Below is the article written by Evelyn Gardett
Atmospherics in Impasto
By: Evelyn Gardett
Artist: Ann Marie Coolick
There are freshly baked cookies on Ann Marie Coolick's counter. Overflowing with molten lava peanut butter and mountains of chocolate chips, they are just as chunky and sculptural as the layered paintings she forges from palette knives and acrylic paint–and they are likely to be just as popular.
If her baking borrows from her artistic style, then the reverse is certainly true: having three young boys under the age of five has revolutionized Ann Marie's approach to her art. Her painting schedule follows theirs: she paints in the morning, during the children's naptime and when they're in preschool down the street from their Crystal City home. She paints quickly, often with bolder colors and more energy. To this end, Ann Marie works with acrylic paint, which dries faster. As she says, "I actually like that look: the looseness of the [palette] knife work."
Ann Marie began painting in during high school, and her college art career began at James Madison University. After her freshman year, she transferred to Virginia Tech and went on to graduate summa cum laude with a B.A. in studio art and a B.S. in marketing management.
She began painting in a realist manner, working with oil and spray paint and creating detailed work with palette knives. A summer trip to London during college brought her to the Tate Modern and introduced her to "The Origin of the Great Bear" by Frank Auerbach. The work is a very loose interpretation of Titian's mythological painting "Tarquin and Lucretia," which depicts a country scene viewed through a window of trees. The painter's textural use of paint and wild abstractions inflamed Ann Marie's burgeoning creativity. Although Ann Marie's color palette tends much more natural than Auerbach's searing hues, the early influence of the artist is apparent. Like Auerbach, Ann Marie often employs large patches of one color throughout a work to imbue it with a sense of atmosphere, punctuating that with lines and dots of color that suggest tree branches, stems, leaves and flowers.
When Ann Marie was expecting her first son Joseph, she put painting away for a while, and, when she returned, she found her style rapidly evolving. It was at this time that she switched to acrylic paint, smearing it across the canvas with a palette knife. Her works are so textural that, seen from the side, they have visible mountains of paint.
In addition to creating commissioned works, Ann Marie exhibits frequently. She has had shows throughout the mid-Atlantic region–the Arlington Arts Center, the Center for the Arts at the Candy Factory and the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas, as well as the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen Arts and Capital One in Richmond. From 2004 to 2009, she was a Resident Artist at the Arlington Arts Center, where she regularly had solo exhibitions and volunteered.
Ann Marie enjoys working with acrylic because it allows her to create many versions of the same work. Each version represents a move from real to abstract. "Beach Umbrellas" is the abstract reworking of the realistic "Hazy Days," an inviting representation of airy beach umbrellas perched high above the sand. In "Hazy Days," the roots of abstraction are already present in the predominance of shapes: a blue rectangle of ocean runs parallel to a white sky and beige beach, intersected by triangular beach umbrellas. The colors are primary and strong, like the stripes of a beach ball.
The move to abstraction reveals a nuanced palette, as if the picture has been turned on its side to reveal a prism of colors between the basic ones. The beach umbrellas are now pentagons seen from above. They merge and overlap in unexpected ways as if a giant wave has swept over the canvas, jumbling all the elements into a pile of line and color.
Of course, this evolution from real to abstract is never-ending, and Ann Marie repeatedly reworks old paintings. Her husband sometimes intervenes with his tempering influence: "Again?!?"
Ann Marie's attic studio is reminiscent of the Parisian studio of a starving artist. A single bare bulb illumines her canvas, and the dappled sunlight streams in through a small window. Finished works are stacked sideways along the walls, and her palette knives sit on a stand next to her canvas, almost unrecognizable due to the globs of hardened paint around the handles. Her easel also bears witness to her medium: the edges are covered in rainbow stalagmites formed by years of discarded paint.
The light streams into her studio through the bamboo trees that line her yard. While she has to keep the prolific bamboo from creeping onto her property, she doesn't keep them from creeping into her artwork.
Ann Marie incorporates all the parts of her life into her art: the uplifting and mundane, the transcendent and painful. This practice began when Ann Marie was a young artist. After losing her baby brother to cancer, she created a series of pictures depicting him and his doctor, as well as other scenes that were meaningful to her during that difficult time. The catharsis helped her to heal, and art has played a therapeutic role for her ever since. "I'm extremely introverted," she says, "and painting is a therapeutic way to remain calm amongst this craziness."
Ann Marie's work may be seen at The Cooley Gallery in Leesburg.
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