Monday, September 24, 2012

Anca Gray: Unfinished Poem

Photos by Mr.Stonebender
Anca Gray has a fascinating piece in ArtPrize.  I feel like I could get lost just looking at it.  It's made of eggshells, a material that I don't consider at all, let alone consider as a media for art.  I had the chance to interview Anca about her piece, and here's how it went.
How would you describe your ArtPrize piece?
The way I see it, unfinished poem is an enormous puzzle of countless egg shell pieces, fitted together without the solution into an abstract seascape.  Others have likened it to the scales of a white dragon, marbled bark, ice melting, foam on a white sandy beach. 

Have you done other art that is similar to an abstract seascape?  Is there a significance to the use of eggshells?
This is the first piece of its kind, although I have worked with egg shells at smaller scales.  I am fascinated with discarded objects, especially those intimately connected with human consumption.  so you will often find such scraps in my work as old yellowed book pages, bits of kitchen string, tea filters, and egg shells.  As one of the most iconic naturally occurring objects, the egg holds high intrigue for me.  The broken shells speak of life and death, fragility and strength, past and future, mystery, trasformation, and possibility.  Handling each vulnerable piece becomes a meditation on the formative process, an exploration of being and becoming - human, an artist.  The nature of the material and the meditative process instinctively led to the shaping of the final piece. 

Could you tell me a little about your method?  How do you start thinking about and working on a piece like this?
My approach is that of a child at play, tactile and fueled by curiosity.  I start simply by carefully washing each shell and peeling the delicate membrane.  Once dry, I smooth out the rough edges, discarding the crushed bits.  As I handle each piece again, I become aware of tinny fissure cracks and fragile spots, and further break down each piece, yielding to it as it guides me.  I now have slender jagged columns of various sizes of the stacked pieces, and piles of smaller clean edged shards - my puzzle pieces.  Now, for the fourth, fifth, sixth time they each pass through my hand, I reinforce them with layers of acrylic paint - their new skin.  A world of possibilities opens up as I spread out the pieces and start exploring how they might fit together.  The wave patterns naturally emerge, challenging any preconceived notions of the directions I might have stirred the project. 
I knew immediately that the canvas itself needed to be fragmented, as much a nod to my architectural background as a mirroring of the fragmented nature of the egg shell mosaic at the larger scale of the canvas.  The geometry of the canvas cluster exposes my impulses to control and organize, and so they provide a great foil for exploring the organic nature of the material.

Has that impulse to organize and control shown up in your art in other ways as well as in this piece?
It seems that impulse manifests itself in a sort of visual obsessive compulsiveness in my work.  One obvious aspect of it is my use of color - I only work with black and white paint - the only other colors present being the intrinsic color of the mixed media objects I incorporate.  Perhaps less obvious, my treatment of layers in mixed media paintings.  The layers remain quite distinct and the materials recognizable.  And yet again in my approach to figure painting; my girls are always minimal representational line drawings in poses that are at once vulnerable and protected, captured in abstract settings. 

What kind of art do you look to for inspiration?
I look for inspiration everywhere in life and in all manner of art spanning from religious icons, to abstract painting, installation and performance art, literature, film, contemporary mixed media and art jewelry.  Rather than a specific style, I favor work that demonstrate restraint, vulnerability and strength, respectful use of materials, a minimalist aesthetic; artists who widen the horizons of possibility.  These I hold in tremendous admiration: Cy Twombly, Constantin Brancusi, Kiki Smith, Egon Schiele, Cecil Touchon, Arie de Groot. 

Is there anything else that you would like to say about your art?
Just that I believe it to be a common misconception that in order to challenge the status quo you have to work outside of the box.  There is much yet to be explored and challenged within the old confines and I will keep plunging into the depths for meaning.  The hope is that my work speaks for itself, just as it speaks to me in the creative process.  

The voting code for Unfinished Poem is 53523, and it's on display at the Calvin College gallery during ArtPrize. 


  1. response
    to anca's

    i have
    in despair
    in the morning
    into disposals
    into compost
    piles and
    into plastic
    to forever
    with their

    i will
    no longer
    so callous
    of these
    of life
    for my

    of this


  2. grace ...

    an unfinished poem ...