Posted by Jack on July 9th, 2008 filed in About Ann

Some clever person made a wise observations a few years ago in commenting that “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”  It could easily be true that writing about art is just as meaningful.  Those thick, beautifully produced museum catalogs and coffee table books depicting works of art also assume the task of giving us endless paragraphs explaining what we are looking at, interpreting the artist’s vision, defining a period, codifying a technique, cataloging a movement.  While many of the terms they use certainly have real meaning to the insiders (and, indeed, there is a large,  rich vocabulary of terms and definitions peculiar to art), much of the language does not easily translate into ordinary American English.  It is reminiscent of the comment the great Lee Knowles (Major Domo of Beaulieu Vineyards in Napa Valley) made about winewriters’ attempts to describe fine wines: The crystal luminescence school of journalism.

Ann has a category of paintings she defines as “atmospheric abstracts”.  Checking this term with Wikipedia one gets the terse reply, “There is no page titled Atmospheric Abstracts”.  Google races through its several million pages and comes up with a few suggestions on meteorological monographs.  Adding the word art to the search brings up with one Welsh photographer and a New York-based painter/poet named Julie Hedrick.  Much diligence leads to several more artists or works of art that are self-defined as atmospheric abstracts.  Unfortunately, there is no effort to define terms nor does there seem to be a body of close, identifiable shared characteristics that would tend to group these works into the unitary realm of common definition.   Google and Yahoo show that a number of  works of art by various artists are described as atmospheric abstracts, but nowhere is there a unifying definition.

Friday Harbor Library has a well-stocked reference section for a town its size.  Still, it was equally unproductive in gaining perspective on atmospheric abstracts.  The impressive 34 volume “Dictionary of Art” (latest edition, 1996) doesn’t touch the subject nor does the 1997 edition of the “Oxford Dictionary of Art”.  In the 1198 pages of “Gardner’s Art Through the Ages” (2001) not a single line of  elucidation graces the text.

Going to the fundamental source seemed the reasonable next step.  the Oxford English Dictionary gives us (as meaning four) the definition of Abstract as: “Withdrawn or separated from matter, from material embodiment, from practice or from particular examples.”  Not bad, huh?  Atmospheric comes down as “Evoking or designed to evoke an atmosphere”, which is: Atmosphere: “Surrounding mental or moral environment…psychological climate…prevailing tone or mood…prevailing or beguiling associations or effects”.  So there we have it.

Ann herself credits an auctioneer, a proper well-schooled Londoner sent by Sotheby’s to preside at an auction of art for a charitable occasion at Pebble Beach some years ago as the person who defined her work that was being sold as a outstanding example of atmospheric abstract painting.  The painting was purchased to a substantial benefit of the sponsoring charity and the auctioneer’s description of Ann’s work was quickly established and accepted in the Carmel art world.  She claims no credit for the term and makes no more attempt to define it than do all our sources.

Have a look at the paintings on her web site under the “Atmospheric Abstracts” tab.  You may agree that the definitions of both atmospheric and abstract work well in description of these works. You may also agree that it is not easy to apply words to art.  It is often, “Yes, I see it.  I like it.  But I can’t quite tell you exactly what there it is about it”.  Dancing about architecture is tricky business.


  1. setauthose Says:

    Thanks for the post

  2. RYErnest Says:

    Nice post u have here 😀 Added to my RSS reader

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