Ann George’s photography is filled with depth, texture, beauty and meaning. Her images pull at the inner layers of the heart, and invite the viewer to enter a visual world of reflection and possibility. Filled with spiritual symbolism and stories, George’s beautiful imagery feeds both memory and soul with a vintage eye.
A visual artist, George melds pixels, paper, ink and paint to create compelling photographic fusions. She also prints her work using a polymer photogravure process. She has won numerous awards both nationally and internationally, and participated in exhibitions throughout the United States and abroad. She has been published in multiple periodicals and books and has lectured in the United States and Canada.–Laura Husar Garcia
Laura Husar Garcia: How did your childhood in Louisiana influence your life as an artist?
Ann George: I feel as if growing up Louisiana is the genesis of all of my work. The richness of life in its Rapides Parish incubated over the years and cultured the particular strain of my creative life. Its “sense” is etched in me as metaphors. I loved the sweet fragrance of smoke from the burning cane fields, the mud and the smelly wet places that also yelled to me “squish squash” as I ran through them launching frogs and egrets, and biting mosquitoes. The cotton balls always surprised me with their prickly sticky boll of protection and there was always too much wood in the sugar cane stick. Anticipating the food seasons taught me to wait. Crawfish, mayhaw berries for jelly making, peaches, figs, strawberries, duck and dove seasons all had their period of feast then famine but all the while knowing the feast would begin again in time.
I think back of my laying in carpets of lush green St. Augustine watching the clouds dip through the cracks of moss ceilings as I dreamed, told myself stories and waited for the summer cicadas to start their symphony. The tall, sturdy pine trees that stood watch over me like soldiers then still do and give me permission to take risks as they cocoon my adult life, whispering their wind songs of courage, bending low at times but never breaking to the currents. Whether or not one sees Louisiana in one of my images is irrelevant; She is always there.
LG: What challenges do you face as a photographer, and how do those challenges influence your art?
AG: I can admit that I am not like a lot of other photographers that I hear have the ability to use their challenges or personal crisis as inspiration and can work as a way to sort through their emotions, creating wondrous weeping works as a result. I am quite envious of that ability. No, I go down for the count, and all hope for an artistic thread is dead. Dry as a bone. I go into a type of creative cryoprecipitation, frozen like a chicken in the freezer. I have to wait and wait and wait … and then there is a thaw. As I am emerging from a three-year trip to the freezer, I have begun to break free of the ice and see with a new voice, and that voice is color! It surprised me too! COLOR! As it is a departure from my dark monochromatic work, a viewer asked me, why color? I had not thought about it before, but then the answer flew from my mouth,
“BECAUSE I WANTED TO FEEL IT!”
Oh, and so there is that physical limitation thing that thinks it is a challenge. I call it my “hiccup in my giddy up.” To explain, I have a left-sided hemiparesis as a result of Multiple Sclerosis. How has this influenced my art? I suppose in the fact that I can no longer shoot crazy and work fast and as long as I’d like to, but it has made me slow down and find different ways to get what I want. I cannot physically haul much gear (who cares to do that) and move to places and in positions I used to, so my shooting and compositions have changed. I have great friends and helpers that have two good arms and are always willing to hang some prop from a tree, drag out a backdrop or help me style my model.
LG: Tell us about the title of your show Flight Behavior: A Murder of Crows. What does it mean and how did you choose the title?
AG: My photographic behavior and resulting work at times reflects that of bird’s flight behaviors. By that I mean that I employ different movements, patterns and lanes of work with a goal to reach: a nest, a home, a landing, a complete project. During this thaw of mine, I had been all over the place going no place in particular. Gliding, swooping, east, west, north and south, diving here and there, fluttering up then plunging down sometimes all too fast, drifting for days on end, hanging there with no compass or direction. I had begun a slight project using birds and their birdcages and had quite a collection of them. My dear friend, Lori Vrba who was listening to my whining about this “everywhere but nowhere” dilemma generously offered the title Flight Behavior, convincing me this behavior, my behavior, “flight behavior” was a project in and of itself. It was perfect! From there the project launched me. I have always loved crows and marvel at stories of their relationships with people. I have used them in my work from time to time and keep feathered Styrofoam stand-ins around my studio. I began to research and learned that a group of crows is called, believe it or not, a murder. I dug deeper into the crows’ personality and learned they are: fiercely loyal, protective of their kind, intelligent, robust, playful, their voice once heard is not forgotten, smart and wary of people who have harmed them or their murder. They show signs of coming to another’s aide, ready to mob the predator, and they bring gifts. [Please read, The Girl Who Gets Gifts From Birds.. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-31604026]
It was so obvious after my research that I had my very own murder of crows. My family and my friends! My flock of people who love me and helped me while I was wounded, protected me fiercely, and encouraged me to fly again. They bring to me the gifts of themselves in their help, smiles, voices, laughter and love. It is to all of them, each of them, that I dedicated this show.
LG: How did you decide upon your current method of creating by using different mediums and meshing them together?
AG: I was a film and chemical girl. After my diagnosis, I gave up the darkroom and grumblingly moved into the digital age. I felt I needed a way to coax my work to feel to me visually deeper. I could not achieve that with an inkjet print at the time so I just started adding glazes, oils and inks, to coax them to speak to me like my chemical prints used to. Much to my surprise, they did. Digital media has much improved since then but I still want to goop them up so I can get my hands dirty.
LG: What is a favorite quote that has kept you inspired recently or earlier in your art career?
AG: Fittingly so:
Dust of Snow by Robert Frost
The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.
LG: What role does faith have in your creative process?
AG: I am only a conduit for the work that is revealed through me. I know the author of my life and my work. I know that whatever means has been given to me to produce beautiful work is on loan. I give all credit, all authorship, and all glory to God.
Ann George grew up in a small Louisiana town with people and places that grounded her roots deep into the southern soil and her heart into its fertile personality. She uses photography as a means to celebrate her native Louisiana as well as the people, places, and stories that move her. Her critics say her photographic approach is mysterious and poetic and continues a pictorial tradition important in the history of photography. As Ann melds pixels, paper, paint and press to create compelling photographic fusions, she strives to produce work that calls to her vintage eye.
She has won numerous awards including; Top 50 Critical Mass photographers, a finalist for the Clarence John Laughlin Award, Tizpac Eros, Worldwide Pollux Awad, Charles Dodgson Award and the Julia Margaret Cameron Award for Women In Photography, to name a few. Ann was chosen as Best in Show and Jurors Choice by the PWP, NY, NY, and was the Gold Medal winner at the San Francisco International Photo Exhibition. She exhibits and lectures both internationally and nationally evangelizing both the photographic vision and voice.