The art of nature: A Q&A with painter Anessa Arehart

[The above image is “Stargazer Sisters” by Anessa Arehart.]

A number of artists have said the Louisville art community is special. Painter Anessa Arehart (anessaarehart.com) is another one who feels that way. While she now lives on a farm, she considers herself “lucky to still be part of the Louisville art scene. Even though I moved away, I still feel included. It’s incredible. There’s no place like Louisville, and a big part of my heart will always be here.”

What type of artist are you?
Dedicated. No matter how life changes over the years, making art is always a major focus for me. The older I get, the more passionate about living an artist’s life I become. There are usually several projects in the works in my studio, and I enjoy research and experimenting. More specifically, though, I’d call myself a painter. Michael Jones called my painting style ‘pop folk’ in an article once. I love that description, and think it’s accurate. I’ve also been getting into carving linoleum blocks lately, and I’ve been fantasizing about carving gigantic nature goddesses from trees in the forest on our farm.

When did you start making art?
When I was around 3 years old, I scribbled over the delicate illustrations in my baby book. Seems crazy, but I have a faint memory of doing so, and it was intentional. Not certain what my message was, but those marks had a purpose. When I was 8, my grandfather taught me about portraits. I drew one of him sitting in the window that day. After he passed away, I found the portrait tucked inside a book from his library, and I cried my face off with gratitude. It’s 38 years later, and there’s a wet portrait on my easel right now. Judy Apple was my first real art instructor though. She’s the person that taught me to paint when I was about 9 years old. I hadn’t seen Judy in many years, but she paid a visit to my studio recently. We had a wonderful time catching up. I got the opportunity to thank her, show her some of my recent work and hug her tight. She passed away about one month later. I’m so grateful she got to see the beautiful effect she had on my life.

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Artists find inspiration from unusual sources. What sparked you to visualize the stories you tell in your paintings?
They’re autobiographical for the most part. The “Chair and Beauty” painting series were tributes to my grandmother and growing up in a small town. The “Badasses & Troublemakers” were the result of a more turbulent, rebellious period of my life. And the “Goddesses” I’m paintings now are inspired directly from the enchanting experience I’m having living in the woods.

"Chicken Goddess" by Anessa Arehart
“Chicken Goddess” by Anessa Arehart

What is something people do not know about you, that you want people to know, of course?
Outside of family, friends and one interview with LEO, I don’t talk about my brain injury much, but it’s been the weirdest, most frustrating and emotional period of my life. I’m still dealing with it, and still see doctors all the time. If it weren’t for art and nature, I would have spiraled into complete despair by now. In an effort to take a bad situation and get some good from it, I’m making plans to create a sacred little place, here on the farm, where others can experience the same type of healing that has helped me so much. I want to construct a rustic, little healing sanctuary where a person could come spend a few days, unwind, get grounded, create art or write and reset their internal rhythm to a healthier groove. Doctors and medications have their place in the overall process, but this realm of healing has been just as beneficial to me. Spending time at a healing, art and nature sanctuary won’t heal a broken leg, for example, but it can provide the mental tools, clarity and well-being needed to realize that the broken leg is only a small part of a grand adventure, and not the end of the story. Mother Nature sets a good example. She keeps plugging along. Despite the damage, spring still comes. Always does.

Your current exhibition at Flame Run is a little unusual. Please tell us about it.
Flame Run is generally a glass-specific gallery, but recently they’ve developed a fascination with 2-D art, and the way it resonates in proximity to glass. The gallery has featured printmaking and photography in the past, but I’m the first painter. I’m honored. I’ve worked with Brook and Tiffany off and on for years. They’re business partners, friends and family to me.

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