If you haven’t heard of Annika Connor by now, then you’re a little late to the party. The good news? New York has a longstanding tradition of never dozing off when there’s a party.
As any good partygoer knows, you’d be wanton to show up empty handed. If you’re anything like I am, you’ve waltzed into Trader Joe’s at 9:59 pm for a bottle of anything that doesn’t have a kangaroo on it (and maybe some chocolate for the Uber ride over).
Perusing the candy selection at the checkout is not a task I take lightly (dark chocolate toffee or espresso beans?). Perhaps you’ve noticed the greeting cards to the left. Does this seem familiar?
If it doesn’t summon the memory of a late-night chocolate craving, it’s probably because Annika’s birthday cards sold out. All 40,000 of them.
“I’m fascinated by how art can reach a larger audience if it steps outside of the traditional role of the art world… [it] doesn’t have to be encased in this really intellectual discourse. ” The presumptive 80,000 eyes that either bought or received her card would agree.
“The fact that something I created might bring a smile to someone’s face on a day that is special to them… I think that’s beautiful.” Sitting across from Annika in her studio in Dumbo, you can tell that she’s buying what she’s selling (and so can you, for that matter).
She’s collaborated with Cavern Home, ShawLux, and Little Paper Planes to create anything from wallpaper to pocket squares. When she’s not bringing some glamour to a birthday bash or making your home look ridiculously posh, she’s doing any one of the following: Organizing a panel discussion and/or lecture, publishing her next book, running her organization, Active Ideas Productions, or thoughtfully sipping on a foamy, caffeinated beverage while she puts the finishing touches on a painting. Move over, James Franco—there’s a Renaissance Woman in town.
“I actually love that, the concept of a Renaissance Woman or Man… I think of somebody who’s pulling ideas from all sorts of places and assimilating them in their own way. I love that, in today’s society, you can be more than one thing.” While she describes her body of work as having “a common theme with beauty and a fascination” with it, she’s about 180 degrees north of boring.
It’s easy for beautiful art to be dull. We take beauty for granted every single day. But Annika’s work feels different; it’s sort of like wading through your subconscious to find a memory that someone else held onto for safekeeping.
The women in Annika’s paintings impart her ongoing narrative with feminism; she’s participated in multiple all-women shows, like “The ‘F’ Word” and “In the Raw: The Female Gaze on the Nude.”
“The art world is still really heavily male dominated,” Annika tells me as she moves some wet paintbrushes out of the way; this might explain the quandary that the female form seems to pose. Is there something patently antifeminist about a naked woman? No. And yet, the censoring of women’s bodies acts in one of two ways: to marginalize the female form as purely a sexual thing, or to shame it for failing to conform to normative standards of beauty. Annika’s work falls prey to neither scenario.
“You can be a feminist while embracing your femininity,” she tells me. “Something that’s intriguing and beautiful has the capacity to be very destructive. I don’t think that’s frivolous at all.” That’s what makes her artwork compelling—the story that we’re looking to create from a single image—there’s power in that potential. And since many of Annika’s paintings employ New York landmarks as their backdrop, it’s easy to imagine a story, unfurling in a snow-laden Washing Square Park, or in the entrance of The Frick.
“New York doesn’t let anything be boring. There’s absolutely no excuse for being boring or static in New York City.” Based on the experiences her paintings imply, I’d have to agree.
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