Anna Rose’s visual provocations

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Anna Rose is a visual artist whose works require certain scrutiny in order to understand what’s behind the image – they are extraordinary, unusual, provoking. A graduate of Fine Arts in San Francisco Art Institute, she’s now living in Italy and finds herself working with almost every type of art one can imagine: video, costume, installation and photography. The first thing which attracts the eye is the usage of hair which could be considered as her trademark – she’s not afraid to admit she’s obsessed by this motif. As she puts in her own words, she’s interested in a relationship between the body and environment. In addition to that, her goal is to make the conversation between these two alive and place it in a certain context, enrich it with historical, psychological, cultural mythology. Anna’s unusual taste has won her a big number of exhibitions both in the USA and Europe.

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photo by Monica Galletto

You work with different mediums of art: photography, video, costume, installations. Which one was the first you tried? Which one do you like the most?

Originally I studied painting, and over time the paintings became increasingly sculptural until the canvas and paint disappeared and fabric, paper, and other materials took their place. After working with those tactile materials—yarn, string, fibers—the jump to wearing them was instinctive. Photography and video entered into my practice in an almost accidental way. I quickly realized that the choices I was making about how to photograph or document these installations and wearable sculptures was vital to the work itself. I can’t say that I prefer one medium over the other, it really depends on the piece.

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Video still from “The Mediterranean Diet”

You seem to be obsessed with hair – it is the main detail in most of your photography projects (Caryatids, Hair Does, Hair Suite). Why do you like it so much? Is it some kind of metaphor?

It’s true, I am obsessed with hair. Hair is such a rich topic. It’s something that we all react to. It’s the historical, cultural and psychological weight which makes it an inexhaustible source of investigation. It serves as a container for so much of the mythology (both historical and contemporary) that guides our thinking about the body. I also find that it makes the work accessible, in many cases it offers a very visceral point of contact for the viewer. We all have experience with hair, we all know what hair feels like, the intimacy of touching someone’s hair, how we feel when we find it in our food.

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You’re also interested in the topic of female body. What does it mean for you? Do you agree that woman’s body is not treated the way it should be in modern society?

We all have bodies, whether they be female, male or otherwise, so again I think the topic allows an access point to the work. The relationship that we have with ourselves and others passes in someway through our physical body, it serves as the channel for much of the information that we transmit and absorb about ourselves and our location in time and space. The question of the body, its ownership, its perceived role, and its regulation is of course highly charged, and being a woman certainly factors into my work. As I mentioned above I’m fascinated by the historical and contemporary mythology surrounding the female body (which often leads to fear, misunderstanding and mistreatment of the body, even by women themselves). I would argue that woman’s bodies are part of the vast population of mistreated bodies in modern society.

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What message do you want to send with your art?

I’m not sure that it’s the artist’s job to send a message. I think what we should be doing is opening up conversations, opening up space for discussion for approaching something from a different perspective.

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Video still from “Pony”

Is it difficult to come up with the concepts for your videos and installations?

Yes and no. It’s difficult in the sense that I have to wait for the ideas to form. That can seem to take ages, and I often find myself doubting that they ever will! I might spend a year with part of a certain idea in my head before I actually know how to realize the work, or I might hold on to video footage for months before knowing how exactly how I want to edit it. There is always a moment though when I can say to myself that the work is done, and I trust that that will come as long as I’m patient enough to wait for it. Done can also mean that it’s going in the trash. Not all work is good work.

Video still from “Bow”

Do you agree that the main role of art is to cause particular emotions?

Like I said before, I think the role of art is create a space for thinking, for conversation. Emotion is of course a critical part of that space.

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Video still from “Braided”

Many artists seek to represent the magic of landscape with their art, and you also explore this theme (for example, videos of Iceland). What do you think is special about your representations?

I look for landscapes or locations that I think can enter into conversation with the figures that I put into them, so that the landscape serves not just as a backdrop but as a player in a sort of tableau vivant. To be honest in the case of the work I did in Iceland, I really struggled to find a way to make work in and about the landscape. The sheer expansiveness of it, the overwhelming size and beauty of it, it really paralyzed me initially. I felt like anything I did was completely dwarfed by the natural landscape, both by its physical and psychological scale. Ultimately I did a series of videos related to this feeling of smallness and the inability to orient myself in the hugeness of the landscape stitching together videos of the same stretch of the horizon. The movement of the camera in each of the clips causes the horizon line to shift up and down, never quite matching up in a continuous line.

What ambitions do you have for the future?

My main ambition is to make more work. I don’t mean that to be funny, it is actually a crucial concern for many of the artists I know. I find I’m constantly asking myself how my art practice can sustain itself, how I can continue working with the necessary focus while managing the other professional aspects of my career, my home life, and other responsibilities. It would be nice to say that it all just happens naturally, but it really takes a lot of work to find a balance.

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What are the projects you are occupied with at the moment?

Right now I’m working on an ongoing series of videos related to vanity. I’m fascinated by it, by the vanity of others, by my own vanity. Much of my research traces the origins of the perception, treatment and representation of vanity, and looks at how contemporary attitudes seem to be shifting towards viewing vanity as a virtue rather than a vice.

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