Anne Teigen's canvases anything but empty
BY SUZI STEFFEN
The blank canvas stares at the artist. And stares, and stares, and stares … until the artist blinks.
But sometimes, the void blinks first — as in Anne Teigen's current show at Opus6ix, "Confronting the Canvas."
|Trying to Channel Matisse|
Like other creative types, Teigen knows performance anxiety, and she deals with it in the time-honored manner that writers call "butt in chair time." Or in her case, feet-at-easel time; she goes to her studio and works every day, not only when ideas flash in. "People who say they're going to paint when they're in the mood don't paint," she notes. Maybe she paces a bit, flips through books of other art, looks at her drawings, cleans her brushes — and then deals with the canvas.
In the case of this show, the work she accomplishes becomes a humorous and sometimes joyful commentary on the challenges of dealing with the voids waiting to be filled.
A long tradition of Western artists painting their studios stretches from Velasquez's brilliant Las Meninas to Courbet's clever, self-aggrandizing The Artist's Studio. The first painting in Teigen's show, Trying to Channel Matisse, tips her hand both figuratively and literally — she depicts her hand, tracing an orange line on a canvas-within-the-canvas. In Trying to Channel, she paints a goldfish, a deliberate homage to Matisse (Still Life: Goldfish and Sculpture, 1911, & The Goldfish, 1912). Combined with her intense use of bright colors in each painting, this sets the tone for the show. Miles Away — which depicts a nude model on a lounge in a maroon-drenched studio — seems a nod both to Matisse's Red Studio and to a slightly older French painting, Manet's Olympia. In fact, Teigen creates a dialogue with Matisse and other masters in almost every painting in this show — though she says this isn't deliberate.
"When I'm painting, I'm thinking in abstracts. Like, is this area dark? Or, because this is expected in composition, I'll do something else. I stand back and look: Is the paint boring? Is the paint interesting? It's always about the paint," she says.
But for an art historian, it's almost impossible not to think of more parallels: The blank yet compelling eyes of the woman in Melodic Moment remind me of Matisse's Portrait of the Artist's Wife; the woman in Sitting Pretty, with her frothy blue and white dress, looks like a candidate for Berthe Morisot, though the throne-like chair she occupies reminds me, again, of Velasquez.
And speaking of Velasquez and his self-portrait in Las Meninas, Teigen gives us a potential self-portrait in her Thinking About It. An unfinished canvas, a can of brushes, tubes of oil paint and a vase of hydrangeas fill the foreground. In the background, hanging on the wall, is an ambiguous square with a contemplative face; in front of the face, crossed hands holding a brush seem to indicate that this is a mirror, a picture of the artist choosing where to go next.
Teigen would probably laugh at my analysis. "People come to shows and tell me all kinds of things about my paintings," she says. The final painting in the show, Costumed Model, with a woman holding a pampered rabbit in front of a gold foil background, looks like an obvious tongue-in-cheek reference to Renaissance portraiture. But when I ask her, she explains that she bought the golden foil background by accident at the bookstore — "and I thought a rabbit would be fun to paint."
Fun's not a bad word in Teigen's intellectually teasing world, where inviting marionettes crouching on a tile floor turn out to be a painting within a painting (Posing/Waiting) and where the artist's animal curls up to take a nap in the midst of artistic detritus (Studio Cat). This generous, vibrantly colored and engaging show might just be Opus6ix's best of the year.
"Confronting the Canvas" runs through Jan. 13 at Opus6ix, 22 W. 7th Ave.