Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

East Neighborhood: Anna Held Audette

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
East Neighborhood: Anna Held Audette
Oct. 22, 2006.

The painting that commands the room in Anna Held Audette's studio—by dint of its sheer size—is from a scrap metal series she worked on in the 1990's. To my eyes, it is like found object art translated onto canvas. The oil painting depicts scrapyard chaos of twisted metal and rusted discarded machinery. When I suggested this to Audette, she demurred, politely.

"Sort of, but it's stacked there for a commercial purpose," she said.

She did 23 paintings of scrap metal. The one hanging in her studio was of a pile found in a junkyard just north of New Haven off I-91. I commented on the beautiful light that plays over the scrap.

"Light makes the most uninteresting things come alive. It's really magic," she said. "I was only allowed to go there after 4 o'clock in the afternoon, so it's all late light."

Her most recent body of work is entitled Contemporary Ruins. It consists of striking paintings of the shuttered factories, abandoned terminals and discarded machines of our late industrial past. In her artist's statement on this series, she wrote, "As a painter I have been inspired by endless examples in which the triumphs of industry turn out to be just a moment away from obsolescence, casualties of our rapid technological evolution." I asked her how she was drawn to this subject.

"For most of my life, it just grew on me. Largely because the forms are never the same, the problems are different for every painting. I never have the feeling I'm doing the same painting twice," she said. She paints from photographs, she said, because she is often interested in settings "where my presence for several days would not be appreciated." But painting a scene changes the scene, she added. "There's no point to just painting the photograph."

As with the scrap metal painting, many of the newer works derive rich character from the quality of the light. One example was her painting of the old New Haven Terminal.

"The light and the fact that it had rained the night before. I got very nice reflections," she said. "Two things that came together very nicely on a Sunday afternoon."


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