Secrets in Bloom: Interview with Anna Kincaide

There is something so striking and powerful about the women in Anna Kincaide’s work, as she has always been strongly influenced by fashion and design. However, the past year has taken Anna in a new direction with her painting. Hidden faces behind flowers in full bloom, bouquets of colour that deeply obscure the subjects beneath nature’s ornamental bounty. Anna beckons you to ask the question of who these women are, and you are gifted a glimpse into their lives by the narratives in titles such as ”Bold Intentions”, “So Disarmed” and “The Secrets we Keep” that give you an idea of the anonymity of these strangers.

Her portraiture has always disguised the faces of her subjects by omitting the eyes of these fashionable and contemporary women.  You must rely more heavily on the body language to convey the emotions and mystery. Their lives are then up to the viewer and each piece has the flexibility to become something new, as the reflection of each piece is interpreted by the individual.

It was a pleasure to talk to Anna about her work, her life and what’s next on the horizon.

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Hi Anna! Thanks for talking to us today. Could you tell us more about you as an artist and as a person?

Well I won’t dive into my whole life story, but I grew up in northern Florida which is where I live and work today. I studied interior and graphic design in college and worked for several years in that field before I branched out into fine art. I was bored with design and wanted a more exciting, fulfilling path. I’ve always had a passion for painting and about five years ago I sort of recklessly left my career in design for one in the arts. I began painting every single day in my spare bedroom and thought to myself, “I’ll do this every day for one year and if nothing happens then I’ll rethink things.” Back then I was working in a more traditional portrait style (with faces!) but pretty quickly began to move in a direction focused more on body language and fashion and less on faces. About that time, I was selling just enough to be able to move into a very tiny little studio and I found my first gallery. From there, day by day, little by little things began to progress. It was definitely a tough time but very rewarding. Now (finally) I have a much larger studio where I can continue to figure out who I am as an artist. That part is still an evolution.

Your new works have women’s faces hidden and veiled with flowers. Can you tell us a little more about the symbolism behind these works? And how the theme of flowers manifests itself in your work?

This latest group of paintings I have been working on for about a year and a half now. I’ve never shown faces in my work and I feel that has been a very defining characteristic of my paintings. There is so much anonymity and intrigue when part of a person’s identity is obscured. You never have the whole story. I’ve found this allows viewers to connect with the pieces in a very personal way, imagining themselves or someone else as the subject. As for the flowers, they are a symbol of femininity, vitality and beauty. As I started using them for the “hats”, they took on this amazing masquerade effect. In addition, I’ve also started playing a lot with posture and body language to create a character or narrative. Since I don’t show the face entirely, I rely heavily on this to communicate a mood or idea. As a result, the women have become these evocative, enticing subjects. In one sense, they seem in disguise or hidden by the flowers but at the same time the poses are provocative and strong. I think they take on a life of their own and many different interpretations can be attached to one piece.

There is a beautiful structure and texture to your work… how do you capture this world and narrative without facial expressions? And do you consider you paintings as individual works or do they all belong to a larger group of pieces?

Thank you! I’ve been really working on my technique in the last year. I largely work on the figures in one intensely long sitting since I prefer to work alla prima. Because of this, I have to work very quickly and decisively with confident brushwork. Many of the decisions I make about a piece, I make while I’m painting. I always start with an idea, but so many times that goes out the window the longer I work. I also still rely heavily on my design background when creating these pieces. The principles of good design are the same principles that make good art. So the move from design to painting felt like a very natural transition. I’ve also put a lot more emphasis on body language and hands lately because a pose can say a lot about a subject. I like to further a narrative with a suggestive title like “The Secrets We Keep”.  I find this helps communicate an idea or feeling of a painting without having to rely on a facial expression. I tend to think of my pieces as individual because they all have their own identity and mood but they are also part of a larger, collective group that I’ve been developing. I think they all play together nicely.

Who or what  do you look to for inspiration?

I look mostly to fashion for inspiration. I have dozens of reference books. I love McQueen and Philip Treacy. Their work is so transformative and bold. It blurs the boundaries between fashion and art, which I love. I also have hundreds of fake flowers covering my studio that I’ve found in various places. I refer to those a lot for color or compositional ideas. But at the same time I can also be wandering through HomeGoods and find an amazing pattern or design that pivots me in a new direction. Inspiration is everywhere and I’m constantly adding new ideas into my work.

Can you take us through an average day in your studio, what does your schedule look like?

Typically, my day in the studio doesn’t start till around 10am. I know there are those early birds, but I’ve never been one. Once I get in though, it’s straight to work. I come in, check my email and turn on my music. I have clothes I change into every day because I am also not a neat, organized painter and end up covered by the end of the day. From there, it depends on what I’m working on. I usually have a couple of pieces halfway finished that I’ll work on if they are dry enough or I’ll begin something new. But once I sit down in front of the canvas, it’s anywhere from 5-10 hours of straight work. I’ll stop once in a while to give myself a chance to process what’s happening with the painting but that’s it. I work until I get to a stopping point (which varies) and then I’ll quickly move the canvas and begin to clean up. I don’t look at the piece again until I come back in the next day. I find that works best for me because if I look too long at what I’m working on I’ll begin to second-guess myself or overwork certain areas and once that starts the whole thing goes to shit. It took me a long time to find that sweet spot of when to stop, so once I’m done, I’m done. I clean off my paint surface, hang up my paint clothes and head home. Then I wake up and do it again the next day.

I know you had a chance to study with Milt Kobayashi… how was that experience and what other defining moments have you had in your career so far?

Milt was amazing. Before him, I was self-taught, learning much of what I knew simply from looking at other artists I admire and experimenting on my own. So it was a huge moment for me. I wasn’t looking to change the concept of what I was painting but I needed to expand a lot on my actual technique and his class was instrumental in helping me with that. When I came back, the work never looked the same again (in a good way). Honestly, it took me about 6 months to settle into what I had learned but the paintings are so much livelier and richer as a result. I also recently had my first solo-show with Gallery Orange and it was amazing. I love designing a lot of pieces for one show. They all sold and I got to meet so many collectors and artists. It was thrilling. And now here I am interviewing with Beautiful Bizarre so that’s pretty damn awesome.

What’s next on the horizon for you?

I had a pretty busy show schedule this past fall with one in September, October and January so right now I’m working on catching up my galleries with new work. I’m also looking forward to another workshop with Milt and one with Michael Carson this Spring. After that, I’ve got a show in Martha’s Vineyard in August and from there who knows. More paintings!




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