Paintings can be appreciated on many levels. There is the overall impression that you feel when you first glimpse at a painting. That first glance often determines if you will actually look at the painting properly. It is no different to scrolling online. You can be swiping until something catches your eye and you stop scrolling.
Once you stop and look at a painting, you will determine whether your initial impression is validated. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. If it is, you will look closer, exploring the details, observing aspects such as the color, line and form. The analysis complete, you will reason with the evidence and come to your conclusion about the work.
Sometimes you may not want to look at a painting. It may not interest you; you may find it uncomfortable or not to your taste. Occasionally however it may behoove you to look more closely at such paintings and determine why they make you feel that way. It may reveal some truths about yourself and in turn provide more insight.
Anna-Marie Lopez is an American artist born in Houston, Texas. Art has always been a part of her life since she was a child and as an adult, she parlayed that into a career as an industrial and graphic designer, working for Kodak and several advertising agencies. In her time, she has lived and worked in Los Angeles and New York, with particularly fond memories of working for the famous Pearl Paint store, now gone forever, but alive still in many artists’ hearts. Today she is back in Texas as a disabled veteran focused on her own art.
When I first glance at Lopez’s paintings I feel warmth. The generous earth notes that she uses provides a comforting overtone. I find myself opening up toward the paintings, settling in for a closer look.
Then I realize that things are different. It’s not quite what I am expecting. I see that many of her works have unsettling imagery; skeletons, eyeballs, nailed brains, serpents, holes in bodies, dismembered parts, a chained person, dripping blood, contorted and misshapen bodies. These are images that I am not usually comfortable looking at. I try to avoid scary movies or books. I do not enjoy watching others in pain, even in fiction. However, I feel that Lopez’s imagery is not created to shock or frighten. There is something vulnerable and ungarnished about them. Lopez is simply telling her story.
There are times when an artist’s story can overwhelm their art. There is a chance that Anna-Marie Lopez’s life story could as well. She has suffered suicidal depression, unbearable pain, the loss of work, home and friends, chronic racism, sexism, rape, physical and emotional abuse and betrayal. A few years ago, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor which was operated on, but has resulted in the partial loss of her vision. And yet Lopez continues to live with hope and love. And her art strongly stands on its own.
She has used art for much of her life to relieve the pain and trauma of the tougher moments that she has endured. She tells her life story through her paintings. She is brutally honest, but she is not looking for sympathy or wallowing in what must be tremendous emotional and physical pain at times. She is just telling it like it is. Lopez is a survivor. She has found healing through her art.
It allows her to find room in her soul to care for others, those that are less fortunate than her, finding benefit in volunteering with charities. She even recently adopted a dog with special needs, Pip, a Lhasa Apso —although I think that must be a mutually beneficial arrangement. She attributes her positive spirit to generous people she has met along the way, including her partner of 18 years. This easily explains the warmth and humor that I see in many of her works.
In the painting Evening Meal, a person who is in the middle of a blood transfusion is dining with two skeletons on a gruesome and bloody meal, and yet they all seem to be having a rather good time.
In “Road To Heaven” there is an image of a person in a confinement jacket with electrodes attached to their brain, yet the jacket is not constrained, and the person has angel wings, music is flowing around them and a bunny drummer is by their side.
These images are assembled in unexpected and bizarre juxtapositions. There is an abundance of personal iconography, distorted figures and symbolic images. These are some of the classic characteristics found in surrealistic art. The Tate Museum of London explains that in Surrealism, “artists find magic and strange beauty in the unexpected and the uncanny, the disregarded and the unconventional.”
This is the magic and beauty that you find in the paintings of Anna-Marie Lopez. G&S