5 questions with Ann Toebbe

 

One of the best things about this blog, for me, is learning new things about friends I've known for years. Ann and I met in grad school and I've loved her playful narrative abstractions ever since. Looking at her paintings makes me feel like I'm eavesdropping, or reading someone else's mail, while reveling in the quirky, delicious color arrangements. Ann has recently received some well-deserved love from some of our favorite arts writers for her exhibition at Monya Rowe (please see end of post.)  Congrats to Ann and many thanks for sharing with us. 

Where do you live, where is your studio? Who makes up your day-to-day world? friends? partners? pets? kids?

 I live in Hyde Park, a neighborhood on the Southside of Chicago. My studio is in a one-bedroom garden apartment. It’s just two minutes from our home in our condo complex. My day-to-day world is centered on my family. My daughters are 4 and 6 and my stepson is 16. The kids have school and various activities. My husband, Eric, is a lawyer so I do most of the heavy lifting for the household. I’m very involved in my daughters’ schools as a volunteer and a public school activist. We live right on Lake Michigan so we spend our summers swimming. No pets. We had a fish, Heart, for two years but she died. Occasionally I go out with a friend and, as often as possible, to an art event.

 

What’s an average studio day like? 

My studio workweek and day is very regimented. During the girls’ school year I work Monday -Thursday. Weekdays I wake up at 5:30/45am to run or swim. Between 6:30 and 8:10 I get my daughters ready for school and straighten up the house. I drop them off, pick up my coffee, and arrive in my studio at 9am. I come to the studio very prepared with a packed lunch and I have tea and a dessert on hand so I won’t need to leave during the workday or procrastinate. I listen to University of Chicago’s djs until noon then switch to NPR. I work until 3:10pm then pick up the girls from school. If I’m on a tight deadline I go back to the studio and work when Eric arrives home around 7:30/8pm and stay no later than 11:30. More often I eat a late dinner with Eric, burn out watching a tv series, or catch up on household stuff and emails. I work weekends when necessary and sometimes have to juggle part-time teaching. Eric and I are always negotiating our weekends to make sure I have enough time in the studio.

 

What are you working on now? (What are you most excited about/ confounded by/ obsessed with?)

Last year I worked on back-to-back solo shows in May ‘14 and January ‘15. So I’m not working much right now. A friend and curator/consultant is starting an online gallery and asked me to make prints from original work. I’m working on finishing several preliminary drawings for paintings to be scanned for prints. I often finish drawings after an exhibition while I decide what’s next. I’m scheduling a show with fort gondo in St. Louis. It isn’t a commercial space so it’s an opportunity to experiment and take some risks. Work larger? Make drawings? Large drawings?

Art-wise I’m confounded about how I want to approach my next few paintings. I always want to be more expressive, looser, faster but I’m not at my best this way. I’ve found ways to work process painting and looser painting into my work with collage and in window scenes. I love Soutine and Bonnard. How could I be little more like Amy Sillman or Dana Schutz?

I’m obsessed with order. I’m always organizing my house, my life, and my paintings. Only my paintings seem to reflect this, the rest is chaos.

What do you do when things aren’t going “right” or you’re having a fallow period in making/ thinking?

Since I have a family there’s less time for things to not go right in my studio. Once I commit to a painting I rarely set it aside. Instead I fight it, coax it, curse it until it’s good. I have so much time outside the studio I tend to work out bad ideas before I have a chance to act on them. All the stress happens when I’m trying to go to sleep, cook dinner, grocery shop. This will change as my life dynamic changes. I look forward to mucking stuff up and having ideas worked out in the studio again.

 

How do you sustain your creative life? (How do you pay the bills or what kinds of jobs have you had in the past?)

 In my twenties I was a server, art mover, and art preparator. I was always with artists and dated an artist for many years. During this time I didn’t have much money, job security, or health care. Grad school took me out of NYC and I never returned. During grad school I applied for grants and a residency in Berlin. I met my husband at Yale. I moved to Chicago after a year in Berlin and have been here since 2005. I haven’t had a full time job since I lived in New York. I’ve received grants, part-time teach, and sell work. I don’t make a lot of money, but if I was only supporting myself, I would be able to sustain my art career. I would have to live on a tight budget, no frills - yet.  

My husband is a lawyer at a small firm. It was total luck or fate that I met someone who loves art and kids and is willing to be married to an artist and is not an artist! Being an artist is lonely and I only like to mix in any art scene in small doses. My daughters keep me company and give me a purpose. They keep me from myself and in the world. My role as a mother has been integral in sustaining my art career. 

What advice would you give a young artist just starting out?

There’s no recipe for success. If you want to exhibit and be in the art world, pursue every opportunity. Don’t be afraid to ask, to fail or be shot down. Expect it and move on to the next thing. In the beginning make your own opportunities. Write for small publications, curate, and apply to everything. Get up early, exercise, and don’t drink too much! If any of my answers seem easy going or I have it figured out, I don’t. I’m as anxious as ever and that’s what drives me to keep making work.

www.anntoebbe.com

Monya Rowe Gallery, New York

Steven Zevitas Gallery, Boston

Check out all the amazing press Ann received for her exhibition "Remarried" at Monya Rowe below. The show is up until February 22, 2015. Don't miss it! Ann will have an exhibition in 2015 Miami – not sure which fair yet, stay tuned and in 2016  at fort gondo, in St. Louis.

Artinfo

New York Magazine

New York Magazine

Print Magazine

The Huffington Post

The New York Times