Friday, October 9, 2009

You are what you eat.

We are products of our environments. Try as we may, we cannot outrun the variables interwoven into the fabric of our character. Shaped by time, experience and events, we are tethered to the “story “of our lives. Such is the human condition that we are buffeted and bruised by unpredictable external conditions. The nuance of our stories, while the flavor of individualism, divide us into groups of similar ilk. Many of these distinctions are governed by race, sex and the age we are born into history. We talk of people as products of an era; the 70s, 60s, from the “baby boomer” generation. Ascribing values based on specific characteristics of an era, helps us to understand individual perspective.

At every turn, we are gathering data, trying to make sense out it all. Element by element we dissect life’s minutia, breaking down the whole into bite size chunks; synthesizing processed data into new perspective and beliefs. Our imprinted beliefs, perspective and personal codes are largely based on demographics and economics; our social, educational and cultural orientation. Long has been the debate of nature vs. nurture; so many contradictions are wrapped up in the flesh. These are but a few of the controlling strings of the puppet artist that wield the brush. Our response, as artists, to the story of our lives becomes the flavor and power of our art. Stroke by stroke we pour out the by product, the purified solid matter of our experience. Anna Belle Loeb, true to this formula, paints her way free of life’s inequitable entanglements.

A product of the 40’s, reared on the heels of a recovering post depression economy; Anna Belle was born into an era of upheaval and unrest. A teen ager, Anna Belle was an eye witness to the integration of Little Rock Central High School, in Little Rock, Arkansas; she was in New Orleans when Kennedy was shot. Anna Belle Loeb, a white Southerner, whose youth was tainted by ugliness of segregation, has lived to see a Black man voted into the Presidency of the United States. She has seen a lot. Trained in ethics, a lawyer turned painter, Anna Belle’s art plays out years of anguish, resistance and dedication as a social and political activist. Wanting the wrongs of history righted, calling out for equity, justice and truth, she paints away at the dross of life exposing the limitless possibilities that come with freedom.

Painting the moment, documenting events, she is a chronicler - a present day Griot, a title normally reserved and ascribed to an African Tribal storyteller, always a man. The Griot's role was to preserve the genealogies and oral traditions of the tribe. Anna Belle’s paintings, like pages of time, are set apart as documents and declarations; parchments. A voracious reader, Loeb’s bold colorful in your face artistic world is oftentimes driven by words. Her most recent show, “Rabbit Years,” held at the Pagus Gallery, in Norristown, PA was dedicated to famous Pennsylvania born, American novelist/poet John Updike. She too is a poet with a brush.

Tim Hawkesworth, Loeb’s teacher and mentor, says of her paintings; “Anna Belle is a Southerner and her art flows from a Southern consciousness. It is quick, Laconic, comedic and tragic. It does not stand still. It is full of contradictions and the complexity of good conversation. They have the bite of graffiti and the ferocity of an uncompromised stare. They are street tough and sharp. While they seduce and engage our senses they can at times tear at our consciousness. They can break our hearts.”

Laser sharp is her scapel, slicing through bone and marrow. Titles including The Disappearing White Guy, Mudslide of Politics, Big Bucks, Thou Shalt not break my Heart, Inherit the Wind, affirm the intensity of her message. Visually, with an equaled tenacity, she wields an assertive brush. She is not timid. The paintings by nature are edgy screaming with texture, bright color and raw energy; having weighty souls. Yet, in all this there are significant contradictions. Anna Belle is not just all bite, her paintings - Cry Baby, Ochre lambs, young woman and Rabbit in the Hat tell us otherwise. A counter-balancing compassion metes out hope and love for her neighbor. We are caught up in the story of her craft. She gets inside and breaks down our barriers.

Reviewed on Friday, May 15, 2009, by Victoria Donohoe, of the Philadelphia inquirer, Rabbit Years, Loeb’s maiden voyage, got noticeable attention:
“Although some contain recognizable images, they're more about the feeling in each that's experienced at some remove from nature, yet not really removed from it. Thus, they draw us in and carry us along, the best examples being authentically civilized experiences.”

Beyond all the rest, Anna Belle is a painter; loving discovery in the Studio, liking the paint as well as the medium. The paintings stand on their own; emotional and honest; a dynamic and pivotal pure body of work with significant historical significance. As the viewer, we are moved in and out of her soulful vignettes, a quick pace poking at us, the painting is assertive. Raw and intriguing, bold in their progressiveness, the paintings demand acknowledgement. Protesting as when she was an adolescent, the paintings march on the Washington DCs of our hearts crying out “Let freedom ring from every village and every hamlet...” She is masterful in her naiveté at getting us back to ground zero. She is relentless. She is a preacher.

Anna Belle Loeb

She’s got a lot on her Mind

6 November thru 30 November ‘09