Interior Life: A Conversation with Anne Humanfeld

On Saturday October 1st, 2016, from 5pm-8pm, Anne Humanfeld’s Port Morris studio will be open to the general public to view her work and to hear an Artist Talk.

Artist Anne Humanfeld was born and grew up in New York City and attended Music and Art High School, Sarah Lawrence College and SUNY Empire State College. In the current phase of her long career, Anne has kept a studio in the rapidly changing Port Morris section of the South Bronx; her windows survey some of the hotly debated areas slated for luxury development on the Harlem River. There is the feeling of a vanishing community in the air, and her work is somewhat reminiscent of lost things. Anne’s strong ethereal images bring to mind a feeling of interwoven memories and how they can inform and alter our views of the present.

Laura James | How would you describe your work, Anne?

Anne Humanfeld | These pieces originated with a combination of found images that come from lots of different places, from different eras of print media, and also some original work of mine. They get put together, and they begin to be.

I tend to accumulate pieces of these images on my table and they get moved around, and generally I leave them in this kind of open condition and when I come back the next day they’ve started to function in this way, and I continue to move them around until they feel like they have become something. These things start talking to me as I’m doing them. They develop their own narrative, their own story and in a sense I’m just opening to it, and that’s really what it’s about.

LJ | So you’re working on many pieces at once?

AH | Yes, always. In general I don’t finish and walk away from something, there’s always something brewing for the next time I walk into the studio. So there are things that chain off of other things, there’s always something cooking.

I’ll finish one, but in the meantime while I’ve been doing that one and finishing it, I will have other pieces that have been started and will be worked on, and often they come out of the same mood or the same thing that I’ve been establishing with the one that I’ve finished, so that they chain off of each other in terms of the images and in terms of the energy and the qualities.

L-R: Nose Man, 35 x 23.5 inches, acrylic transfer on glassine. Liver Kiss, 35.5 x 24 inches, acrylic transfer on glassine. Many of All Flies, 36 x 42 inches acrylic transfer on canvas. Many of All Beetles, 36 x 42 inches, acrylic transfer on canvas.

LJ | So would you say the found images themselves inspire you?

AH | Yes, I love them, I really love them. I love all of these old images because they contain so much. And that’s how they start talking to me, because they contain so much in themselves.

All of these images that I work with have their own story, they exist for a reason. They’re in magazines, or they’re illustrations, and they have their own kind of energetic flow because of their particular narrative. As soon as I take them out of that, they still have a kind of energy but it’s not attached anymore, they’re like pregnant in themselves, and I can use that energy that they have. Then I put them together and they develop another whole kind of thing, they’re not just sort of academic. I guess every image has its own kind of background to it.

L-R: Pearl Babies, 56 x 39 inches, acrylic transfer on prepared glassine. Pink Flavor, 38.5 x 55.5 inches, acrylic transfer on canvas.

LJ | I’ve heard you say you’re not focused on communicating specific ideas to people through your art, you’re more interested in what the viewer takes from it. Can you talk more about that?

AH | I’m not doing this because I have an agenda, there is no agenda. I make art because basically I need to do it, but I’m not compelled to do it. These pieces come out of some kind of a–you know if I start to use words like unconscious or dreamlife, or something like that, then it starts to get too wispy, and I don’t even feel that way, I just do it. But they do have a certain kind of quality, and that I guess is what my interior life is. And I guess until you make that interior life manifest you don’t even know what your interior life looks like.

LJ | And where someone may manifest their interior life in other ways, you do it through your art.

AH | Yes.
L-R: Petroleum, 55 x 65 inches, acrylic transfer on prepared glassine. Christiana Pelvis, 33 x 32 inches, acrylic and inkjet on Kozo paper.

LJ | Where would you say your interest in working with paper came from?

AH | So when I was a kid we had no television, and most of my friends didn’t have television, instead we had these piles of comics. And my friends would come over with their comics and we would trade, and we would sit there and read these comics–and this was a very powerful thing for me. It isn’t just the images–although it is the images–but it’s the quality of the paper, it’s soft, it’s not like the comics now on shiny paper, it was this soft pulpy paper, and the way the ink and the colors were on the paper, it had a certain quality a certain kind of mood.

LJ | It all makes sense now Anne, because I remember old comics, and that paper, and a lot of your work does give the impression of a comic book page. The piece Three Stage Rocket obviously has the feeling of a comic, with the speech balloons.

AH | Well that one came from the classic comic book of Space, they were just starting with rockets at that time.

Three Stage Rocket

LJ | What would you consider your dream project Anne?

AH | I would very much like to do a bound artist book in the vein of Journey Of the Soul which I worked on over a number of years as an unbound book. I also hope to do some 3 dimensional projects.

Four pages from Journey of the Soul

Anne in her Port Morris studio with You’ll Get No Help From Me