Observation of the Ordinary

An intense glimpse into the skeletal figures of Ann Rogers
by Meredith Ellis

          In a studio cubicle, with a dozen paintings occupying white walls and thousands of spotted colors layering the floor, with three sparse white lights hanging from the center, and two brooms intersecting the three crossbeams above, the slight figure of Ann Rogers states reflectively, “Skeletons aren’t defined by age, class…race or scars. They’re the essence.”
          At first her words teeter on the line of artsy indulgence but I soon realize they lack the passionate elitism to push it over. She leans away from the “art is love and saving the world” babble and I’m grateful. Ann Rogers worships simplicity and finds intellectual art theories amusing.
          She merely observes. She paints. And then she stops there. Her words and artwork sit decidedly on opposite sides of a canyon. Rogers hesitates tremendously in defining her work with vague descriptions and underlying motives. And she won’t build the bridge to help them meet. She wants you to. She acknowledges subtleties about her subjects but casts no judgments.
          For her, the coals fueling the train of human behavior pale in comparison to the locomotive itself. The intrigue lies in the shape of the train as it passed or the streak of white steam frozen into her memory. There exists no concept of “why?” Every painting, sketching and photograph seems dedicated to some slight mannerism or moment. Seemingly mundane things, like a girl running a strand of hair behind her ear or a man leaning over in an old chair, seem paramount in her work.
          The lack of psychological motives in her work doesn’t weaken the impact of her paintings. Instead they free all the abstractionist clutter, much like Belgian artist James Ensor’s Man of Sorrow; a single man expressing in surmountable grief through a series of red and black lines.
          Sometimes it seems impossible not to embellish the intentions of the painter. I assumed a painting with a boy gazing despondently into nothing possessed Orwellian leanings. The grey and blue swirled tragically around his subdued figure. The artist shrugs and merely says she painted a portrait of her brother on a nature hike. And the painting that resembles the three expressionless faces of Peter Jackson? She nods at the resemblance but explains, “That’s local Jim…the wine guy.”
          Her work goes down your throat easily like wine and echoes a sort of minimalist German expressionism. It begs the hypothetical question “what if Edvard Munch’s 1893 The Scream painting mated with a square box?”
The answer is Ann Rogers and her unfinished painting of two women. The face of the foremost woman, painted abundantly with yellow and roseate, stares on, deeply judgmental of anyone who passes.
          Though the emotion seems striking, like the harrowing scream of a man on a bridge in Munch’s work, it lends itself to simplicity with loose lines and limited paint.
          Probably the most expressionist influence shows through her painting of two skeletons slouching against one another like exhausted boxers in a ring. Their sparse bodies and yet fluid movements fool your eye into imagining the flesh around their frames. James Ensor’s famous work, depicting two skeletons fighting over a smoked herring, comes to mind. There’s a certain intrepid humanism that shouldn’t be there in these symbols of death.
          For Ann Rogers, a girl who passes the hours stealing model skeletons, her work candidly evaluates human nature in its purest form with keen detail and simple humanity. Her self-effacing nature resonates through the outstanding skeleton-inspired frames of her work and assures us there is nothing skeletal or sparse about captured emotion.

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