Reckless Wanderer Paints a Tantalizing Tale: Anne Corlett at Saugatuck Center for the Arts
By Colette Finney
What’s better than an epic adventure, travel tales, and images capturing the splendor of the American landscape? Anne Corlett’s exhibition, Easel on Down the Road: 50 States/50 Landscapes: A Journey of Discovery, guarantees all that and much, much more.
The opening reception is not until Friday, June 10, but I was graciously granted an exclusive peek into her three-year “journey of discovery.” I was awed by her paintings, and captivated by the stories in the beautiful book that accompanies the canvases.
With little more than an easel and painting supplies, Corlett hit the road in 2013. Her intention was to visit her son in Texas, painting a landscape in each state along the way. “I decided part of being single was taking myself more seriously and pursuing what I loved, making my main job me,” Corlett says. “And I thought, I want to paint the equivalent of the Great American Novel.”
Corlett’s dedication to the expanded mission is evident, “50 states, 29,604 miles of driving, and 164 days away from home.” One can see the intimate relationship she formed with each unique landscape. Applying bold strokes, keen values, and distinctive shapes, she reveals magical moments within all of the paintings. Even the contour between the forms comes alive with depth and color.
“Anne’s sense of adventure, her energy, her courage, and above all, her creative passion and her dedication to her art are an inspiration,” said Jacqueline Carey, New York Times best-selling author.
Part travelogue, part art instruction meets random observations, the book’s narration is rich with descriptive details and engaging commentary, much like familial yarns passed down from generation to generation. Corlett’s stitching together stories with scenery is informative, as well as entertaining. “When you paint, you try to get rid of language – your language is shape and color,” says Corlett. “But the cool thing about writing about a painting is its like looking at it from another angle.”
An experienced en plein air painter, she often chose rugged spots in state parks, or those with easy access to her planned route. Although occasionally the artist became a tourist attraction to others, choosing a road less traveled often led to great discoveries. Corlett described one such experience upon arriving in Utah, “As soon as I crossed the border from Arizona, the topography changed,” she adds. “And the undulating hills revealed huge distances with mountains that were so perfectly blue and craggy that they looked unreal.”
Painting in unknown territories and unpredictable weather conditions were not the only challenges she experienced on this painting pilgrimage. Transporting wet oil paintings and choosing convenient locations to paint was difficult, and traveling as a woman alone was occasionally scary. Corlett was undeterred, she recounted, “One of the things I really took away from this journey was if I approached people with an open heart and an open mind, suspending all judgement…It is amazing what comes back to you.”
A resident of the Saugatuck area, Corlett is a positive influence in the community, advocating for the arts by speaking at local businesses and encouraging young artists at regional schools. This fall after taking some time off to relax, she intends to travel to the Upper Peninsula where she will paint, but with no plans on the journey becoming another exhibit. “This one doesn’t feel over yet,” Corlett adds. “I can’t really commit to another project – this is kind of like one of my children.”
Despite binge-reading her entire blog and repeatedly paging through a coveted copy of the book, my curiosity was still unfulfilled, and I was eager to see collection, first-hand. Her creative adventure left me wistfully longing for a reckless excursion of my own, which will doubtless grow after visiting Easel on Down the Road in Saugatuck this Friday.
The public is invited to the opening reception of Easel Down the Road, Friday, June 10 from 5:30-7:30 PM.
Easel on Down the Road
On view through August 20, 2016
Saugatuck Center for the Arts
400 Culver St, Saugatuck, MI 49453
Hours: Monday – Friday 9:00AM – 5:00PM
all images courtesy the artist’s website http://annecorlettartworks.blogspot.com