Art + Science Series: Paintings of Annell Livingston

Fragments #166
Gouache on w/c paper
©Annell Livingston

I am pleased to welcome artist Annell Livingston to the biocreativity blog as a continuation of the Art + Science Series. Annell’s work takes its cues from her current home in Taos, New Mexico. Her paintings feature geometric patterns inspired by the tension between urban landscapes and natural environments.

[biocreativity] Welcome to the biocreativity blog Annell! Tell us a little about the kind of art you create.

[AL] I am a painter and have painted in most every medium. Now, I choose gouache, for it’s inherent qualities of saturated pigment and flatness. I love to paint. It is what I do, and have been doing for the last 50 years. Unless I have other responsibilities, I am in the studio.

[biocreativity] What is your educational background?

[AL] In the early 1960’s, I began studying art at the Lowell Collins School of Art, in Houston, Texas, with an emphasis on painting and drawing. Then I studied at the University of Houston, where the late David Hickman was my experimental teacher. And I studied at the Glassell School of Art at the Museum of Fine Art in Houston. I think the way of the artist is a lifetime of study. The artist is always reaching for something, just out of reach, always challenging herself.

Fragments #164
Gouache on w/c paper
©Annell Livingston

[biocreativity] As an artist, I agree that it’s a lifetime of study, always learning something new. I find that science can teach us a lot how to explore our world and challenge us. How is your work inspired by science?

[AL] Science can be thought of as knowledge attained through study or practice. And the way of the artist is the same. My work is based on geometry and the observation of the material world, especially light, and color.

In the 1980’s I asked myself the question, “What do I know, and how do I know it?” I lived in the city, I drove to work at the studio each day on the freeway. My studio was downtown in a warehouse, and the sounds that came into the studio were from the cars and trucks on the freeway. All day I stood on concrete. The answer to my question was, “My experience was the city, building with exposed skeletons. If you looked down on the city, you would see it is based on the grid. And we are informed by the light, which is often reflected on manmade materials.” I began observing the light, and keeping notes about it. I allowed the square to be a metaphor for the urban experience.

It was not long, before I moved to Taos, New Mexico. My work did not reflect the rural experience that was Taos. This little Northern New Mexico town was not urban. How do I talk about this experience? The square seemed too much ‘man over nature.’ At last I randomly added the diagonal line, this broke up the grid to allow shapes that allowed me to think of the irregularity of the landscape; rivers, mountains, and canyons. This diagonal line seemed to be the perfect answer, and can been seen in the weavings of the Navajo people. I choose the color from nature, which required careful observation of the world around me. I was speaking in a contemporary voice, but reflecting what I saw in nature.


The artist, Annell Livingston, and her work

[biocreativity] How has this experience lead to your current work?

[AL] My current work, “Fragments, Geometry and Change”, continues the ideas I have been investigating in past work. I break the picture plane into small pieces, metaphors for my experience of life, memory and thought. It seems to me, it is never experienced as a whole, but in bits and pieces. My compositions are based on geometry, which I draw with a ruler. I began with one color randomly selected, then each color selected after is based on simultaneous contrast, which is the use of two colors, painted side by side, that interact with one another and change the visual perception accordingly. This affects the viewer’s sense of the color. Though the shapes are not altered, patterns appear, disappear and change in their appearance.

This is based on the observable phenomenon in nature of changing light and color. An example might be the way the color of the leaves seem to change as the winds moves through the trees.

Fragments #168
Gouache on w/c paper
©Annell Livingston


[biocreativity] Thanks so much Annell for the interview! If you loved Annell’s work, she will be featured along with three other artists in our latest exhibit, Geo_____! The show will run from April 12 – May 18th, 2014. Opening reception will be held April 12th 7-11PM. 

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