Private eye Fallon reports another find

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I met Anne Minich several years ago at an opening at Gallery Joe. Anne is an artist and a friend of sculptor Stephen Robin, who introduced us. Since then, I’ve seen Anne at many artist’s lectures and at openings around Philadelphia but I didn’t know much about her art. It hasn’t been shown here recently. (top image “Our Lady of Three Houses”)

 

When Anne, now 69, called me up a couple weeks ago and invited me in for a studio visit I was intrigued. I didn’t have a clue what I’d find — pretty pictures of flowers? figure studies? Wissahickon landscapes? gestural abstraction? (image right and left are shots of Minich’s work in her house/gallery/office/studio)

What I found instead was body of work focused on spiritual and psychological states. The work is sophisticated, beautiful, accomplished and smartly crafted. And again I was left wondering why I hadn’t seen it here. The answer is always complicated and in Minich’s case has to do with success elsewhere (in Maine, she is represented by ICON Contemporary Art in Brunswick) that drew her energy and a lack of basic business skills to foster career-building in Philadelphia.

Minich calls her works painted constructions and that fits perfectly. She lives among her works in her house, which slips seamlessly between being abode, office, gallery and working space. She explained that she taught herself carpentry and that her process, which is a slow one, involves building the wood support, carving into it, embedding objects in the wood, then painting — in a process that involves adding, subtracting, rubbing, scraping, sanding and glazing using tools that range from brushes to fingers. (image is two works in the studio)

The resulting surfaces, worked so lovingly, have the feel of sculptural patinas — matte and lucious.

The works are iconic and spiritual. Using silhouettes of a figure (head and shoulders only) and an airplane (that looks vaguely shark-like) she suggests a realm of possibilities about states of mind and being. Transience, metaphysics and time seem to be subjects. The works are quiet and a little brooding. (image is “Ubu” by Tom Chimes, who also makes work with great, sometimes carved surfaces)

They’re also surreal and darkly poetic with allusions to death. Minich acknowledges their darkness but prefers not to be locked down with one interpretation.

The spare imagery, dark silhouettes — surrounded by a halo of small objects, reminded me of other surrealists’ works — Magritte (shown “Son of Man”), Thomas Chimes (above, “Ubu”) and even the late Latino artist Ana Mendieta. (detail from “Silueta” series)

Minich has some training as an artist (she took classes at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts) but she is a self-taught carpenter. She does her own carpentry, by hand, and is a perfectionist about it.

If somebody tells her something is “off” by a 32nd of an inch, she’ll fix it. (true story)

Overall, the work has an austere feel, something the artist feels may be difficult in selling her work.

Much of the work refers to her life (the silhouette figures are mostly her and she titles them “Our Lady of …Three houses or whatever) although distilled down to a symbolic silhouette that could be everyman or everywoman. (image with airplanes right and left are “Coming” and “Grounded”)

So why hasn’t she shown much in Philadelphia? Well, actually, she has, but not lately. Minich’s work was included in a show at the ICA, she says, and she is among the first recipients in 1994 of a Leeway Foundation Bessie Berman grant for excellence in painting.

Linda Lee Alter owns her work, she told me. But somehow Minich, who is divorced and a mother of two adult children, was unable to parlay that success into a gallery affiliation in Philadelphia.

And when she found an audience for her work in Maine, she funneled her time and energy into showing in that state. She’s had considerable success showing and selling there. If Maine wants you, that’s where you go. (image right is “My Philadelphia” — which reminds me of a Giorgio Morandi still life)

“I’m not an academic painter. I invent all my own methods which is good because I don’t want to be caught in a formula,” she said.

Minich is thinking about seeking a gallery in Philadelphia. I can imagine a show of her work in any of a number of venues. I’d love to see it. (bottom image is “Under” with a found rock as the moon)

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