Ann Tanksley’s work tells a story. At times it is an autobiography of her inner spirit melded with her experiences and travels; at other times it is about social injustices and the universal plight of rural workers; yet others, she retells stories that have been told by others as she did in her visual interpretations of the prose of Zora Neal Hurston. She sees herself as a ”social commentator” who would like people to understand her through her work and to understand her point of view. This is perhaps why she has chosen to communicate through the figures of the painting rather though abstract expression, even though her method is not unlike that of the Abstract Expressionists.
Her work is ebullient and fascinating. An experienced technician and a deeply intuitive artist, she is able to manipulate the viewers’ emotion and convey the intended message by adopting the appropriate visual language for the idea she wishes to express. Characteristically she disregards the visual rules of perspective and proportion and deliberately distorts physical features for psychological reasons. She often incorporates certain childlike characteristics into her work, yet is equally capable of making a strong statement with a single line. Her figures generally lack detail but in a strange way manifest a total gesture with a mere twist of a line.
Ann Tanksley is serious about her work and feels a great deal of responsibility as an artist. This is why, as a part of her life’s mission, she embarked on the epic undertaking of following the route of the African slave trade in her own travels. These travels took her to far-flung places from the African continent, to the Caribbean, to Brazil, and throughout the U.S. South. Much of her work mirrors her travels, but it is no mere cultural journal. Working through what she experiences, her reflections, her awareness and contemplation she gives us a body of work that transcends the ordinary.
A Pittsburgh native and New York resident, Ann has enjoyed a long and illustrious professional career highlighted by numerous honors and artistic achievements. A graduate of the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) in Pittsburgh, PA, she also studied at the Art Student League, Parsons School of Design, the Printmaking Workshop and the New School for Social Research all in New York, NY. Notable masters with whom she has studied include Norman Lewis, Balcom Green, Sam Rosenberg, Robert Blackburn and Paulette Singer.
One of her major accomplishments was the creation and publication of a masterful portfolio of monoprints based on the writings of Zora Neale Hurston entitled, Images of Zora. Described by the writer Maya Angelou as “dazzling”, the prints were unveiled at two New York exhibitions and went on a national tour.
Among the anthologies and publications in which the artist and her work have been featured are: Gumbo Ya Ya: Anthology of Contemporary African American Women Artists; Time Capsule: A Concise Encyclopedia of of Women Artists by Robin Kahn; The Art of Black American Women: Works of Twenty Four Artists of the Twentieth Century by Robert Henkes; Forever Free: Art by African-American Women 1862-1980, Edited by Anna Alexander Bontemps.
Ann has received numerous commissions including Coors Brewing Company, Pepsi Cola Company, Absolut Vodka and Colgate-Palmolive. Her work is in several permanent collections including the Johnson Publishing Company and the Studio Museum in Harlem. She is also in prominent private collections including the Hewitt Collection and Oprah Winfrey’s.