Critics have called Anya Spielman a “painter’s painter,” “a superb colorist,” and “a macho painter.”
Ted Mooney, Senior Editor of Art in America says of Spielman’s work: "Anya Spielman's mastery of her invariably appealing palette can be deceptive: she knows the depths of human motive and does not hesitate to take the viewer to places both more ambiguous and darker than may at first seem evident. What's more, it may take you some time to figure out how you got there, let alone how to get back. But that, after all, is what serious painting is all about."
As Mooney states, there exists a complex duality to Spielman’s work: it is both intensely physical with elements of violence while hyperconscious of the beauty and evanescence of life. The result is work that is expressionistic and yet operates within a framework of restraint. The saturated color of the canvases and works on paper are juicy and sensual, yet there is something disturbing in their beauty. Spielman’s surfaces are extraordinary, gorgeously layered, yet upon close study, rough nail marks scar the paint and deconstruct the work. Above all, there is a strong sense of mystery in Spielman’s work – she reminds viewers who are brave enough to keep looking of the tenuous balance between knowing and not knowing.
Spielman’s most recent work continues to explore the constellation of these binary forces and forms, presenting reoccurring two fold images: pathology beside beauty; ejaculation beside petals; gunshot beside blossom. The work “Disease” reflects two vague head-like silhouettes in the upper center of painting – a red cluster hovers above (conjuring both blossoms and clotted blood), while a black band and dark streaks reminiscent of arteries intimate something more gruesome. “Lust,” can be seen as images of engorged blossoms or breasts bleeding milk. “Crush,” plays with the tension between light and color, weightlessness and gravity. In “Powder,” a figure bleeds “tears” of yellow, green and pale blue – a scalloped bottom edge tries to anchor the confectionary white tower which is slowly seeping. Each piece draws the viewer in with dueling fragility and brute strength.
Similarly, much of the work is sexual– some of it veiled, some explicit, but, as with all of Spielman’s work, her paintings bear a dual meaning. In the painting “Sugarbush,” for example, the shower of white smudges can look like falling petals, a first snowfall, or ejaculation. And the main object in “Things to Suck,” resembles a lollipop, however, suspended testicles loom overhead. The juxtaposition hints at two separate realms of experience, while also displaying Spielman’s bold and mischievous sense of humor.
Spielman’s work draws upon direct experiences: drawing from cadavers; hands on work in construction and demolition; informal ethnographic research, and traveling alone around the world in 1988. In Fall of 1992, she spent several months painting in Paris. From 1999-2005, Spielman lived in New York, working out of her Chinatown studio in Manhattan. The intensity of daily life in New York City, 9/11, and the birth of her first child there in 2003, greatly informed the work. The Japanese blossom explosion of color annually at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens inspired Spielman’s blossom series. Harsh and snowy New York winters brought a play of light and a new language. Returning to California in 2005, Spielman had her second child; stored images from her pregnancies and the early child-rearing years set the ground for her body of work in 2007. With a new move to Portland, Oregon in 2008, her recent work continues to plumb color and duality as primary subject matters.
Spielman graduated from the University of California at Davis in 1989 with a major in Art Studio and a minor in Anthropology. She was a student of Wayne Thiebaud. She also studied with Squeak Carnwath, Robert Arneson, David Hollowell, Roy De Forest and Roland Petersen. After graduating, she continued to be mentored by Wayne Thiebaud.
Spielman has exhibited extensively both nationally and internationally. In 2010, she was included in the New Museum’s Bowery Artist Tribute. In 2007, she was awarded the American Artist Abroad Program by the US Embassy, to serve as an Art-Ambassador in Uruguay, teaching and lecturing. Spielman has shown at Aqua Art Miami, Miami, FL; Art Fair 21, Cologne, Germany; White Box Gallery, New York, NY; Deitch Projects, New York, NY; Michael Rosenthal Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Terrain Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Artists Space, New York, NY, and The Palm Springs Desert Museum, Palm Springs, CA. Her paintings have also appeared on the reality shows “The Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and “The Bachelorette,” and in several motion pictures. Her work is in numerous private collections.