at Schuler–including composition, chiaroscuro, and bold clean brushstrokes–provide me with the tools to control the narrative of my paintings. I use these techniques to manipulate the viewer into observing my interpretation of the subjects individuality, whether it be a portrait or still life. Conscious of the balance between the meaning of the subject and the representational quality of painting, I combine techniques used in trompe l’oeil created to trick the viewer with revealing physical qualities of the paint to point to the façade of the image. I allow very watered down gamsol soaked paint to show texture behind the focus of the painting, alerting viewers to the falseness of the image.
My work in the studio always returns to the old masters, as I strive to unite timeless techniques with my own interests and new stories. As a child I was immersed in the process of translating fantastical worlds and imaginative concepts to paper. While the imaginative, even the grotesque, still has a place in my work–I have learned to appreciate the depth and narratives in people and objects around me. I now focus on revealing what is captivating about those people and objects, composing them in a way that investigates their depths. At Schuler, many of the techniques that allow me to create a narrative were developed through the traditional art of Still Life painting. Much of my work uses still life to study the complex but meaningful objects that lend themselves to larger works.
Anna is an artist and science educator working in Baltimore, MD. After studying Biology and Studio Art at Oberlin College, she continues to process the world through drawing, this time in a city. To see more of her work, check out her Instagram @anna.droege and her website.
Images above (from left to right): “10 Bad Habits,” “Just Me,” and “Attempt (1) at clothing oneself while keeping one’s body.”