Eleanor O’Keefe Anderson creates non-representational paintings with multiple layers of oil paint, cold wax, sand, and stone dust; applying the different materials with something other than delicate brushstrokes – a process that involves scraping, rubbing, sanding, and gouging her large-scale canvasses and wood panels. The more layers that build up on her paintings, the more paint and grit are strewn about her studio and clothing, and the more she sweats – reflecting the intensely physical nature of her practice and, ultimately, the immersive quality and sheer physicality of the work itself.
For this lifelong athlete though, painting is no mere sport; the accrual of distinct but complementary layers is at the heart of her search, within each painting for the most sublime mesh of color and texture, which is fundamental to the quality of her work that she deems most important and is her ultimate goal: a sense of light and depth.
“You have to see my paintings up close to appreciate the subtleties and complex variations of color and texture happening beneath the surface” she says. “There are lots of different, overlapping even colliding textures, but in each finished piece they become subtle and delicate. When a piece of mine really works, when it has that depth, you can look into the painting and ideally become enveloped by it.”
That’s the real payoff for the viewer, because to appreciate the visual depth – and to realize that it’s no mere accident – is to enter the universe of Eleanor’s work, and to forge an emotional connection with it. Her art, for all the vigor and painterly aggression that goes into it, is rooted in her own quest for solace, which is undoubtedly manifest in the work itself.
“There’s a sense of quietude that I’m aiming for; I want the viewer to experience my paintings as a gentle, full body experience.”