UBS 12 × 12: New Artists/New Work: Ann Toebbe
Through October 23
Museum of Contemporary Art
220 East Chicago Avenue
10 am-5 pm
In Ann Toebbe’s new show in the Museum of Contemporary Art’s UBS 12 × 12: New Artists/New Work gallery, she depicts interior spaces that she recreates from memories. Her three new works, The Doctor’s Wife, The Grocer’s Wife, and The Photo Engraver’s Wife, were inspired by discussions she had with her mother, mother-in-law, and step-mother-in-law about memories of their childhood kitchens. The works, large-scale cut paper collages, are on display through October 23. Toebbe recently talked to CBSChicago.com about her art work and artistic process.
CBSChicago.com: What draws you to depicting interior spaces?
Ann Toebbe: A home reveals a lot about a person’s tastes and personality. The interiors I paint from memory are like ready-made compositions: someone else’s tastes and design choices are the starting point. What a person’s home looks like on the inside reflects what the person aspires to and also what the person can afford – and often, the less money invested and the quirkier, the better. I remember when I was a teenager telling, or rather, yelling, at my mom that she had no style and nothing in our house “matched.” My parent’s house is one of my favorite places to paint – bright green walls, brown carpet, funky pictures of birds and fruit.
CBSChicago.com: How would you describe your artistic process?
AT: Time consuming. I do a lot of musing, doodling, drawing prep. I work in different mediums, oil, gouache, and cut paper collage, so a lot of it is just figuring out what kind of medium will work, and what I feel like using. Once I start the painting I need time to find the rhythm in the composition and color and to make changes and add details. The studio gets really messy and disorganized and I usually have to take a day to clean so I can finish a piece. One piece can take several weeks to several months.
CBSChicago.com: What inspired the works in this show?
AT: I read a book by my husband’s grandmother, Mary Bard, called The Doctor Wears Three Faces. The book is a memoir-novel about being married to a young doctor, and raising three children and building a home with a doctor who was always on call and worked long hours. The book was popular in the 1950s – it was even made into a movie, Mother Never Told Me. Mary was a very dynamic woman and she felt a little lost, insecure, and trapped, yet happy. I liked the subject of a wife and how women in the ‘40s and 50’s were defined socially by their husband’s career. Even if they were working before being married, like Mary, they all had to be homemakers and stay-at-home moms. The kitchen was the nucleus of every nuclear home so I wanted to use this as the theme for the show.
CBSChicago.com: What do you hope to convey about the relationship between people and their spaces?
AT: I really don’t think too much about people after I decide a room I’m going to depict. Once I have a good subject to paint, it’s about making all the formal elements work, scale, proportion, and color and pattern. I depart from any realism and the paintings aren’t portraits. My mom just told me about her neighbor growing up, Gill. He was a hack handy man and she remembers the house being a mess. At some point he moved the staircase from the back to the front of the house. It sounds like an interesting painting to me.
CBSChicago.com: What do you do when you’re not making art?
AT: Hang out with my family. I have two daughters, Olive, three, and Betty, one. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen.