Untitled I (Word Works Series), 2022, Acrylic on Rives BFK paper, 30 x 44″, Walker Art Center Permanent Collection

Word Works are text based and highly responsive works on paper. Created with acrylic markers on paper, they embody movement, gesture, and mark-making as a contemplated, intuitive process. Words are layered and abstracted. In them, I make gestural marks, each line a letter or word. Often these works are made in response to a specific interaction with a human. After asking them a bespoke set of questions, which are often site-specific, I listen and work, writing as fast as I can to document each spoken word.

The Word Works Series began in 2015 during my 122 Conversations: Person to Person: Art Beyond Borders project, which was a six-country touring exhibition/project based on the idea of personal connection and international dialogue with five Sister Cities of Duluth, Minnesota1. With that project, I interviewed 10 people in each city, including the mayor, and created artworks from those conversations. Gratitude and creative, reciprocal exchange are central to my practice. In 2015 before the interviews I created six Gratitude paintings. Those works were also 30 x 44 and cut up into 12 pieces–one for each of the city’s 10 interviewees and two for my archive. The interviews were held on Skype (pre-Zoom) and I shipped the Gratitude paintings with a card on the back to each participant so they could receive the gift the moment we had our interviews as a relational exchange. Fifty of the scrolls from 122 are currently hanging at MSP International airport Terminal 2.

This series is also connected to a particular avenue of my socially engaged practice. In order to make the works, I need a source of inspiration–and often these are interviews that I record and then listen to again and again as I work. The engagement is a reciprocal process between myself and the audience. For example, I created four works during the Northern Spark Festival in 2014 entitled Conversant Portraits (Weisman Art museum), this was more of a performative engagement working from dusk till dawn, I created works based on short interviews with audience members who walked into the gallery. Each audience member was asked a series of basic questions. I consider this to be a creative exchange whereby the artwork is created in tandem with viewer participation.

For the past several years I have continued to create Word Works both through engagement and reflection. As part of my solo show at Burnet Gallery in 2020, entitled Response, I created a number of Word Works focusing on travel and good wishes. Sometimes I turn to these works for emotional outlet. For example, when my father was failing before his death, I created many Word Works including one piece from all the questions he asked repeatedly every few minutes. The Series is also a reflection of my ongoing work investigating health and well-being. In upcoming work for the Rochester Art Center (2023), I am expanding this writing practice into six 72” x 72” paintings. Source material will be recording interviews I will host with healthcare professionals and others in the health field.

1Duluth, United States (September 25 – January 6, 2019), Ohara Isumi-City, Japan (November 1 – 30, 2017), Petrozavodsk, Russia (May 25 – June 17, 2017, Växjö, Sweden (March 4 – April 2, 2017), Rania, Iraqi Kurdistan (January 16 – March 30, 2017), Thunder Bay, Canada (September 10th-October 19th, 2015), 2020, acrylic on Rives BFK, 30” x 44”

3.5.21, 2021, acrylic on Rives BFK, 30” x 44”, 2021, acrylic on Rives BFK, 30” x 44”, 2021, acrylic on Rives BFK, 30” x 44”, 2021, acrylic on Rives BFK, 30” x 44”

5.19.20, 2020, acrylic on Rives BFK, 30” x 44”

5.26.20, 2020, acrylic on Rives BFK, 30” x 44”, 2020, acrylic on Rives BFK, 30” x 44”, 2020, acrylic on Rives BFK, 30” x 44” 2020, acrylic on Rives BFK, 30” x 44”, 2020, acrylic on Rives BFK, 30” x 44”

SEE me ANYway, 2020, acrylic on Rives BFK, 30” x 44”

Text based works included in the Response series on RIVES BFK. “Response investigates the intimacy of color and space. For me, color is a personal reflection, a language that crosses boundaries and can connect us. I believe color is a life force. These works are about hope for the future; for a connection between people as we struggle through current complexities.”– Anne Labovitz, 2020

“So, what is a humanistic ally minded artist to do during a global viral pandemic? After recovering from her own scary bout with COVID, Labovitz retreated to a newly set-up basement studio and got to work painting, just good old painting, no outside participation necessary. The results, perhaps not unsurprisingly, look just as winning as her public work, brimming with brash color in a variety of marks big, small, and all-over. Especially notable are a trio of large square canvases that appear to have been cut straight from a wall of rainbow-hued graffiti, full of confident tags, cloudy sprays, and drippy brushwork. Could there be a more fitting subject for an artist equally concerned with interhuman relationships and non-objective creative expression?”
— From 60 WRD/MIN ART CRITIC 7.29.2020 by Lori Waxman (Art Critic for the Chicago Tribune)