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Ann Toebbe - interviewed in

“Friends and Rentals”

Tibor De Nagy Gallery

New York, 15 Rivington Street

The exhibition features Toebbe’s intricate works made with gouache, pencil and paper collage on wood panels. The images depict domestic interior settings pulled from the social media posts of the artist's friends and family in Ohio and Kentucky, as well as her own photos with her husband and children. Toebbe archived these social media posts from her large extended family, including 42 cousins, amassing a trove of images of family gatherings, birthday parties, baby showers, and displays of Christmas decorations. She uses the background details revealed in these postings to construct portraits of the homes themselves. One work, Friend: Sandie, is a widow’s home in Kentucky that is all frill draperies, doilies and Christmas ornaments; another, Friend: Becky(pictured above) shows a cousin’s sprawling house in southern Ohio, furnished with large furniture and even larger TV screens tuned to sports channels, like a specimen of American suburban life preserved in amber. Ann Toebbe answers our publishing director Atesh M. Gundogdu"s questionnaire. 

Atesh M. Gundogdu: Hello Ann to begin, can you describe you studio space?

Ann Toebbe: I rent a run down one bedroom garden apartment in my condo complex in Hyde Park, Chicago. It has a kitchen, main room where I work, and a back bedroom which I use to hang and store work. I rented it in 2010 and it hasn’t been updated at all over the years so it has a crumbling charm. Looking out my windows through the spider webs I’m at eye level with the shrubs and bushes.

What images keep you company in the space where you work?

AT: For the past couple years I’ve been transfixed by Indian miniature painting. I’ve had the good fortune of seeing several great shows at The Art Institute, The Met, and Seattle Art Museum and have the excellent catalogs at hand in my studio. I also had the opportunity to travel to India with the support of a Sustainable Arts Foundation grant in 2016. On this trip I bought a couple miniature paintings from local artisans.

[Ann Toebbe Friends: Lisa and Tim, 2018 gouache, paper collage and pencil on panel 30 x 40 inches]

Ann Toebbe Friends: Lisa and Tim, 2018 gouache, paper collage and pencil on panel 30 x 40 inches

What was the impetus for “Friends and Rentals”?

AT: The Friends paintings are my Facebook friends who posted images that revealed their homes in the background. I saved and printed the images to reconstruct the interiors sometimes getting an entire floor plan. Five of the Friends are my midwestern cousins because they posted the most usable photos and “Friends: Lisa and Tim” is an artist couple who by their posts seem to have an amazing set up. The Rentals (La AirBnB and VRBO) are two properties we rented as a family, me with my husband and two daughters. These rentals were quirky enough to inspire paintings. I painted “LA Air BnB” and “Michigan VRBO” from photos I took while we were renting the spaces.

What emotions are you channeling into your paintings?

AT: Initially the personal connection I have with the spaces I paint, a cousin, a friend, or the piano teacher, sparks the inspiration to make a painting. This personal connection could inspire nostalgia, curiosity, even bemusement, about their life triggering my interest in sorting through their things. The paintings don’t emanate an emotion, they are creatively composed inventories of my chosen subject’s home.

[Ann Toebbe, Friend: Jana, 2018 gouache, paper collage and pencil on panel 24 x 30 inches]

Ann Toebbe, Friend: Jana, 2018 gouache, paper collage and pencil on panel 24 x 30 inches

What is the relationship between meaning and aesthetics?

AT: I believe good art captures the energy of the artist at a creative high point. I would define meaning as the emotion, feeling, or connection to the beauty (subjective) in an artwork that draws you closer to your humanity. This disclosure facilitated by the artist through their art is the relationship between meaning and aesthetics.

What do you think is more important in life: Self-actualization or making art?

AT: In my case self-actualization is achieved by making art so I think this makes them equal.

Which art exhibition was the most influential in your professional journey?

AT: Florine Stettheimer’s exhibition at the Whitney in 1995. I saw it on an art school trip to New York from Cleveland in my early 20s. I loved her paintings and she showed me you could use representation outside of established rules or techniques. This exhibition also made me aware of Florine’s sister Carrie’s dollhouse, a discovery that affirmed my attraction to interiors.

What is your favorite ritual?

AT: Taking a 10-20 minute nap after lunch in my studio. Monday through Friday usually at 1:15pm.

The exhibition runs through July 27, 2019