Story: Courteney Jones, Special to the Democrat
In artist Anne Stagg’s series, “[re]present,” she attempts to incorporate people’s personal stories into abstract paintings.
“The paintings are inspired by conversations I have with individuals about their identity, or what makes them who they are,” she said.
Stagg tries to utilize images in the paintings that relates back to the individuals, creating works that are specifically targeted toward that unique person.
“They can give me the imagery, but the idea is to have a conversation with them, to see what makes them tick, and then try to fold that back into a painting in the studio,” she said. “Each painting becomes a representation of my interpretation of the individual.”
With each painting symbolizing a single person, Stagg likes to think that organizing the paintings into an exhibit — like the one currently on display at City Hall Gallery — brings the individuals together, creating a sort of community. Each painting exists individually on its own, and is made stronger by being part of a larger group.
Stagg is interested in taking her work outside of the normal exhibition space. To do this, she has considered assembling the paintings into makeshift billboards and installing them along roadsides around town.
“Because I think of these paintings as individuals, it makes sense to me to insert them back into the community,” she said.
For “Unintended Consequences,” her other series on display at City Hall, Stagg said she was inspired by a different set of conversations—those held in the public sphere by civic officials.
“I listen to National Public Radio a lot,” she said. “And I found myself waking up in the morning to these very disparate arguments between Democrats and Republicans. … After some point of listening to all of this, I felt like I needed to take it all back to the studio and really see what I could make of it.”
One of the paintings, “Watershed,” is Stagg’s interpretation of the battle between Georgia, Alabama and Florida over the use of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint and Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River Basins. Another painting, “TX Board of Education,” is inspired by the 15-member-board responsible for selecting the content for the state’s textbooks, and what kind of impact those 15 people have.
For Stagg, the paintings are not about presenting her side of an argument, but representing the argument itself — the rhetoric of the conversation — and considering the effects of these conversations on our communities.
“I try not to make my position overtly stated…” she said. “I tried to make the paintings more about what I was hearing on the radio, this kind of barrage of information… and all of the arguing and back-and-forth, and this sort of hypersensational delivery of information that we’re constantly being confronted with, leading to a more polarized society.”
Though she is an abstract artist, Stagg considers her work accessible to those inside and outside of the art community. In her paintings, she employs engaging, bright color palettes and recognizable patterns and imagery to help people, regardless of their artistic background, connect to the work.
“I’m not really trying to target everyone, but I am trying to create something that people respond to on some sort of visceral level.”
The Council on Culture & Arts (COCA) is the capital area’s umbrella agency for arts and culture. For more information visit
If you go:
What: “Constructing Culture: Paintings by Anne Stagg,” curated by the Council on Culture & Arts (COCA)
When: Through June 30
Where: City Hall Gallery, 300 S. Adams St., second floor
Information: 224-2500 or visit cocanet.org/city-hall