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Annie Truxell

The Art of Annie Truxell

Annie Truxell is an American painter born in Iowa in 1929. Educated at Antioch College, Truxell spent the majority of her adult life in Spain on the island of Mallorca. A close friend and associate of many of the best known artists and writers of her generation, Truxell has had a fascinating life. She currently lives in Asheville, NC.

While Truxell is ordinarily referred to as an American Surrealist, the description does not entirely do her visionary work justice. Truxell’s paintings are masterpieces of fine detail and remarkable skill. This largely self taught artist has honed her craft to an astonishing degree, creating dreamy, still worlds that pull the viewer into a universe all their own. The figures who populate her paintings, from blue faced baboon like creatures to humans caught just at the edge of transformation, could be considered whimsical if they did not also contain an almost sinister quality of darkness. Her luminous color and clear attention to composition make these extraordinary paintings something that goes beyond pure Surrealism, hovering on the edge of abstraction yet never entirely leaving the visible world. This balance between the physical and the emotional is key to Truxell’s work; the figures pull you in to a space that cannot quite be discerned, attracting as they also frighten, immediate yet removed.

The Early Years

In Truxell’s early work, a devotion to large, blocky shapes can be seen. Figures crowd the foreground and the palette is muted. Admittedly, part of the calm palette may be time: Truxell, as a poor young artist in Greenwich Village, tended to buy house paint rather than oils. Due to the strength of her drawing and line, however, the essential gravitas of these images were unaffected. Her work in the 1950s and 60s is reminiscent of her good friend Willem de Kooning in his Women series or to contemporary sculpture in its solidity and shape. Whimsical touches abound in these early pieces, from the wild hair of the figure in At Last We Found Each Other to the quizzical glances of the woman standing inexplicably next to a horse. Truxell, even when her work is at its darkest, never loses her sense of humor.


The Deia Years and Beyond

Annie Truxell in Deia, Spain - 1960s
Annie Truxell in Deia, Spain
circa 1960s
"They told me to juggle them"
"They Told Me To Juggle These"
Acrylic on Canvas
"At Last We Found Each Other"
Acrylic on Ccanvas
 
Truxell moved to Spain in 1965 and the result can be seen in a gradual shift in her work by the late 60s and 70s. Her palette became incrementally brighter and she abandoned the blocky, full frontal figures for more nuanced images in fully realized space. At this time, Truxell was a good friend of the visionary artist Mati Klarwein as well as beginning what would be her lifelong relationship with writer Jakov Lind. Together with other artists in the small Mallorcan expatriate village of Deia, they experimented with new forms of creativity and vision. Truxell began working in an almost automatic way at this time, allowing random falls of ink on wet paper to dictate the composition of the final painting. Her skill is such that this slightly contrived experiment never detracts from the painting itself; the chance elements only add a degree of mystery and illusion. A fascination for circuses began to emerge and her cast of unlikely characters began to perform; rhinoceroses made of cloth jump through hoops or fish, always a favorite theme, dance with fire to admiring crowds.

As Truxell’s work matured in the 80s and 90s some of her most remarkable paintings were created. Paintings, now done in acrylic due to a linseed oil allergy, are sanded and resanded until the surface is almost as smooth as glass. From figures in no space she has moved into pure space where the figures become secondary to the interplay of color and light around them. She began to explore issues of consciousness and spirit more fully during this time, intensifying the tension between the viewer and the work. Paintings like The Dance of Krishna invite the viewer in but offer no comfortable recognition or grasp, just a dizzying sense of space, time and motion. Her late works have a tremendous sense of serenity about them, yet at the same time it is never, as it never is in the world of Annie Truxell, a completely comfortable serenity. There is always more going on than immediately meets the eye.
"The world of dream-fraught symbolism is explored by this gifted artist whose universe centers on evocative and bizarre matings of moons, stars, animals, unknown creatures, landscapes and sky-scapes"
- John Gruen, SoHo Weekly News, 1974
"He Yawned" by Annie Truxell
"He Yawned" - Acrylic on Canvas
"Hello Broadway" by Annie Truxell
"Hello Broadway" - Acrylic on Canvas
"The Dance of Krishna" - Acrylic on Canvas

 
 
 

Annie Truxell’s work is difficult to categorize. She does not fit neatly into the pigeonholes established by the best known trends of her generation: the Abstract Expressionists, the Pop artists, the New Realists yet her work encapsulates a little of all these themes. The Surrealists came along before Annie’s time and their work is usually considered a very European movement, from a time before the art world had shifted to the new world. Truxell, in a sense, is the quintessentially American descendant of those painters, creating hermetic worlds that are nonetheless open, accessible and full of delight.

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