By: Shasti O’Leary Soudant (www.shastiolearysoudant.com)
It’s a curious and powerful thing to make one’s mark upon the world. Childhood scribbles are our first evidence of agency. We exist! We can change things! All we need is forty-five seconds left unattended with a crayon and an empty wall. The ensuing rush of parental yelling and gesticulating quickly introduces us to the consequences of our discovery: mark-making has power.
For most of us, our scrawls are eventually socialized and gradually distanced from that original primal act of authorship. So few of us retain the thrill of that initial realization that we can create, from humble materials, not only a trace of our presence and passing, but an entire world where anything is possible. When the tendency to conflate the real with the imaginary persists into adulthood, we label it as an eccentricity at best, and at worst, a pathology to be rooted out and extinguished, lest its bearer infect the world around them with their wild phantasms. Except in the case of the artist. The artist’s job is to train her mind to misbehave, and to assert her inalienable right to keep drawing on the walls.
Like many of us, Anne Muntges grew up reading the classic children’s book Harold and the Purple Crayon, and remembers Harold trailing his crayon on the wall beside him in one long continuous line as sets off on his moonlight walk. In the story, Harold’s big purple crayon becomes nothing less than a magician’s wand, calling up moons, dragons, oceans and cities, until he gets tired and draws his own bed in his own room, falls asleep in it, and drops his magical crayon to the floor, ending the story.
In Skewed Perspectives, Muntges has conjured a full and complete Room of Her Own: a perfect, inhabitable drawing in scrupulous detail, the ultimate expression of the inscribed made real.
A central component of representational art is the chosen medium, the substrate to which the representation is bound. In traditional drawing, the realistic nature of its mimesis is belied by its third absent dimension. That choice, that decision to flatten reality and confine it to paper, is in no small part the act of drawing itself. Its consequence, a conquest over space, pockets the person, place or object pictured, while elevating its status. It is no longer just a thing, but a thing now remembered, consecrated by ink, effort and time.
Anne Muntges’ world is a meticulous inventory of the quotidian: each mundane object, every bit player in the domestic theater of the everyday is acknowledged, given its due, and celebrated for its tiny but essential contribution. Clothespins, sneakers, spoons and saltshakers, all exalted and ennobled by her efforts. But in this instance, the surfaces rendered are not merely references to their originating objects. They are the objects themselves, elaborately mummified in representation.
By creating an utterly immersive environment built solely from lines that cocoon the objects to which they refer, Muntges’ ritualistic drawing has laid claim to the dimensional world by insisting that its realness be contingent on her graphic assent. She has given every morsel of her domestic space permission to exist forever by performing magic on it with her little black wand. Resurrecting articles and architecture by inscribing them with her exhaustive incantations, each tiny hatch mark is a titch in time, a small vertical line counting off bits of her ultimate currency, minute offerings to the cosmos in exchange for her divine power to imbue a defunct realm with new life.
There is a certain quixotic charm to this utter embrace of surface. Perhaps Muntges is conscious of the tensions that strain our thin veneer of reality, and endeavors to strengthen its meniscus with her mark-making, lest the underlying chaos of the universe escape. As a result, her work presents less as a capitulation to the reductive notion that women exist to decorate, (in both the passive and active sense) and more as an assertion that the skin of the world requires a fierce and disciplined custodian.
To Anne Muntges, a thing is not real until she has drawn it from the coals and forged it with her inky black refiner’s fire, and the vertigo one experiences in its presence is not an accident. It is a rare disorienting privilege to stand teetering in a portal between worlds, so be careful and hold on to the doorjamb. Muntges’ mischievous grin might be last thing you see before she pushes you through.