Special Gallery Shows

Visual Voices: Ann Tanksley

"As an artist I continue my quest for new methods and techniques that will help me to better express my voice through painting and printmaking.  Art, which is a transmission of emotions, provides a record and visual documentation of my life experience."

Ann Tanksley brings to art tender scenes of a fertile culture through her intimate renderings of daily life. Her sensitivity to humanity, particularly to her Black heritage, portrays a kinship of people with their natural environment. Her works are saturated with vivid abstract symbolism.

A Pittsburgh native and New York resident, Ann has enjoyed a long and illustrious professional career highlighted by numerous honors and artistic achievements.

A graduate of the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh, PA, she also studied at the Art Student League, Parsons School of Design, the Printmaking Workshop and the New School for Social Research all in New York, NY.

Notable masters with whom she has studied include Norman Lewis, Balcom Green, Sam Rosenberg, Robert Blackburn and Paulette Singer.

One of her major accomplishments was the creation and publication of a masterful portfolio of monoprints based on the writings of Zora Neale Hurston entitled, “Images of Zora”. Described by the writer Maya Angelou as “dazzling”, the prints were unveiled at two New York exhibitions and went on a national tour.

Among the anthologies and publications in which the artist and her work have been featured are: “Gumbo Ya Ya: Anthology of Contemporary African American Women Artists”; “Time Capsule: A Concise Encyclopedia of of Women Artists” by Robin Kahn; “The Art of Black American Women: Works of Twenty Four Artists of the Twentieth Century” by Robert Henkes; “Forever Free: Art by African-American Women 1862-1980”, Edited by Anna Alexander Bontemps.

Ann has received numerous commissions including Coors Brewing Company, Pepsi Cola Company, Absolut Vodka and Colgate-Palmolive. Her work is in several permanent collections including the Johnson Publishing Company and the Studio Museum in Harlem. 

She is also in prominent private collections including the Hewitt Collection and Oprah Winfrey’s.

Ann Tanksley's Show and Lecture Information

Visual Voices — An Inspiring
Art Exhibit by Ann Tanksley

Opening Reception, Sunday, August 2nd

from 4 – 6 pm

Visual Voices continues 12-4 pm daily through August 12th

Tuesday Lecture: Ann will also present
a lecture Tuesday, August 4th at 7 pm

Ann will discuss how her art provides a record and visual document of her life experience.

Ann Tanksley brings to art tender scenes of a fertile culture through her intimate renderings of daily life. Her sensitivity to humanity, particularly to her Black heritage, portrays a kinship of people with their natural environment. Her works are saturated with vivid abstract symbolism.

Putting the Art Before the Horse: Roberta Gross

Roberta Gross serves as guest curator of an art exhibit at Featherstone for the Arts set
for August 16-26. The event is entitled "Putting the Art Before the Horse”.  Martha's Vineyard artists (and associated artists) will create in their own media their notion of the spirit of the wood carvers who imaginatively created the animals and chariots for the late 19th century/early 20th century carousels in America.   The inspiration for this exhibit came from reading an article about Murray Zimiles, an artist and professor of art in New York who traced the role of the immigrant wood carvers from the Old World to the New World where they worked in carousel workshops, including those responsible for the Coney Island carousel.

Oak Bluffs is the site of the oldest operating carousel in the United States. Not only children but also adults associate Oak Bluffs and Martha’s Vineyard with the beach, ice cream, fudge and the Flying Horses.  For this reason and because the history of the carousel reflects America’s history from the 1890’s to the Great Depression, Featherstone’s gallery is an ideal venue for presenting a multi media, group exhibit centering on the carousel, including the Island’s historical landmark, the Flying Horses.  The artists would include painters (both more representational and abstract), photographers, and sculptures.   The focus would not be on ‘realistic” depiction of the carousel—the reality is already wonderful but on capturing the energy, spirit, entertainment and tradition of the carousels.  The carousel tradition has always been inventive and artists can draw on that history.
The history of the carousel reflects America’s changes from a rural to a more urban area, an era of simpler entertainment, improvements in technology and the influx of immigrants from Germany, Italy and Russia. Before the Great Depression, permanent carousels became a welcome and novel form of entertainment in resorts located near larger population areas such as Coney Island in New York.  City dwellers could relax at the beach by taking the trolley to the end of the line and spend the day or the week at the beach amusement centers housing games, rides and the carousals.  However, it was a time when most of Americans were located in rural areas and welcomed the traveling, portable merry-go-rounds.  The rides became even more exciting with the invention of the steam engine and later the development of the electric overhead drives, enabling the horses to move up and down.
Carousels have not just been associated with entertainment and amusement but also with artistic expression.  Some of the carvers of the carousels produced religious art in their native countries before they immigrated to America, where they again found employment in the churches and synagogues, carving religious images and alters.  In America, they not only continued to carve religious images but some found work carving carousel animals and other figures (cherubs, birds, mythical creatures).  The most talented carver, known as the “head man”, carved the head of the most important (visible) animals on the carousel.  Some artists would decorate the body of the carousels and others would do the paintings of the structure hiding the mechanical works that ran the carousel.  Still others would be responsible for creating jewel like effects from glass, marbles and lighting that were placed on the animals or the structure.  Carvers exercised flights of fancy in embellishing adornments on the carousel animals (frogs dressed in human clothes; lions with gold leafed manes;). Because of their patriotism for their new country, Americana elements became common such as ponies draped in flags; eagles; and the female Columbia as well as the Statute of Liberty. Some reflected the Wild West mania.  Others placed their self-portraits or portraits of others including Presidents or other important persons under or on the saddle or elsewhere on the carved animals.  Certain carousel companies looked to the art nouveau movement as a source for embellishments.

We are have 2 speakers as part of the exhibit, Murray Zimiles and Barbara Charles, a carousel historian and one of the original founders of the National Carousel Association, among other talents. 

Dr. Murray Zimiles is a professional artist and a professor of art at State University of New York at Purchase, New York.  He was the guest curator of an exhibit entitled “Gilded Lions and Jeweled Horses:  The Synagogue to the Carousel”, at the American Folk Art Museum, from October 2, 2007- March 23, 20008.  (He is also the author of a book by the same name).  In his book, he documents the role of Jewish woodcarvers and other artisans from Eastern and Central Europe who immigrated to America and were employed in the workshops of carousel producers, including the famous Marcus Charles Illions, Solomon Stein, Harry Goldstein and Charles Carmel. Visit his web site: www.murrayzimiles.com.   Many paintings and prints displayed on his site reveal Dr. Zimiles’ metaphoric uses of animals in his artwork.
Barbara Charles has had a long association with efforts to discover and preserve the history of the carousels.  In 1971, she traveled across the country photographing carousels to create the first US census of carousels.  Her 1972 cover article for the Smithsonian magazine was an important milestone in national coverage of carousels.  She is also one of the founders of the National Carousel Association. Recently, she has been focusing on the design history of carousels and gave a talk on this topic at the Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, Delaware.  This April she gave a talk on the carousels at the University of Exeter in England, as part of a conference on Victorian Entertainments. Visit her web site at www.staplesandcharles.com to discover the fascinating work she has done together with her husband as a consultant helping museum and visitor center curators to design the installation of exhibits. She has worked with the Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center in Monticello, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Delaware Art Museum and the Yale Gallery of Art (Kahn Building), among other sites.