Anne Labovitz is an American artist based in St Paul, Minnesota, whose practice includes painting, drawing, and printmaking as well as experimental film and sound. Labovitz has a degree in psychology and art from Hamline University in St. Paul. Her work considers many themes often returning to the central notion of an enduring interest in people—the human spirit, its emotional resonance, and the way it manifests in relationships. Working within the portraiture tradition, she employs a process of layering—from multiple images and text to conceptual connections and multiple elements of physicality found in mark-making and materiality. The notion of contemporary portraiture and human connection—and the activation of the space that connects us—is central to an important new direction in her oeuvre. This new direction is manifesting in a transition from traditional, expressionist self-portraits to composite portraits depicting several people. Most recently, she has begun incorporating text, audience engagement, and public interventions as a vital element of the creative method.
Recent solo exhibitions include: 122 Conversations in Ohara Isumi-City, Japan; Petrozavodsk, Russia; Växjö, Sweden at the Växjö Konsthall; Rania, Iraqi Kurdistan at the University of Raparin and at Thunder Bay Art Gallery in Thunder Bay, Canada; Layers at Burnet Gallery, Le Méridien Chambers in Minneapolis; Composite Portraits at the Tweed Museum in Duluth, Minnesota; and Passions at the Athenaeum in La Jolla, CA. She has also exhibited at national and international venues, including Chapman Art Center at Cazenovia College in New York and Talgut die Schönen, in Kunste, Germany. Recent group shows include Someone Else’s Story at Burnet Gallery; Blood Memoirs at the Tweed Museum, curated by Amber-Dawn Bear Robe and the Burnet Gallery’s group show at Select Fair NYC during Frieze Week in New York City. Recent public projects and private art commissions include: I Know You public collaborative drawing as a visiting artist for the Walker Art Center’s Free First Saturday and Projecting the City, for Northern Spark at the Weisman Art Museum.
Labovitz’s paintings are part of permanent collections at the Minnesota Museum of American Art, St Paul, MN; the Tweed Museum of Art in Duluth, MN; the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla, CA; the Frederick R Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis, MN; and the International Gallery of Portrait in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Labovitz’s work has been published in Studio Visit Magazine, Vol. 19, New American Paintings Midwest 2010 and the Penang International Printmaking Exhibition 2010 and International Contemporary Artists, vol II and III. She has co-authored several books on portraiture with Australian artist, Carole Best, and provided illustrations for the children’s book, Honoral & Zarina. Her artwork has been discussed on Minnesota Public Radio and written up in the Chicago Sun Times, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Villager, the Duluth Tribune, Letoile Magazine and the Taos Review. She recently has been named 2013 Artist of the Year in Duluth and in 2015 was awarded keys to all six sister cities of Duluth Sister Cities, International (DSCI).
Labovitz is active in the art community in the Twin Cities metro area and is currently an Advisory Board member of The Artist Book Foundation in New York City, and a former member of the Colleagues Advisory Board at the Weisman Art Museum on the campus of the University of Minnesota and the Board of Trustees for the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Her passion for art education both in schools and in the community keeps her teaching within both public and private schools and offering workshops to artists of all ages around the Twin Cities.
My work concerns the human spirit, its emotional resonance, and the way it manifests in relationships. Through contemporary portraiture I examine human connection and the space that connects us. Over the past five years, I have incorporated text, audience engagement, and public interventions as vital elements of my praxis.
My process-driven practice is empathetically embodied in my artist-led project and international touring site specific solo exhibition, 122 Conversations: Person to Person, Art Beyond Borders. The large-scale work explores cross-cultural connections through Skype interviews, paintings, and performative participatory art as a catalyst for social change. This work reflects conversations about generosity, friendship, reciprocity, community building, emotional exchange, and how these ideas are experienced through art. By utilizing text as an intuitive interpretation of human connection, I archive my experiences, visually chronicling them to find a universal language. The human form or the written word are visible at varying degrees. The pieces draw the viewer inward to experience an encounter with the subject and the collective consciousness.
My painting process is a focused act of mark making and record keeping, my form of note-taking. I approach creation with the same rigor and mindfulness that I employ while conducting interviews. Revisiting my experiences with each participant, I focus on embedding the painting with the essence of the subject’s beauty, resilience, and spirit and their connection to other interviewees through overlapping layers. This practice grew from my earlier work of placing multiple woodblocks on top of each other. Each mark is made with intent and clarity as a record, a form of memory that portrays the life force within and between people.
Viewers immediately notice that my paintings are vivid. Tyvek® necessitates a clear understanding of and vocabulary with the materiality in relationship with the paint. The level of saturation of pigment will reveal different results. Color is a central tool for creating my work; washes of light and transparent color skate across the Tyvek®, adhering in locations they have been allowed to rest longest. I choose colors and methods of application to visually portray the connection and abundance of the interview moments. Colors are chosen as a result of my emotional or intuitive response to the interview and with consideration of formal elements of composition and contrasting tone. In this way, each piece acquires its uniqueness and reflects my experience of the conversation.
My use of overlapping text and color is a metaphor that attempts to unite through a common experience that humanizes each of us, including myself, through the process. I feel more human when I hear stories of others, and it is my hope that this project evokes a similar experience from its participants and the public. As an artist, painting is my vocabulary, my way of sharing my story, my exigence, and my vision with the world. Creation of paintings is my way to give back to the world, my interviewees, and my gallery visitors for the intimacy, trust, and time they have shared with me.
“In a world where the value of a person has been reduced to its ability to produce and consume—to serve a system that sees us as data to analyze consumerism trends— the act of caring for the other and for oneself becomes an act of resistance. Our own conversations became a way to move around this system, a way to establish an economy that was not related to a monetary exchange of resources, but instead, was based on the desire to help each other and being able to provide some kind of assistance—emotional, practical, theoretical—to establish our own economy of friendship. Labovitz’s 122 Conversations is an exploration of how a political, social and cultural platform can be turned into a personal act of care.” – Omayra Alvarado, Artist and Curator, 2017