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Artist turns quirky touch to drawing

by Catherine Fox
for the Atlanta Journal Constitution

Linda Anderson discovered she had a gift for painting some 20 years ago, and she has captivated viewers with her homespun yet spunky images of her North Georgia childhood ever since. A delightful retrospective exhibition at the High Museum of Art Photography and Folk Art Galleries demonstrates her knack for storytelling and her sense of design and color.

Anderson also whittles and makes glass beads as a hobby, which she sometimes uses in the tiaras she likes to create and wear. Given that she seems to be able to do whatever she puts her mind to, it shouldn't be surprising that when Anderson, 63, recently decided to take up drawing, her efforts in that department are mighty fine as well.

The oil pastel drawings on display at Barbara Archer Gallery -- her drawing debut -- focus on animals, both wild and domesticated, particularly cats, chickens and roosters.

"Rooster With Praying Mantis" is a typical composition. It is dominated by a single creature seen up close in a decoratively conceived landscape. Anderson's penchant for detail is evident in her enumeration of each feather. Her fanciful side appears in the curtain of vines behind the rooster encountering the bug. The green sets off the brilliant red of its comb. It's both keenly observed and wonderfully imagined, just like her paintings.

Through Jan. 31, 2004. 1123 Zonolite Road, No. 27. 404-815-1545.

"Rooster With Praying Mantis" by Linda Anderson is an oil pastel on paper. The cost is $1,600.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 11, 2004, Page M3

Painter merges nostalgia, 'edginess'

by Catherine Fox
for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Like the memory painters Grandma Moses and Mattie Lou O'Kelley, Linda Anderson depicts rural life in carefully observed scenes that re-create a time gone by. Families come to dinners cooked on the black wood stove. Elzoe Shelly's Rolling Wagon, a mobile general store, pulls up to the house. Farm families pick tomatoes and chop wood.

But the North Georgia artist isn't your ordinary memory painter. If you look carefully at "The Wake," for instance, you'll notice more hanky-panky than mourning going on. A black Eve rides a cheetah with wild abandon in one of Anderson's Garden of Eden pictures; Eve and Adam are a mixed-race couple in another. Then there's the memorial to Anderson's cat, which, she says in the label text, she "offed" with her .38 one day when she got tired of him stealing her other cats' food. (For the record, she expresses her remorse in the same label.)

"What intrigues me most about Linda," says Lynne E. Spriggs, who curated "Flashes of Memory: Linda Anderson" at the downtown High, "is that edginess. There is a certain element of nostalgia, but there's a lot of reality. It's humorous sometimes, and sometimes poignant."

The poignant side emerges in "Gathering Down." Anderson and her mother, who are working on getting feathers from a goose, occupy the center of the composition, but (symbolically) off to the side and out of the action of everyday life, her grandmother watches wistfully from the porch. The piece becomes a comment on the difficulties of aging.

This memory painter -- who likes to wear tiaras (casual ones for gardening) because, she says, they make her feel good -- seems to have connections to the beyond, as is evident in her description of her relationship with Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

"I met Frida Kahlo in a magazine at a beauty shop before I started painting," she says. "She touched me. She looked like my mother, and she had such pain in her life. We've walked down the same road -- she's experienced great loss, depression. I felt a spiritual connection. She's visited me a lot."

Perhaps the portraits Anderson paints of Kahlo offer veiled references to the difficulties she's faced in her own life. Anderson, 62, grew up poor in Clarkesville, the daughter of a tenant farmer.
"Everybody worked," the petite artist says. "If you were able, you worked. I picked beans, pulled corn. I got my first rifle at 10. I shot rabbit and squirrel for our dinner."

Her father died when she was 13, and her family had to move to a house with a dirt floor and no indoor plumbing. She quit school and worked as a maid and a nurse's aide to help.

Anderson was married and working as a nurse when tragedy struck again. B.J., one of her three children, suffered an aneurysm in 1980 and required constant attention. Anderson quit work to care for her. It was during those dark, difficult days that her sister suggested she take up painting to relax.
Although she was an accomplished quilter and had learned carpentry, Anderson had never picked up a brush. It didn't matter.

"I instinctively knew how to paint," Anderson says. "It was a gift from God."
Compositions came to her whole cloth as well, in the form of strong visual images, and it's been that way ever since.

"The pictures come in my head," she says. "They may be a bit jumbled, but I can move things around. I don't even drive anymore because I would get a vision and run off the road."

In 1981, not long after she began painting, Anderson took some of her canvases to a fair in Homer. Atlantans Jim and Carolyn Caswell saw them and recognized her talent. Carolyn, who has remained good friends with Anderson, told Atlanta folk art dealer Judith Alexander about her. Impressed, Alexander gave her a show the next year.

Anderson remembers the opening vividly.
"I had never done anything like that. People talked so much about my work, and they used words I didn't know, like 'juxtaposition.'

"I'm still kind of bewildered about [the art world]," she says. "It's fickle, I've heard. But my opening [at the High] was like a family reunion. I knew so many people, and it's so good to see them."
(She wore a tiara she made especially for the occasion, and many of the 600-plus in attendance donned tiaras, too.)

Anderson may find the art world mystifying, but she is sure about the importance of art.
"Painting saved my life. It certainly saved my sanity. With my painting, I can forget all those bad things that everybody has in their lives. When I'm in front of the easel and have that brush in my hand, then all that drops away."

Through March 20. High Museum of Art Folk Art and Photography Galleries. 133 Peachtree St. N.E. 404-733-4437.

Also at Barbara Archer Gallery through Jan. 31. 1123 Zonolite Road, No. 27. 404-815-1545.
Photo: Linda Anderson's oil on canvas "Quilters" is on view at the High Museum of Art Folk Art and Photography Galleries downtown. / Collection of Linda and Dick Cravey
Photo: A hardscrabble early life provided inspiration for folk artist Linda Anderson. / W.A. BRIDGES JR. / Staff

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 28, 2003, Page K1

Rustic Recollections
North Georgia Artist Weaves Artwork with Childhood, Biblical Stories

by Catherine Fox
for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


The North Georgia folk artist got a rifle when she was 10 and used it to put dinner on the table for her family. She's a straight shooter in other aspects of her life as well. The Clarkesville native will tell you, "I'm no goody-two-shoes."

In one of her paintings, "Dip in the Soquee," she recounts her experience as an 11-year-old working in the fields.

"At lunch, the boys would take off all their clothes and jump in the river," she says. "I was jealous because I couldn't do that, so I hid their clothes."

She also, as the picture depicts, played Peeping Tom from behind the trees.

"Dip" is one of more than 100 paintings and small, whittled sculptures on view in "Flashes of Memory: Paintings by Linda Anderson" at the High Museum's Folk Art and Photography Galleries downtown.

Many of the paintings are autobiographical, drawing on memories of rural life -- the hard work and the fun times. The sunflowers from her garden and many of her 20 cats also appear in her colorful paintings, which benefit from an innate sense of design, honed perhaps by her experience as a quilter.

Anderson also draws on the Bible and her imagination in her paintings of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It's a tropical paradise, where elephants, tigers and zebras roam, angels walk the Earth, and the biblical characters are sometimes black and sometimes white.

Anderson considers her ability a gift from God, which He bestowed upon her during the difficult days she was caring for a very sick child. If you look at the dates of the paintings in the show, you can see her assurance and ability grow. She loves detail, but she knows how to weave all of the elements together into a pleasing whole. And she knows how to make an abstract rhythm out of nature's strait-laced pines or curling vines.

This show is interesting for its documentation of country life and for its aesthetic appeal. A number of the pictures include little stories Anderson has written to explain what's going on in them.

> THE 411: Free. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays through March 20. 133 Peachtree St., downtown Atlanta (corner of John Wesley Dobbs Avenue). 404-733-4437,
Photo: Linda Anderson's sculptures and paintings, including one of her daughter (background), offer insight into the self-taught artist's family life. / W.A. BRIDGES JR. / Staff

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 25, 2003, Page P33