Ann Connor’s clothes always contain perfectly pressed angles. Her sand-colored hair falls to her shoulders with longitudinal grace, and her blunt bangs can curve a ruler. She’s geometry personified.
In her upcoming show, “Process and Clarity,”
Conner introduces a careful study of shapes and lines arranged into uniquely structured patterns and configurations. At first the simple images created by spirographs and stencils seem elementary and unassuming. The longer they’re studied, the clearer it becomes the playful forms contain mathematical logic that takes an intense amount of concentration to draft. “I just like artwork that’s very direct,” Connor comments. “There’s nothing unequivocal about it; you either like it or you don’t.”
For Connor composing a study is like rearranging an equation. The formula consists of choosing templates, their placement on paper, and the number of rows (et cetera times infinity).
Her “DizzyWood” series is a prime example of a new solution. Although she’s “not usually into the ‘cutesy’ stuff,” the grouping of fundamental forms come from snail and beetle-shaped cookie cutters. Like the majority of her drawings, she fills each template in slow, random paths with a rapidiograph pen. Her efforts are laborious but satisfying. When the light hits at the right angle, the squiggly silhouettes resemble wood-grain—an effect the artist claims is purely subconscious. She readily admits her drawing process is slow-moving. But it’s the best way to settle into a future woodcut scheme.
Each 48-by-36-inch black-and-white drawing prefaces one of her signature woodcuts. Connor’s deep-rooted passion for woodcutting surprises. Though she taught painting and drawing at UNCW for over four decades, her grandfather urged her to use tools at a young age, and her mother acquired exquisite early Japanese woodcut prints from New York. Her graduate professor, Marvin Saltzman, was probably the biggest influence. When Connor was struggling to distinguish herself, he steered her toward a challenging new genre with these words: “You can’t paint.” I guess we should thank him.
Connor’s large, vibrantly colored-pressed prints start out as uniformly grained oak blocks. Her preference for a straight-grained wood is just another subtle wink at her precise nature. The radiating vertical and horizontal waves of a tree’s age flow out like visible DNA. Echoing Roy Lichtenstein, and his ability to maintain flat surfaces, she uses an electric Japanese chisel to carve the intricate designs. Her sweeps are so exact they look like they were created by a machine, which is exactly her intent. The context screams post-minimalism.
“I’ve gone to just very symmetrical designs; it takes the thought out of it,” she tells. “I still rely on visual instinct to mix it up, so it’s not boring.”
“Starwood” is the most diverse series to date and is currently in production at Flatbed Press in Austin, Texas. Pulling from what she calls her box of toys, the work’s columns consist of blacked-in star stencils and traced snowflake ornaments. Upon closer inspection, one of two cookie-cutter shapes—a train and a dinosaur—cleverly have been worked into the four drawings. Their presence among such symmetrical forms is completely intentional and a nod toward the playful work of Jeff Koons and his current pop-art retrospective at the New York City’s Whitney Museum.
Connor’s color choices also are playful and as visually instinctive as the rest of her process. They often tell a story.
Her “Brentwood” suite is named after a newly constructed upper-middle class neighborhood in Los Angeles. The lightly scalloped ovals, diamonds, circles, and squares resemble the cracker shapes in a box of Sociables. Alternatively, they create a bird’s-eye view of uniformly placed domiciles with similar landscaping and grid-like avenues. Her color choices mimic the architecture and culture of the place, too—including hues of fast-food yellow, swimming-pool blue and coffee-shop green, to name a few.
A year ago, all eight of Connor’s “Brentwood” cuts (accompanied by 15 other works) were on display at the Wilma W. Daniels Gallery. Cape Fear Community College’s contemporary art space is one of Connor’s favorites in town.
“I love the street-facing windows,” she describes. “People who walk by can see the installation and de-installation of a show, so they can experience what art is really about.”
Beginning on August 18th, patrons will experience birth-in-reverse at the Wilma W. Daniels Gallery. While Connor’s completed woodcut prints were a celebration of design, “Process and Clarity” explores the decisive calculations behind each and unobtrusively asks that gallery-goers form their own opinions.
Process and Clarity
Work by Ann Connor
On display Aug. 18th – Oct. 7th
Wed. – Thurs., noon – 5 p.m.
Reception: Fourth Fri. each month
Wilma W. Daniels Gallery, CFCC
200 Hanover St.