We spoke to Anki King, our November Feast! juror, about her artistry as a painter and sculptor, and her award-winning selections.
By Julia Chance
Anki King experiences a visceral reaction when she sees a well-crafted work of art, particularly if it is a painting. “This sounds funny to people who don’t get it, but when I see juicy paintings, my mouth waters and my fingers start tingling—like I want to touch it.”
And just what, exactly, is a “juicy” painting?
“One where the painter was unafraid of the medium,” King explains, citing the energetic brushwork of Cy Twombly and the densely painted canvasses of Anselm Kiefer, two of her favorites. “When we start [as artists] we treat paint as color, and it’s so much more than that. Once you have a good brush stroke it gives a completely different expression.”
King’s impressionistic brushwork and deep palette give the figures that appear prominently in her large-scale paintings an air of mystery. They tend to be faceless, sometimes shrouded, with bodies and limbs stretching and contorting to personify an action, a feeling, or notion. They are symbols, she says, for feelings that can not be accurately described in words.
“The emotions that I work from when I paint are so complex, I just have them with me as I’m creating, and they become very much part of the work,” King says during a recent telephone chat. “Everything I see and feel and learn and dream and experience, it all becomes part of it.”
Her approach to art is more exploratory than planned. “I always start paintings in different ways to challenge myself and see what happens when I do this or that,” she describes. And when drawing, “I usually sit on the floor, put charcoal to paper and start doodling. I’ll add other mediums—like ink, gesso, colored pencil, oil, pastel—until I feel like there’s some imagery there.”
Creating sculpture appeals to King’s tactile sensibilities as well. “It’s like moving the painting out into a 3-D form that I can touch with my hands.” As sculpture, her signature figures are life-size, made of natural materials like tree branches, twigs, vines, and jute, or simply plaster. “I like dry types of mediums that look rugged and raw, not sleek.”
King describes her artistic career as a journey of discovery, something she could not have fathomed as a girl from a small Norwegian town. “I thought that artists were all dead and just their work hung in museums,” she admits. “I grew up in a town with 2,000 people. There weren’t any artists around me. There were a lot of crafts, but not art the way I now know it.”
Her lifelong love of drawing eventually led her to enroll at Oslo Drawing and Painting School. One of her teachers once remarked that only a small percentage of the student body would continue making art once they left school, and that’s when things clicked for King. “I just knew that I was going to be one of them,” she recalls. “That’s when I discovered that art had gotten me.” After completing a three-year program, she moved to New York where she is currently based and furthered her studies at The Students Art League. Her works have been exhibited nationally and internationally.
When she is not making her art, King is overseeing the work of other artists as the exhibition manager of the gallery at The Students Art League. “We’ve moved most of our exhibits online which, amazingly enough, takes no less time [to produce] than doing them in person.”
We were thrilled to have her as the juror for Feast!, and she was impressed with the quality of work that was submitted. “I probably spent a good two to three full days just going over the work,” King says. “I was struck by the colors, composition, use of material, and personal voice. There was a lot of bold, strong work.” Here is what she had to say about her award-winning selections:
Best-in-Show Award winner Fruit Bowl by Susan Callahan
“It is so innovative—the colors, the whole grid system that is all over the work. From the first time I saw it I thought, Wow! Somebody had something to say here. The colors are beautiful. The composition is really exciting, just right on. And it’s a very personal voice. [The artist] is not trying to copy [a style] to make a perfect still life with a fruit bowl and a cake and a vase. It’s something much past that.”
Pear in the Landscape by Terry Rowe
“What an interesting photo collage. It is both mysterious and funny. And it has such a good overall texture to it—how the bruises on the pear speak to the landscape, and what’s done in the landscape. It makes you ponder the juicy flesh of the pear compared to the edgy hardness of the fence. The artist didn’t just stick a pear in the landscape but made the whole image into something that, with the cloud and the blue, almost feels like one of the old master paintings. But then, it’s such a surprising image to have this giant pear sitting in the landscape instead of what you expect to see. I love that surprise.”
FÊTE by Nada Abizaid
“What hit me first about these pieces was the subtle color, and they are beautifully photographed. They speak very well to Feast!, being onion-shaped. They also speak to a classical form. I’m glad they weren’t presented individually. They work beautifully as a group.”
Spring Harvest by Nancy McIntyre
“This is just incredible skill, first of all, to be able to paint things that look so perfect. What got me here, in addition to the artist being extremely skillful, is this innovative composition. Everything is placed in a round, which could be very boring, but the tablecloth and how all the vegetables move in that circle is so interesting, it almost speaks to time. The round shape makes me think of a clock. Those little tops of the radishes point all different ways, giving you directions to move in the painting. I can almost smell that bread.”
Still Life with Lime by Sarah Strickler
“There were a lot of beautiful still life photography submissions. This one is so masterfully put together. Every little detail is thought out, including the reflections of the windows in the pitcher, the tablecloth, the white cloth on the side, the red pull, and the darkness of the background. Where the shadows fall, the peel of the lime—that they chose lime instead of something else to peel, so you have the green against the red—there’s not one haphazard thing here. The simplicity of the colors is stunning. It speaks very strongly to classical still life painting, but it also speaks very well to photography.”
Depression Era Kitchen, Frozen in Time by Joseph Kieffer
“This piece stood out. That it is sculptural, all white so that the objects speak only by their shape and not by any color, and the perspective that is created by the semi-build out of all the objects on the edges, is fascinating. It is so mysterious. I can’t figure out why it is the way it is, but it’s also so specific, it doesn’t seem like it could’ve been done any other way. I hope this artist continues with this kind of work.”
Lettuce by Pam Gregory
“This is interesting, intricate work, and I enjoyed it. The way the greens are treated, the darks and the lighter parts of the green, is just beautiful. It’s almost like some of these lines float in space, and some of them bring you back to an object, and then you’re taken out into space again. Watercolor is such a difficult, unforgiving medium because you can’t hide any mistakes. This is super detailed, and the artist is very patient.”
On the Vine by Cindi Lewis
“I don’t know if this is a several-plate process, or if the artist added the color to the print after, but it has such a beautiful texture. Printmakers often either get too clean or things can look like mistakes, but everything here looks right, and ripe! There is a very tactile sense of these fruits. The whole composition works, with lines that take you in directions all over. The green curly vine against the round shapes of the tomatoes against these folds in the fabric, and the shadows—to get that much out of two tomatoes. It’s a beautiful print.”
Cake Reflected by Mary Beth Gaiarin
“This is a yummy painting. Wonderful use of the palette knife. Adding paint with a palette knife can feel like adding frosting to a painting and in this case it is very appropriate. The light in this work is beautifully and skillfully placed. The edges between foreground, cake slice, and background are created by overlaying paint layers which is an advanced way of manipulating the paint. It is also visible in the background, which has simple color, but is still lively due to the masterly treatment of the paint. This artist has a deep connection to the paint and uses it with boldness and joy.”