Anne Hieronymus considers herself a maker of ruins. Her work captures the moment of struggle between expansion and decay, growth and disintegration. She portrays a state of decline that predates the return of the natural world using the same materials that have caused its near demise.
Anne Hieronymus: Envisioning the Particular
Anne Hieronymus is a highly accomplished artist, working in several fields, whose work is a mixture of very specific details and, just as important, a slightly macabre mood that lends itself to a very contemporary reading of art and culture. Her collaged drawings attract an audience startled by the artist’s ability to raise detail to a high level of creativity. As an inward-looking person now active in mid-career, Hieronymus shows us how particulars of small dimensions can be seemingly jumbled together, only to make sense as her audience pulls away from a close reading to appreciate the overall gestalt, which functions thoroughly effectively as a complete object. The same is true of her sculptures, usually made from small, found, decorations--inexpensive holiday objects. The ersatz, while clearly visible in Hieronymus’s art, is transformed into a statement of vision that is much larger, technically and spiritually, than the parts of the whole. This means that the artist, in a modest but striking fashion, is reworking materials usually considered detritus but which are actually given new life as components in art--and, as Hieronymus has pointed out, will outlast all of us, either as components of her art or in the landfills.
This sort of thinking has a history to it. Hieronymus’s excellent drawings and collages make use of typeface letters, schematic designs, and tiny blotches--just about anything and everything--that tend to extend from a central nexus and occupy a slightly alarmed, distinctive center. The imagery then branches out, toward the edges of the composition. The general effect is highly interesting: objects of considerable integrity arise, composed of synthetic imagery. By behaving as an eccentric type compositor, Hieronymus gives herself the freedom to construct design drawings that feel nearly readable in their high intelligence--although it is clear from the start that these drawings and collages look like whirling alphabets whose main pleasure has to do with visibility rather than legibility. You can see it in Retype #3, a marvelous conglomeration of black abstract designs that form a larger design over the greater part of a circle shaped by bits and parts of color, many of them green. Toward the bottom there are circular abstract designs, which tend to reiterate the central circle mentioned above. It is all a controlled pandemonium, with a good deal of humor thrown in. The other drawings are similar--they too engage the viewer with small designs and stickers that complicate an overall pattern that is pleasing to the eye.
If we could come up with a term for Hieronymus’s two-dimensional art, we might name it celestial embroidery--a phrase that describes her sense of the otherworldly, as well as her fine sense of detail. But this is not in any way a revision of traditionally women’s work; instead, it is an extension of modernism, using the graphic device of typefaces and small abstract images printed by a rubber stamp. As a form of visionary print design and collaged patterns, the works succeed marvelously well. The sculptures, which differ in presentation from the abstract to a recognizable giraffe, make use of cardboard, which Hieronymus cuts so that she can fashion the shape she wants. In Giraffe, she has built a tall backbone, dense at the bottom with small parts but rising upward, simplifying as it goes--to the point where it is taken over by empty space. The work is charming, but also deeply sculptural--it gives us both the sense of a beautifully developed abstract work of art and a representation of a charming creature, equally charmingly brought into creative existence. Vessel operates much the same way; it is clearly a vase-like receptacle of some sort, but its walls consist of fake flowers and other artificial forms that seem best destined for the garbage heap.
Yet Hieronymus translates, and transforms, these throwaway items into something real. Her imitation berries and buds, jammed closely together on the surface of the vessel, look absurd when confronted singly, but within their group, and given their participation in a surface dense with made-up things, they lose some of their highly imitative energies by yielding, quite literally, to the big picture. The care and precision with which Hieronymus addresses these parts--even as she places them in thrall to the larger composition they contribute to--allows her to contend with large questions, such as the relations between what is synthetic and what is real, what is the part and what is the whole, and what is figurative and what is abstract. These are major questions in art, and are best elaborated on by words. But these issues are raised with high intelligence in the artist’s production. Although Hieronymus’s art does not address, in a literal sense, these issues, yet at the same time her images are composed with intelligence, playfulness, and skill--in ways that keep the questions alive. It is a good way of introducing her audience to concepts that at first seem dialectically opposed but which, over time, may be considered as existing on opposite sides of a gap that is smaller than we first assumed. The artist does so by building works that can be seen simultaneously as exemplary of both points of view--something we can only thank Hieronymus for.
Hieronymus is a builder not a painter. She thinks with her hands and would be bored with a master plan. She is interested in discovering what she is going to make as she makes it, because she does not know the outcome in advance.
Hieronymus has an unusual and fascinating background. She was born in La Marque, Texas, right outside of Galveston. Her father, an engineer, moved his family continuously while Anne was growing up. Her myriad of childhood memories center around three locales: West Virginia, Connecticut and Brussels, Belgium and the numerous museums her parents would take her to as a child in the United States and Europe. After her secondary education Hieronymus attended two successive art programs, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She quickly realized academic life was not for her, and decided to seek her education elsewhere. Thus began the artist's discursive life journey of traveling and experiencing the world outside a conventional academic framework, instead finding rigorous ways on her own of training her eye to the nuances of shapes, design, textures and colors.
Traveling to Switzerland in 1980, Anne Hieronymus devoted herself for a year as an apprentice to a fabric dyer who used only natural dyes, mastering the intricacies of coloration and dye retention on textiles. When she returned from Switzerland, she opened and ran her own successful dye shop in Minneapolis until its closure in 1986. After moving to California, she began doing hair and makeup for film and theatre. She worked in the entertainment industry until she returned to school in 2003, subsequently earning her degrees from two of the most prestigious art academies in the nation.
Hieronymus was the recipient of two Claremont Graduate University Art Fellowships, The Claremont Graduate University Hill Crest Award, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago Student Leadership Award, and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago Chairman's Scholarship.
Memory My City: The Sculptures and Photographs of Anne HieronymusFOR OPTIMAL EXPERIENCE, ENTER EXHIBITION, SELECT CIRCLE ON UPPER RIGHT CORNER, THEN SELECT ENTER FULL SCREEN OR SIMPLY ENTER EXHIBITION. SELECT ESC ON KEYBOARD TO EXIT FULL SCREEN. All actual sizes are below on this exhibition page, not in virtual gallery 17 Jan - 15 Dec 2023What is singular and arresting in this exhibition is not only the type of world the artist creates for us, an alien world, but how she goes about constructing this alternative reality as it pertains to utter environmental destruction. Hieronymus’s world in certain ways seems to mimic our naturalistic earthly...