Anne Marie Grgich
On View: Friday, Mar 1st - Sunday, Mar 24th
Opening Reception: Friday,
March 1st 6-8pm
There may be an objectively real world which exists independent of observation, some great oneness free of seemingly disconnected objects and qualities, where all the puzzle pieces of the universe fit seamlessly together. If such a state does exist, it is clearly not the commonplace experience of sentient beings. We are born and live and die in a dimension of countless multitudes of moving, swirling, clashing, harmonizing, interweaving, burning and freezing things. Some atoms attract. Others repel. They seek completion, balance. But all knowledge remains incomplete, and everything on this side of eternity continues to change, ceaselessly. The lack of completeness in any given thing affords that thing its unique qualities, defined against all the other things it is not. These are just the conditions of life, the bargain struck in order to be allowed the wonderful and terrifying experience of being alive.
The phenomenon of selective perception – summed up in a nutshell by Oscar Wilde with the aphorism that “nature imitates art,” is so latent to consciousness that it tends not to be interrogated. There is an assumed contract with reality, an assumption that any given thing is, for the moment at least, that thing. The work of Anne Marie Grgich creates a powerful spell, able to artfully undercut this comforting illusion through a cacophony of diaphanous tissues layered like sediments, an outpouring of re-purposed images. Bits of collage, scratches of drawing, pieces of fabric; cut-up, reversed, made anew. An old familiar cartoon character from some advertisement, now a ghost, perhaps living in some crackling fading transmission. Images like scarred microfilm, blurred microfiche, the feeling of collapse, and then the immense beauty realized in that same collapse. Like every paper doll in the world being sucked into a black hole, a purgatory for the detritus of human civilization. A world in which the images cease to be beholden to the species which created them and begin to live lives of their own. Faces, sometimes half-hidden, sometimes clear as a bell, made out of everything. Beckoning, repelling, at times inviting and at times demonic. Often both, possibly depending on the perception of the viewer who gazes into the fractured and re-knit kaleidoscopic whirl. A snowglobe world where shredded newspaper pictures rain down, telling endless stories which read differently to each viewer.
This is the first solo exhibit of the work of Anne Marie Grgich in New York City, and is comprised of over 80 works. This is only a tiny fraction of the artist’s body of work, with many of these pieces being completed especially for the exhibit.
Born in LA in 1961, Grgich is currently based in Tacoma WA and has spent most of her life in the Portland/Seattle area. Self-taught as an artist, her earliest forays into art-making began in childhood, with furtive explorations of painting on the inner covers of books in the family library.
While Grgich had artistic inclinations from childhood, it was a violent trauma that catapulted her into a life as a full-time artist. In 1981, at age 19, she was involved in a tragic car accident which took the life of her boyfriend, leaving her in a coma for two months. When she began to recover, she describes having to re-learn everything, over the course of the next decade. Surgeries and health complications have been part of her life since. In the context of her recovery, her work began to blossom, as she obsessively began refining her artistic approach, developing out of teenage journals which also included poetry. After becoming briefly entangled in what she describes as “a mind-controlling cult,” Grgich discovered the punk rock subculture, as a place where she could somewhat fit in as a person on an other-than-ordinary trajectory. Her forays into collage were borne of necessity, as poverty dictated that she would be short of traditional art supplies. Friends and neighbors would donate collage materials, and she began to perfect a new technique, with her collages becoming layered, far beyond what would be expected of the “traditional” collage approach. Grgich soon discovered that her work could be contextualized as Outsider Art, a genre encompassing iconoclastic artists unconnected with the “art world,” and she has enjoyed much acclaim in that artistic ecosystem.
She has been almost unbelievably prolific, obviously creating out of a profound and genuine need. Her work has garnered the attention and admiration of many galleries and collectors worldwide, including being featured on the cover of Raw Vision magazine, with accompanying article, in the Spring of 1998. She was again featured in this magazine in the Fall of 2019, and prominent Outsider Art scholar Colin Rhodes included her in a canonical overview of the genre. Her work is regularly featured at the Outsider Art Fair in NYC. Concurrent with this exhibit, her work can also be seen as part of the 2024 Fair, at the booth of Portrait Society Gallery of Milwaukee WI.
This exhibit also includes several collaborative pieces. Grgrich worked on a series of collaborative purses and quilts with fellow self-taught artist Della Wells (b. 1951) during covid lockdown in 2020. The two artists have been friends for many years and their collaborations have continued to develop. There is an example of quilting done with her neighbor, Sandy Combes, and a large diptych collage overlayed atop a blueprint-machine copy of a marker drawing by Justin Duerr (b. 1976), yet another self-taught artist, who was introduced to Grgich at the Outsider Art Fair in 2023. In the spirit of collaboration Grgich has also undertaken curatorial duties, and work with musicians.
Present here is a vast array of work, as Grgich puts it “born of trash and tragedy.” But while the work may be born of trash and tragedy, it practically bleeds gemlike wonder, and uneasy joy, and inspiring determination. Books with pages so wrought they become heavy things, layers upon layers upon layers. All the pieces communicating with each other, as the tiny elements within them also speak to each other. Faces upon faces speaking of and to human frailty, bravery, and fear. Worlds within worlds within worlds, created from the ground up. Going from the inside to the out and back again.