Studying Kids’ Encyclopedias Prompted an Old-School Approach

Anne Lemanski is happier the further away she moves from a literal narrative.
Portrait by Colby Rabon

Multimedia sculptor Anne Lemanski graduated from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan, before accepting residencies at Penland School of Crafts near Burnsville and the McColl Center for Art + Innovation in Charlotte. Her work can be found in collections including the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh and Asheville Art Museum.

Clumsy Hans

How’d you get started as an artist?

As an 8 year old, I liked to draw cars.

Which ones?

Corvettes. I loved the curves on the old Stingrays. There were some unicorns and mushrooms thrown in there, too. That’s what I grew up doing. But now I don’t draw at all. I can’t draw to save my life.

So what do you do?

My 2-D collage work is pretty new — I started doing it three years ago for the first time. I’m more known for my sculpture, and I think very three-dimensionally.

How do you sculpt?

I braze the armature together using a torch, very low-tech and old school. I make patterns to fit each piece of the armature. I mostly use paper, but have used rawhide, pantyhose, and other materials.

That requires diverse skills.

The residency at Penland was life changing. But the McColl Center was a pivotal moment as far as the way I make work goes. I was like their poster child for residents because I came in and built an entirely new body of work. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone.

Grackle
Photo by Colby Rabon
Tiger Target

And get into what?

I wanted to get away from a literal narrative and start making geometric backgrounds. And I love collaging because it’s an intuitive way of working very quickly that forces me to not think about it too much. I had been collecting vintage children’s encyclopedias for 20 years. I had been carrying around these heavy books through all my moves, and I started cutting them apart. It was very liberating. 

You made those big sculptures from little collages?

The skin on the armatures was originally 4-inch cutouts. The McColl Center had a large-scale printer, and I went from four inches to life size. Because of the pre-1970 images I use, when you blow it up, it starts to look like a silkscreen. Change of scale is a really powerful thing. Everything I make is life size; I rarely make anything that isn’t.

Why old encyclopedias?
I love the images in children’s encyclopedias. I grew up looking
at them. I think the real essence of my work comes from those
encyclopedias, those iconic images engraved in my psyche. 

Are you still doing that kind of work?

I just made a tiger balanced on a ball that’s on display at
Momentum Gallery. 

I saw it, and it looks like the ball could roll away
at any moment.

It’s freestanding. But it’s weighted with 180 pounds
of concrete.

Vixen
Tigris

Anne Lemanski, Momentum Gallery in downtown Asheville (24 North Lexington Ave. and 52 Broadway), at the SOCO Gallery in Charlotte, and on her website (annelemanski.com) and Instagram feed
(@anne.lemanski).

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