by Stephanie Chefas
Stunning artist and irrepressible horror fan Annie Owens has a flair for the macabre that dates all the way back to early childhood. Finding her muse in things that “go bump in the night” along with the classic horror films that captured her imagination as early as age five, Annie’s figurative paintings most often depict other-wordly characters of ink and watercolor whose dark backstories lurk just beneath the surface of tattoos, gas-masks and blood-spattered uniforms. The threatening (and sometimes nearly hollow) gaze of her subjects, who inhabit an eerie cinematic world of foggy forests and crooked houses, packs the same bone-chilling punch as some of her favorite films like Night of the Living Dead. It’s these deeply compelling and unique images that have seduced her audience and made us fall in love with not only the artwork but the equally compelling and unique Annie Owens herself. To quote her partner in crime at Hi-Fructose Magazine and fellow artist, Attaboy, “There are a lot of people who like my work, but there are a lot, and I mean A LOT of people who LOVE Annie’s work.”
As she continues to evolve in one medium, Annie has her sites on another, and she’s now exploring the possibilities of a film project that’s been on the back burner for years. Inspired by the likes of Edgar Allen Poe, Kubrick and Terry Gilliam, the chilling tales of psychological terror milling about in Annie’s mind would undoubtedly entice myself and many others to the front of the line with money in hand. Here Annie expands on her love for horror, the still budding inspiration that started Hi-Fructose and why we should be psyched for an Annie Owens film.
Stephanie Chefas (SC): For starters, what's your favorite Horror film and why?
Annie Owens (AO): I have about 10 top favorites but the one that comes to mind first is The Shining. It’s as fundamentally scary to me to watch it is as it is for the characters experiencing it. Jack becomes his own worst enemy and he has nowhere to run from himself. The combination of psychological deviance, isolation and a good ghost story to bolster it all, creates an internal gothic horror inside the characters. [Yes I am a goober you should see my Netflix reviews.] Rather than them reacting to something external like monsters or deranged killers on the loose – the fear is created by things that are less able to be demystified, like fear of the dark or empty spaces, or buried personal deviances for example. Not that deranged-killer movies can’t be good too but generally blood and gore to me are not scary and very boring unless you make it fun like Texas Chainsaw II did, a classic! Violence in horror is also annoying to me unless it’s integral to the story like in Martyrs – the most disturbing movie I have ever watched.
SC: What was the first Horror film you saw?
AO: Beyond the Door. I was 6. It scared me so badly I cried. But the real gateway horror movie was my second one, Night of the Living Dead which is still in my top 5.
SC: Were you a lover of horror movies growing up?
AO: Absolutely. As really little kids my brother Barry and I got to camp out in the living room and watch Creature Features from our little blanket tents on weekend nights. Awesomeness!
SC: With a degree in film, have you ever considered making a movie?
AO: Totally. After getting my degree [I think a degree in film is kind of silly unless you want to be an exec.,] I was still pretty wayward and a single mom too so for a long time I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. Anyway, I shelved the idea of making movies and decided I would revisit it when my daughter was grown. So she’s grown now and the ideas are a-spinning.
SC: What do you imagine an Annie Owens film would look like?
AO: It will be atmospherically scary in the way Lovecraft used to spin his written tales. Moments in movies like Psycho, [not the shower scene but the scene on the stairs], The Sentinel [dead dad in his underwear] The Other [not The Others] and Let’s Scare Jessica to Death really inspire me.
SC: Could you tell us about your process?
AO: Usually it starts by flipping through my sketchbooks and doodles until something grabs me enough to want to elaborate on it as a finished thing. Then I’ll scan it, print it out to whatever size I want it, stick it on a light-box it to transfer to the final piece of paper and begin painting.
SC: What message do you carry as an artist?
AO: I don’t have a message. Everything I paint is for myself. I’m selfish that way - it’s my therapy. That I’m asked to show it now and then is an honor. If a piece of work does connect with someone else I would imagine that it’s because what goes on in my head isn’t much different from what goes on with a lot of people internally. That’s awesome for me. If someone doesn’t connect with it or doesn’t like it, that’s fine too. You gotta roll with it!
SC: The majority (if not all) of your work seems reminiscent of childhood memories and experiences. How much of a personal narrative is at play?
AO: Well, my output so far is terribly slow so most of what’s been seen of mine is rather old except for a few like that Samara piece I did for Horrorwood. There will probably always be a lot of personal meanderings in my work since I tend to live in my head but thank Tarzan I’ve evolved from the childhood stuff! [I think.]
SC: Many people may know you co-founded the contemporary art publication Hi-Fructose along with Attaboy. How did starting Hi-Fructose come about and did you envision it evolving into one of the most highly respected art magazines today?
AO: Thanks for saying that last part. I dunno, I think Attaboy and I were both searching for something that wasn’t really out there for us at the time so we decided to create it for ourselves. Anyway, we didn’t know really what to expect or how it would all pan out. We just knew people responded to what and how we chose to publish and over time, we began to put more thought into what we were doing. We are still a young publication so it’s still evolving… which means it can only get better.
SC: Was anyone else in your family an artist and did they encourage your artistic talent?
AO: Several people in my family are artistic and musical. When I was very young my mom and grandmother encouraged me to get work as a secretary. I understand the reasoning since they both came from incredibly difficult means. When I got older my mom seemed to understand me better and put me through film school. That’s part of the reason I feel like I have to make at least one movie! I owe it to her.
SC: Which contemporary artists do you most admire and/or are inspired by?
AO: Funny, the first people who come to mind are all photographers. Sally Mann, Joel-Peter Witkin, Diane Arbus and Eugene Atget though his days were back around the turn of the 20th Century. More currently I’m still obsessing over Al Columbia’s work, James Jean, Korin Faught, Michael Page, James Marshall, Chris Mars, Barry McGee... There are quite a few. It’s not necessarily always the art itself, but the approach and why and how they do what they do is also what I admire.
SC: If I were to spend the day with Annie, what could I expect?
AO: You’d be bored. It’s like this: a.m., drop and roll out of bed into office chair followed by 3-4 hours of administrative HF stuff with a break to walk the dog, take shower, eat, draw, t.v., draw, go to bed. I leave the house once or twice a week.
SC: What's the one thing you can't live without?
AO: Daniel [Attaboy]
SC: The one thing you can't live with?
AO: unchecked ignorance
SC: What's next for Annie?
AO: A new haircut to fix the self inflicted damage.
Solo show at Copro Gallery in April 2011.
Carrying on with Hi-Fructose, it’s growing like a beast!
Oh and that movie we talked about...