Who cares about a haunted house a week after Halloween? by Anna Rae

A:  Me. 


In the wee hours of the night, when I am not a rock for anyone but myself, I have come to a finishing point with the Winchester Mansion.  The house didn’t have a chance to uphold its opulent supernatural composure with my color palette. 


If you’ve not heard of this fantastic haunted house, here is the wiki. My first introduction to this house outside hearsay was in a video by an artist named Jeremy Blake.  His story is also fascinating but he had a dreamy cotton candy film at SFMOCA and it hit me hard. It’s hard to believe that the artist’s film is uploaded to YouTube and has a pathetic 58 👍. Anyway, the reason I’m so moved by the film is partially the fascination with the house itself but also that Blake was able visually mirror the notion I carry that a house is alive. Architecture, in all, has narrative and Blake saw the narratives from the living, dead, and even the era, the rifle and freedom as having their own narrative. The Winchester House is a portal to guilt for me. Yeah, the Wild West, the eccentricity of the architect, and the “Wild West New Age” notion that earthly work brings spiritual gain is all interesting but what drove Sarah Winchester to build so completely that each nail hammered was counted thirteen times… was guilt. We do our best, like any other human who lives in the 20th c,. to power through that guilt but sometimes it’s like a sap in there that drips intermittently to remind us, “you could have done better.. Remember?” Her home is a knotted mess of ghosts of guilt and I’m sure she’d have found a way to provide something just as spectacular even if the Winchester fortune wasn’t so massive. 




Dear Sarah, 

     I do hope that your earthly work provided a freeing life here and wherever you are now and I thank you for the architectural manifestation of your healing process.  





Wicker Park Arts Fest by Anna Rae

Why spend Benjamins when you can have a Herschel bag for Hamiltons?


Limited run of 10, available at Wicker Park Fest this weekend. I'm directly next to the North Stage on Milwaukee at the intersection of North/Damen/Milwaukee

July 27th-29th


Keep an eye out for one more limited printed tote run with a new design...


Van Gogh by Anna Rae

This is the birth-home of Vincent Van Gogh. The flag marks the room in which he was born.  Inside that room is where Vincent Van Gogh was new, real, raw, and for a moment as vulnerable as one can get.  We all develop a character, sometimes wildly different characters for different social interactions.  Some of us turn it off.  Some of us, frustratingly, do not.  Regardless of how many masks/facades/multiplicities we have, we can usually count on being ourselves at home, or as close to our real selves as we can.


When we analyze his paintings we, inevitably, at some point, refer to the concept of "emotion."  Van Gogh was and expressed what most of us try to tame.  He rendered with paint the things we all feel but at an exaggerated level so that it opens up to a wide range of emotions and recipients.  Emotion as a valid "real" thing is debatable.  Van Gogh said to his brother, Theo, "Let us not forget that emotions are the great captains of our lives and we obey them without even knowing it."  So true, Vincent.  Whether or not emotions are real, the social construct and the "currency" we hold upon our emotions is very real.  The majority of people I know hold their emotions closed off or wide open, plateaued or peaks and valleys, loud or soft... most people I know hold those feelings close and regard them as real, worthy of processing, attending to, acknowledging, and affect actions/decisions.  Regardless of whether or not emotions are real, they were real to Van Gogh.  If feeling was a cloak to wear with an infinite  brilliant electric storm inside...he would have never taken it off.  There is no doubt that he was one of the most famously undiagnosed bi-polar individuals.  His urgency and gesture in paint, alone, could be evidence.  Then the question is... what would have been his body of work if he were diagnosed?  Medicated?  What if VG went to so many therapists that he had a bullet list of traumas on a notecard to handout.  What if he overcame it. Made living with mental illness a manageable reality?  What if he hadn't committed suicide?  What, then, would his body of work look like?  I imagine it would be more organized, he would be receptive and adaptive and transformative... with grace.  What if he had learned to reign his feelings?  What if he met someone that balanced him out?  What if he tried to critically deconctruct the value of emotion and discarded their burden upon him?  Would we know "Starry Night," the only night rendering of 21 landscapes that VG painted from the barred window of his cell when institutionalized?  I don't know the answer but we have emotions for a reason.  Is it to make this life more entertaining?  More productive?  One of my favorite authors, Douglas Coupland, says, "I think that emotions affect you as much as vitamins and x-rays and car crashes."  Well, jeez.  Those things affect us.  A little, a lot and a lot a lot. And then they also don’t.  But we also let lots of other variables and outside influences make us process how they affect us.  The bottom line is that VG suffered.  He was magnificent and lucky to have the opportunity to funnel his ideas and experiences to a canvas that we can all enjoy.  But he suffered and while painting probably brought him much joy and pleasure, I suspect that he never experienced true satisfaction or pride.  Emotions affect some of us more than others.  Having any mental illness become sans stigma allows it to be acknowledged, discussed, and dissected in hopes of understanding and healing.  

This Thursday I will be part of a group show opening at Zola Lieberman gallery.  The show is part of the The Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation Charity Exhibition.  The foundation's mission is:  "The Ryan Licht Sang Bipolar Foundation is dedicated to fostering awareness, understanding and research for early-onset Bipolar Disorder. The Foundation is on a Quest For The Test™ to find an empirical, biomarker test for Bipolar Disorder so that early detection and intervention become a reality."  This show is dear to me because I would love to have personally been able to prevent my brother's suicide.  I would have loved to know Ryan now.  I would love for them both to be at the show and see their legacies and successes and influence.  


Please consider joining us at the opening or donating to Quest for the Test.


Congress Hotel by Anna Rae

Over the weekend I had an amazing opportunity to stay at the allegedly haunted Congress Hotel in downtown Chicago to experience, document and collect data from the building and neighboring downtown space. It is a historical masterpiece where time stays still throughout little nuances within the framework of the hotel. Some sections like the lobby, are opulent, to say the least. The building was erected in 1893 (making this the second ghostly narrative/building in Chicago that I’ve painted that  revolves around the World’s Fair). The lobby boasts intricately carved stone sculptures hidden away in high arches along the edge of the ceiling. Nothing compares to the Gold Room. We took a short adventure around the hotel at night to take photos and take it all in. The floor that the Gold Room is on didn’t have any lights on when we arrived. A security guard happened to be nearby and happily let us in to get a private look at the majestic-ness of the space. Ceilings as high as what seems like threw stories. Detailed figurative paintings adorn the ceiling, the walls seemed to be dripping with gold and it has the energy residue of a thousand wedding roasts. In regards to hauntings, there was one strange photo in the Gold Room where an unitendifed source of pink light made a trail where in another photo the source cannot be found. Not at all much to put weight into for an argument that it is haunted but who knows what else is there and not on film. 

View from our room of Grant Park / Buckingham Fountain and Lake Michigan.       

View from our room of Grant Park / Buckingham Fountain and Lake Michigan. 




Elevators in the south corridor. 



The Gold Room




Second photo with probably easily explainable pink light. 





Our room door 




Navy Pier at night is pretty spooky. 




My haunted hotel partner, Sean. 




Painting of a night photo from Navy Pier with a view of the Congress Hotel (the red oblong shape in the middle) by Sean Gill 




original reference photo © Sean Gill

Red Line, etc. by Anna Rae

Finally back on track (pun intended) with the CTA series. Finished the red line and here’s an underdrawing ofnthe Green Line. When cutting my paper I didn’t intend to have done an appropriation of Nam Jun Paik’s TV Buddha, 2002 (1974). Photograph by Chris Park. 





Red Line by Anna Rae

Original and prints available of "Red Line - CTA," watercolor and gouache on Arches, 9"x12" 

Prints available in 8"x10 and 4"x6"

Thoughts during this painting:

1. Gouache is *pretty* amazing.
2. Diebenkorn, you have stayed with me, clearly. 

Buy it here!


Commission by Anna Rae


Beach commission by Anna Rae


Anniversary by Anna Rae

One year ago today I started to take Anna Rae Art full time.  I was still watching children in our home and the idea had been sincerely considered for about a month. It was the beginning of a calculated shift to where Anna Rae Art is today. I wouldn’t have had the chutzpah to do this if I didn’t have what feels like millions of people cheering me on. I have a couple secret Mom groups that I’m in and someone asked me “What is your dream job.?”  They cheered me on, spread the word, and even supported me financially. This became a thread to pull through the days of doubt and times when the hurdles seemed insurmountable. I’ve tried to say in many ways how thankful I am for that. Thank you. Thank you, family, friends and acquaintances. Your support is so appreciated and please know that your fuel was and continues to be a crucial part of any of my successes.



Until a year ago I had a variety of evolving ways of engaging and expectations of myself as an artist. For some reason, maybe fear of failure or unwillingness to risk time and money, doing street festivals and commissions was a turn off. I didn’t have as much respect for the work that is presented in these venues. How silly that was, in retrospect. And how naive I was that I couldn’t bend these venues to both benefit and engage folks in a way that satisfies my distilled artistic goals. The art world as an organism or institution has a quiet rule that where I’m at right now is considered “selling out.”  That letting the control of your work be driven by others takes away your authorship. Well, I’m okay with that and I definitely have concluded based on my experiences that this world is not only not an indication that I’ve sold out but for me it is also in many ways more fulfilling than being an artist driven with more of their own authorship. First of all, art can be defined in many ways but the distilled facts that all theories of what art is and could be comes down to a couple of facts. Art is an engagement; a thoughtful idea manifested concretely. Even art that we cannot touch, (i.e. sound art) is a manifested and concrete idea. The goal is typically to engage a viewer and have a conversation. Sometimes it’s internal.  Sometimes external. Sometimes artists want to engage as many viewers as possible. Some are more concerned with the intensity with the viewer that speaks to a slim audience. My work has always been created with one intention entwined with a variety of others variables depending on context. But it has always been concerned with speaking to the people. Engaging in a human way that wants to be a mirror of our world; macro or micro. I’m not concerned with being in the institution of art nor criticizing it. My work has always been tethered with threads of vulnerability  and flaws in a way that holds a hand out to hold onto your magical heart. Second of all, and I've spoke of this before, there is magic in the creation of illustrating a moment for a client.  It's a token referred to and my job as an artist is to memorialize that moment.  Photos snap moments and painting snaps a moment with a brilliant filter.  An amulet that anoints your treasured moment, sealing it.  If I were to list some of the variables that goes into my work that cannot be physically manifested it would include that feeling you get when something excites you so much that your you can feel your stomach dance and ruffle and flutter. The fight or flight feeling is our only way to manifest both positive and negative vulnerabilities. One might be terrified or falling in love but both are vulnerable and a sign of excitement. That feeling is distilled in both my personal studio and my commercial studio. You can’t turn that off. It might be on a spectrum but it is a constant variable on both sides of the fence that holds my artistic endeavors. My anxiousness travels from mind through hands to paper as well as intense compassion, love and fears. I’m proud of keeping that distillation. While it is a spectrum for artists there are some that put very little in their work on both sides, personal studio and commercial. It isn’t hard for me to maintain and I’m proud that I can keep it close to my work. One year ago I painted Gregory Crewdson’s home, a church converted to living and work space. It looks like I ended up emulating that model and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I can’t wait to see where we go next.  


Architecture portrait by Anna Rae



WIP/work in progress




Windowz by Anna Rae

Starting sketches for TK Photography. 




Lake Street. by Anna Rae

I'm working like I might lose this job tomorrow. Aka: I'm painting what I want to paint today. That's what this is all about, right?   


"Lake Street," oil on linen, 4'x4', 2017. WIP

Selfie station by Anna Rae

I finished up this fun window painting this afternoon and had a buddy to try it on for size. ;)

Check it out in person at Lena Rose in Ravenswood in Chicago  



Pullman Home by Anna Rae

This is a commission of a gorgeous rowhouse in the Pullman District in Chicago. This land was built by the man who brought you the most luxurious sleeping cars and the riot that proved unions had influence. There's a tour of the neighborhood this October:  Here is  the link. 


And that's Olive in the porch in her red bandana. Good dog. Stay.  


For commissions, email:  annaraegilbert@gmail.com