So much that is happening in the world today is oh-so-serious. Every time I turn on the news, there seems to be coverage of war, mass shootings, our nation’s out-of-control debt and the suffering of countless immigrants. I am someone who needs to be aware of all of this malaise and not be like an ostrich who hides her head in the sand, and I strongly feel that artists need to be of cognizant of what is happening in the world around them, whether they choose to paint about those events or not. However, I am also aware that the artwork I have created since the pandemic has been very escape-oriented. Making art is increasingly a refuge and a fortress for me. I have enjoyed the complexity and sheer adventure of travelling to the undersea in my mind and producing — with child-like pleasure — a series of works in watercolor and ceramics that contain octopi and other strange, exotic creatures. The John Lennon song, “Octopus’ Garden,” inspires my imagination, as my favorite toy growing up was a red stuffed octopus. “My Octopus Teacher,” a popular Netflix film, rekindles my sense of intrigue about the underwater world as a place to retreat, mentally and physically, and enjoy the kaleidescope of ever-changing colors and forms. I also savor the experience of producing watercolor paintings on location during trips to warm places like Key West, Florida. Pink is a color that pervades several of these works, as it exudes warmth, femininity, and sometimes humor.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Anne Farley Gaines’ early interest in art grew from studying her great-uncle’s work, Lynn Bogue Hunt, noted wildlife artist. She received her BA in Studio Art from Principia College, Elsah, IL in 1976 and MFA in Painting from Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH in 1980. That year, she moved to Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood where she owns a Victorian home with her husband, Geoffrey Novelli, a sculptor. After taking numerous courses in ceramic at Lillstreet Studios from 2015 – 2021, they sometimes collaborate on ceramic works. Gaines’ “signature works” are mixed-media folding screens, shaped wall pieces, and murals. Her most recent mural works are three cement barriers transformed into 3-D murals with paint and ceramic at the Maxwell Street Community Garden on 13th Street that she designed and completed with local youths. For this series, Gaines received two grants — one from the Chicago Housing Consulting Services in 2020 and an Individual Artist Program Grant from the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events in 2021. She has received numerous other grants, as well. Ceramics and paintings of Anne Farley Gaines are in over 25 public collections that include Valley Hospital, Ridgewood, NJ, the Kalamazoo Institute of Art in Michigan, the Rockford Art Museum in Rockford, IL, and the Wichita Falls Museum of Art in Wichita Falls, Texas, where she designed and produced a 30′ x 15′ community mural with over 500 participants in 2017. Gaines curated “All in the Same Boat — Or Are We?” in 2020 at Stola Contemporary Art.
© Anne Farley Gaines