Stay with me, I know there’s a lot going on. In a world of shortening attention spans, this painting requires awareness. Above the goddess in lovely lingerie hang two urn-shaped plumb lines suspended from diving rods, within a clock face dappled by snowflakes. At the top is a version of Buer. The five-legged (deer in this version, not lion to match his head) demon glows as bright as the stars on trees inside homes during the time Buer is said to appear (when the sun is in Sagittarius — November and December).
The painting, by Bucks County artist Daniel Anthonisen, embraces nature, particularly local species. It reflects Christianity, Judaism, Shamanism, Hinduism, Alchemy and more religious thought. It grows from intellectual study and quiet contemplation. A journey to find meaning.
“It’s a celebration of finding the newness of life that’s in us and around us,” says Anthonisen.
“People seem concerned at times in acknowledging the value of things by measuring with what is ‘practical.’ I actually see a wonderful combination possible, of merging the so-called ‘irrational’ with the practical self-knowledge that our lives frequently more resemble a literary novel than a series of scientific facts or experiments.”
Anthonisen tells me he is interested in the “adventure of fluidity, not knowing what is around the corner is to embark on a path of learning.”
He believes in the visual poetry of painting, but feels accountable to acknowledge a path of learning in his work. Although he isn’t fond of audio descriptions of works in museums, he rejects the “great taboo in employing verbal language to compliment a visual structure.”
I’d first written about Anthonisen more than 10 years ago. At the time he was a dedicated plein air artist, capturing the soothing essence of the Delaware River, the hills and vales of Bucks County. In the years since, he’s shown at the Woodmere and Michener museums, among other impressive venues. With a B.F.A. from Carnegie Mellon University, Anthonisen is no slouch. Not to mention his famous sculptor-father, George Anthonisen.
Daniel Anthonisen has a solo show opening October 5 at Travis Gallery in Solebury Township. I wondered how he was faring. We’d lost touch, with only an occasional email to connect the years.
I’d mentioned while setting up our meeting that I no longer earn my living writing about art and artists, that instead I clock hours in a corporate compound, with nice people but not doing work that inspires me in any way. He responded that he’s glad he has been able to avoid having to take on such uncreative employment, that he is grateful he can devote himself to his art, although it is a struggle to develop financial security.
I meet Anthonisen on a stiflingly humid morning, just up the road from a scarecrow of sorts fashioned from flowerpots sitting outside of Kinsman Company, a garden supply store in Point Pleasant. It is an imagine I will see later.
Save for a few gray hairs, little tells of the passing decade. He’s lost a few pounds. I’ve found them. When we last met he was that emboldening age of 30-something. The thirties, in my opinion, are when you first feel fully adult. Empowered, Anthonisen seized his spot among the New Hope School of Impressionists.
Now, in his early 40s, the artist is exploring the concept of home. A 2006 oil on linen, Heading Home captures Anthonisen’s quintessential ideal of home; the back of his father’s head in the bow of a small fishing boat on the Delaware River.
Anthonisen’s new work breaks from this classic concept and delves deeper. He addresses all that home embraces: his family home, where he now dwells, the river and towns he’s known since childhood. All are his inspirational muse.
“At the heart of a creative home is the access to a creative space of incubation…something everyone in the world needs,” Anthonisen writes to me. “My art experiments with expressing creative spaces of incubation whether they are riverscapes, flowerpot people or otherwise.”
His home, a carriage house high above the river, is consumed by his art. Completed pieces hang on the walls. Canvases and boards in various states of completion are stacked on every surface not covered with paints, books and items appearing in his work.
Anthonisen’s easel — a long-ago gift from his supportive parents — commands valuable floor space in the center of the room. This is home, a place that serves his creativity, his art, his passion.
The upcoming show is titled “Home: Recent Work by Daniel Anthonisen.” His Point Pleasant home is a place of reflection and introspection, as well as inspiration. His nearby Carversville studio is an extension of his home. He can often be found on the Tohickon Creek, Delaware River, or Ralph Stover State Park, sketching, painting.
Still moved by the beauty around him, Anthonisen has found new insight in the writings of Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now), Jiddu Krishnamurti (The Flame of Attention) and others.
“Our society is based on the structure of time,” Anthonisen says. A long devotee of what he calls “rivertime, where there is a pronounced sense of the past, present and future simultaneously surrounding the moment,” Anthonisen has created for himself an existence that respects and ignores time — especially with a show deadline looming.
I ask how many of the 30 pieces that he plans to show in October are completed. He tells me none. I see them. I see them as fulfilled. I remember the perfectionist I once met. He’s still there. And a lot more.
– Jodi Thompson