19 January 2012

Paradise Found: Anna Zappoli Jenkins

Monarch Butterfly (oil on canvas)
   "In my paintings, I express my love and concern for this beautiful world that we call home," says Anna Zappoli Jenkins, the artist we are honored to focus on today. "I have worked in several different media throughout my career, water color, acrylic and tempera; I have cast in bronze. But oils have remained my first and lasting love. I like their smell, their smoothness, their thickness, their reluctance to dry."

   Zappoli began making art pieces long before she came to the United States from Sicily in 1966, and her work has been transforming ever since through many styles, subjects, and media. She now stands as one of the most visible and celebrated creators on the San Diego visual arts scene.  

   In describing her role as an artist, Zappoli says: "In art, I am more than an artist or a woman, mother or Sicilian."
   That sentence is a great insight into the degree of commitment Zappoli feels and acts upon towards art. Since her early days, she was inspired by the work of Dali, Modigliani, and Morandi, but foremost for her is the work of Pablo Picasso. 
   "Picasso was the one artist that influenced my generation the most, not only for his work, but also his philosophy about art. His influence on me came naturally, and my views on him have not changed since."
   To go any further in understanding and appreciating Zappoli's work, it seems we must know something about Picasso. Certainly, Picasso was an iconoclast, a man hungry for life, love, and liberty. He is not known for any one particular style, but rather for being unpredictable in the style of his output. The only thing that was predictable about Picasso was that he would always be true to his far-out visions, and fully committed to their wonderful execution.
   By looking over her work, it becomes clear that this is the essence of the philosophy that Zappoli has gleaned from the former artist.

Before You Knew Me (Detail - 2001)

   In her efforts to be true to her vision, Zappoli shares with us scenes from her experience, thoughts, her imagination, and her dreams.
   "My fantasy and knowledge are my companions when I paint," Zappoli says. "A thought comes in; it could be a dream or a concern, happiness or sorrow, and that is how I start my work."
   As well, many of her canvases are not pre-determined as figurative or abstract, but become so after she has already begun working, which demonstrates her close communication with the present moment.

   About her canvas, placed at the top of the page, Monarch Butterfly, Zappoli says: "I was reading an article about the two-way migration of the monarch butterflies, southward to Mexico in the fall and northward in the spring to Canada. There was a concern of being an endangered species. My painting is in their homage."

Eastern Cradle (2001 - oil and acrylic on canvas) 

   In the beautiful piece, Eastern Cradle, we are presented with a scene that seems to depict a pregnant woman lying on her back in a cradle, while a flock of angels stands and floats around bearing witness. Some of the coloring and shaping of Zappoli's figures is reminiscent of Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907) and Three Women at the Spring (1921), but it is a light echo, as Zappoli's lines are too free-flowing to be a copy of anyone. Part of what makes it a successful work are the wonderful shapes and patterns created by the arrangement of the angels, as well as the shimmering leaves in the background which places this event in the brush and at night. The fact that such a crowded canvas can evoke such an intimate, holy mood is a rarity and a gift.

Drawing from  My Story series (2009)
Drawing from My Story (2009)


   Zappoli's My Story series, which she created in 2009, are boldly vulnerable presentations of some heavy-weight themes. In the piece to the left, four women, each in a different form of movement, are shown connected by a vine of flowers. It is possible to see this piece as a timeline of events or as a glimpse at universal sisterhood. It is even possible to see in it a diagram of the various steps in a blooming consciousness, as the woman at the top of the drawing is the only one who seems to have mastered flight. She is also the only character seen in a direct act of compassion. In the piece to the right, Zappoli has presented us with a scene of perfect harmony between the sexes, species, and all nature. Whether it represents an autobiographical sketch, a dream she had, a goal or a prediction for the future of humanity, the fact remains that Zappoli has mined a chunk of the harmony in her own soul to share with us.

   She speaks humbly about this series: "The sketches/drawings were done for fun, and came naturally," Zappoli says. "I wanted them to be simple and fun."
   Yes, they are simple and fun, but they also have something to do with the hope Zappoli  mentioned in a previous interview: "I believe that love, eventually, will paint The Mount of Paradise."

Guernica (2011)

   Guernica is the Spanish city famous for being devastated by bombs dropped by German and Italian warplanes in 1937. Picasso's acclaimed painting of the town showed the ghastly devastation of that bombing campaign. Zappoli's painting, on the other hand, while completely different in composition and style, is equally haunting. The glowing white on black evokes a sort of x-ray look into Guernica's inhabitants. The direct smiles towards the viewer gives the piece a family photograph feel, showing the loving unity and character of the people. The scene is so full of the characters' peace and contentedness that our knowledge about the coming catastrophe is a hard burden to bear, making this a powerful anti-war piece. The fact that it was created on-site at a show at the Bare Back Grill in Pacific Beach is a little incredible.
   "When I worked on this painting, the idea was to express feelings about modern times in relation to wars we can never be too far from," Zappoli says about her Guernica.

Waiting for birds to fly by
Untitled (2010)

   Among her many painterly interests, Zappoli has been creating dozens of portraits of women's faces, often in dramatic settings. They stand out because of their powerful evocation of emotions, even while stylistically they present a joyous romp through the many beautiful possibilities of figurative painting. 

Jolie (2012)
   Jolie is one of Zappoli's newest paintings. The color palette is wider and brighter, and the detail is deeper than most of her previous work. The eyes are just as mesmerizing as some of her earlier portraits, but they are more awake, as if the woman is all-seeing, even into the soul of the viewer. The textures are classically regal, and the proportions are reminiscent of Modigliani, while the close-up angle and beaming spirit are completely new. Judging from this piece, the outlook is certainly good for Zappoli fans.
  "I am very optimistic about the artistic soul of San Diego," Zappoli says. "And my advice to artists is to continue to be creative and busy in life and thankful, for this world is indeed our paradise."

[Work by Anna Zappoli Jenkins will be on exhibit at L Street Gallery. For more details, see our Events page. We will certainly keep posting on the future amazing turns in Anna Zappoli Jenkins' art career. For more info in the meantime, feel free to visit her website at: www.zhibit.org/annazapp]

1 comment:

  1. Way to go Anna. Nice to see you getting the attention you deserve. Love the monarchs