Burning Down the Second House

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Artist Statement


I paint from memory. I choose a place that I can recall in detail, like my parent's home in Ohio or my grandmother's farm in Indiana. I place everything as I remember it and render all the elements of the space up to the same level of detail, which allows me to include everything I want to remember about the room in one picture. I have discovered that combining minute detail with multiple viewpoints in the same flat surface results in a sort of folk-cubism, or maybe a skewed naturalism‚ which is what those memories feel like. Living on the East Coast made me acutely aware of the aesthetics of my Midwestern upbringing. My experiences in New York and at Yale University cast my family's home and lifestyle in a different light; a pragmatic, mundane (and rather flat) sense of beauty, unburdened by high ideas or refinements of style. The combination of my earlier working class tastes and the later-acquired, intensely cosmopolitan awareness of style has shaped who I am as a painter. I am influenced by Grandma Moses and Horace Pippin, Stuart Davis and Matisse. As historical precedents, I draw on the work of other female artists like Florine Stettheimer, whose paintings also fall somewhere between sophisticated and provincial. While my paintings are rigorous in purely formal terms of design, shape, space and color, they are also just pictures of home‚ kitchens, Catholic churches and farmhouses.


Ann Toebbe | See All Editions


I grew up in Cincinnati, OH and attended 12 years of Catholic school. I played basketball and volleyball, listened to Top 40 radio and had a perm. I arrived at the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1992 wearing a hooded sweatshirt and Umbro athletic shorts. I finished art school in 1997 and moved to NYC, wearing combat boots and a thrift store dress and carrying a stack of Fugazi and Sebadoh CDs.  I moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn and worked as a freelance art-handler and then in a Chelsea gallery. During a summer of 2000 fellowship in Skowhegan, I began painting with gouache on paper. I started Yale's MFA painting program in 2002. I won a traveling scholarship and visited France, Germany and Austria. I decided I wanted to live in Berlin after Yale, so I started learning German. In 2004, I moved to Berlin for a year with a DAAD scholarship. After Berlin, I moved back to the Midwest with my future husband, a German philosophy professor who had decided to go to law school in Chicago. I have lived in Chicago since 2005, teaching drawing and painting at the Art Institute and Northwestern. Our daughter Olive was born here in May 2008.