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The Zen of Red Trees, Gardens, and Seabirds

The Zen of Red Trees, Gardens, and Seabirds - Cape Cod LIFE July 1990 |

Right side detail from “1989 Gardens of Suzanne Sinaiko #4.”

Anne’s determination and drive come from her early childhood. She was a solitary child, raised on a farm with rolling hills and open fields. Of those days, Anne remembers, “I drew all the time on any type of paper. Fantasies, dreams of the way life is and could be as an adult were always in the form of drawings, comic strips, pictures in the margins of schoolbooks, all over the place. Rather than listen to what my teachers were saying, I drew what they were talking about.” The things Anne valued most were her imagination and the relationship between herself and her environment. It was also during these formative years that Anne began to express her deepest feelings visually, but it was not until later, during art school field trips to the Philadelphia Zoo, that things began to click into place for her. “It struck me as a revelation,“ Anne says, “that we have a harmonious relationship with so many animals in bone structure, muscle, and body functions. I felt it had to be from the same primal source.” She felt a relationship with all things: art and music… painting and dance… man and beast. These relationships have become the central core of her beliefs, and motivating force for her paintings. “What attracts me in nature,” she continued, “is its complexity, its growth pattern. There’s a tremendous fire within me to have things right.”

After five years of art and dance studies in Philadelphia and New York, and after several years of uncertain struggle and graduation from art school in Philadelphia, Anne entered the corporate world. Unsure of her talent, she didn’t think she could make a living painting. But her inner sense, her inner focus, remained the same. She would paint, though she would not be a “Sunday dabbler.” Her commitment to her professional career was absolute. She channeled all her energies at being the best she could be at what she was doing. She worked to build a financial platform for an early “retire­ment” so that she could attack painting with the same total dedication.

That day came in 1985 when Anne moved to Provincetown. Unable to locate a house to suit her particular needs, she designed and built her own. She incorporated a personal gallery into the foyer of the house so she could show her work. The front door opens to a large staircase done in black slate, with stark white walls to display her paintings. The effect is dramatic. Anne’s private quarters are to the right at the top of the stairs, the main house is to the left. This allows her to continually view her paintings, to refine them if need be, and to sense whether or not they “speak” to her. Her studio is reached by going through the gallery and out the back to a breezeway, which shelters a separate entry. She wanted to get away from the day-to-day duties of running her home and “go to work” – only a few steps away, but still important to her concentration during the day, and her freedom from work demands at night.

Anne does not want to paint “pictures” – paintings of things you can look “at” and say “that’s a charming house” or “a lovely landscape.” She does go out and paint landscapes, “pictures,” but only as a means of searching for concepts of paintings that she feels can transcend the subject. She loves going out for the search, but when she hits on one of these sketches that has the potential to be a painting – to convey her personal message, “to speak in her voice” – that’s when she gets excited. She doesn’t always know when this will happen. The sketch of The Red Tree was done in October, but it didn’t open up to her until January. That was the sketch she could use as a vehicle, as a platform from which to launch a major work, to go far beyond the subject.

Many of Anne’s paintings deliberately impact on the observer’s way of looking at things, disrupting their everyday perceptions. Such is the large painting that hangs on the ceiling of her gallery, 20 feet above the floor. It is of a seabird soaring high above the earth. But what you feel gazing up at it is not the bird circling in space. The bird seems to be still, at peace in its element, while the storm clouds swirl powerfully around it. She muses, “We need to find that same sense of inner calm, to be at ease within our own element and not too easily buffeted by the surrounding turbulence. Sometimes we see chaos in nature only because of our perspective. But if we go further, we can resolve it. I’m trying to reveal the beauty, the wonderful intelligence and order in our natural world.”

Anne describes Low Tide, a 30″ x 17″ canvas, which she has chosen to keep in her personal collection, as “a very kind painting. The sand bar forms beautifully, almost like the hip or a leg … a close relationship to human form and a very erotic painting. The color shapes of this particular canvas roll toward and away from the edge forming an organic voluptuous force.” She was able to locate a wood grain frame that imitates this same relationship resulting in a very successful synthesis of diverse elements.

Standing Water, an 18 1/8″ x 17 7/8″ painting, came about entirely differently. “It came easily … the paint seemed to come right off the palette and onto the canvas in just the right places … the voice spoke right to the painting.”

Anne prefers painting outdoors when weather permits. Two of the major works in her 1989 show, The Gardens of Suzanne Sinaiko #3 and #4 were done totally on site despite 95 degree days and almost constant changes in the light and flowers in bloom. The challenge for her in this subject was its overwhelming complexity and the great compositional opportunities it offered. She built these intricate paintings structurally, using line, form, texture and color primarily as compositional tools. She altered focus and light to create a sense of magic or mystery, to entertain, and sometimes to deceive the eye.

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