Rebirthing her work in a magnificent fashion
“What I’m about is reinvention,” says Carll, who began her career as a graphic designer in Atlanta, then became a successful figurative painter before the Recession. Unlike many artists, she says, she met success early in her career and came to know difficulty later. From Atlanta, she moved to Blue Ridge, Georgia, and then to Chattanooga, where she found a true artistic home.
“I came to Chattanooga to be reborn,” Carll says. “When I bought this house”—a beautiful Craftsman in Highland Park with a spacious front room and a huge magnolia visible through the window—“it came with this tree. She is very busy year-round.”
The tree inspired Carll’s focus at the moment, her Erosion paintings.
“I had started the Erosion series in Blue Ridge,” she says. “My mother had dementia and I was recognizing the beauty in the life cycle and in decay. I built an aesthetic around it, and it helped me grieve for my mother. Now I’m experiencing the other end of the cycle.”
In Chattanooga, Carll began a new chapter in her art. Not only did she delve into the Erosion paintings, she participated in public art, contributing to the mural on the AT&T Building. She began a series of weavings, using materials recycled from other projects. She is also creating handmade books. As her reputation for her new, organic style grew, she was featured in Art Galleries & Artists of the South in 2015.
The Past, Always Present
Carll’s Erosion series reflects her process of self-creation. The paintings depict pods from a magnolia tree—Bella, the tree outside Carll’s window—tumbling down the canvas. Typically, the point of view is tight, with pods disappearing off every side.
There’s a movement in the paintings, and Carll says the process of creation is similar.
“With acrylics, you have to work fast,” she says. Painting, she ponders in stillness a while, then blitzes her canvas in a flurry of movement.
The Erosions canvases reflect the stratifications of nature. The background is acrylic house paint—Clark+Kensington, from Ace Hardware. The top layer is fine art paint. Carll scrapes the canvass with a tile paste scraper for texture. She sprinkles gold and bronze dust, like glittery sand, onto the surface.
Other portions echo the swirl of marbleized paper. The result is loamy as a forest floor in some places, slick as light on a wet magnolia leaf in others.
Delightfully, Carll’s paintings are touchable—smooth here, rough in other places. In front of them, you want to dance, to mimic the motion. Or you might run a palm over the surface, or sing, or meditate. Such a painting would be companion to interact with, similar to the magnolia that Carll lovingly calls She.
The blend of deep history and immediate tactile connection is even more present in Carll’s books and weavings.
“My mother was a seamstress,” she says. “I feel close to her as I work.”
An Artist’s Home
In Chattanooga, local creators have made her feel welcome, Carll says.
“I was overwhelmed with camaraderie,” she says, noting the public art projects, critiques at Townsend Atelier, and Friends of Local Artists and Galleries gatherings. “This didn’t exist in Atlanta! Chattanooga is just the right sized town.”
The tight community leads to rich cross-pollination between artists.
“Seeing all the influences, being around artists, looking and talking—it influences everything you do,” Carll says. She’s especially drawn to emerging artists.
“Over the last few years, I really understand what it is to struggle with your art,” she says. “At 55, I have a camaraderie with younger artists—[like them] I’m struggling and having to rebuild my career.”
At the same time, she says, “The older you get, you just change: you have less time ahead than behind you. I pursue public art as part of this change within me. I want to give back to my community.”
You Should Meet Anna
If you don’t know any artists—fear not! Carll is delightfully approachable. In person she looks smaller and more delicate than her self-portrait.
She paints in comfy black leggings and T-shirt, her spiked hair quivers when she gets excited, and she could pass for a Wendy Froud fairy. Her manner is lucid and direct. Her home studio is cluttered but airy, full of paintings and plants. Message her on social media and she’ll correspond with you about a studio visit.
Visit her paintings in Chattanooga. Stroll by the AT&T building, or look into Gallery 1401 on Market and Main.
Online, you can view her paintings and read more about her creative process at annacarll.com, browse her pictures on Instagram, reach out to her at facebook.com/AnnaCarllArt or email her at email@example.com.