Born 1976, New Orleans
Lives and Works in Joshua Tree, California
California-based artist Anne-Louise Ewen paints vivacious gestural works that emphasize brush work, color, and above all, freedom. Her work includes paintings, monotype prints, drawings, sculpture, ceramics, and books.
Ewen grew up in a small South Louisiana town on the Mississippi River, known for both the beauty of its antebellum architecture and the proliferation of refineries and chemical plants. In 2005 she moved from New Orleans to Los Angeles in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, fulfilling a lifelong desire to reconnect with her mother's California ancestry, an artistic family which included composer Louis Waldemar Everson and Beat poet Brother Antoninus aka William Everson.
Long before her migration, a chance encounter in the summer between second and third grade introduced Ewen to one of her first art mentors who, over the subsequent months, taught her the fundamentals of drawing with charcoal and encouraged her to draw every day, a formative experience which established visual art as a core element of her life.
She later attended the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts (a magnet boarding school) concentrating on a curriculum of fine art before spending two years studying figure drawing, printmaking and painting in Paris, France. In her college years, she made art, studied philosophy, and founded The Donaldsonville Art Colony, a brief but influential collective of painters, writers, musicians, and filmmakers, an experience she drew from years later when she launched an independent art gallery in Orange County, California in 2007.
In 2020 she left Los Angeles for Joshua Tree, California, a small arts community in the Mojave Desert where you can find her painting and taking long drives through the national park.
THINGS THAT ARE IMPORTANT*
TO ME IN PAINTING, A MANIFESTO
Aim to proceed with a devil-may-care work ethic. Cheerful and reckless, painting is an active investigation. I must invent processes and re-discover painting for myself all the time, figuring it out as I go in a leap of faith, expecting to arrive at something I find personally and intimately beautiful.
Let first-hand personal experience of aesthetic arrest be the true north that guides me. Make something to look at and know experientially -- not as a concept to be grasped. Let there be room for epiphany. Don’t give in to pressure to validate through explanation. Be generous. Do it in my own way.
Art is transcendent. Art’s highest good is as an outpost of freedom and happiness. I’m interested in art that makes me feel in love with the world. Artists have the ability and responsibility to nurture, challenge, and restore humanity to our best selves. Some have said that looking at my work makes them feel more free and I’d like to keep making that happen.
For me it is more about the music than the lyrics. There are recognizable objects in my paintings, but the subject matter (the “lyrics”) is not what primarily motivates me.
I strive to be virtuous in the ways that I share my work with the world. Part of being an artist is wrestling with what that means for each of us.
*About the word "important"
I want to be careful with the word “important." It’s common to hear a critic or curator use the word “important” to describe an artist or a work of art when what they really seem to talking about is influence, popularity, or cost. The arts are important to the survival of humanity, and they are so in spite of the art world’s obsession with status, money, and power -- not because of it. What the world needs more of is cultural offerings which inspire and strengthen humanity's more virtuous qualities like empathy, sensitivity to beauty, and love of life.
I make paintings that help me feel more at home in the world.
If I could choose a superpower, I would wave my hand and give everyone that kind of home, a safe place that beautifully reflects and amplifies the best of who they are and hope to become; where they can unguardedly be themselves, lay down to sleep in peace, and wake up feeling in love with the world.
For me, art is a beacon of goodness in this brief life in which we'll all inevitably encounter bouts of pain from time to time.
The cheerfulness of my art isn't a denial of this fact of life -- but an acknowledgement of it.
The arts are a very real comfort to me in the face of this truth, and for whatever light my art can bring into other lives I am grateful.
- Anne-Louise Ewen