There is nothing more inspiring than to hear the story of one individual who overcame great hardship, in order to achieve something truly special. This is exactly the case when it comes to the personal and professional journey of Anne-Maree Wise, an innovative and dedicated artist. It’s people like Anne-Maree who help to make our industry so ground-breaking and above all else, awe inducing. We absolutely love Anne-Maree’s story and we know that you will too.
My art journey started long ago… my childhood was spent drawing Disney characters, designing clothes for my dolls and writing stories. Whilst my older brothers played endless games of cricket and football, my sister and I pursued gentler hobbies. We filled our weekends drawing characters from our favourite stories, usually one of Enid Blyton’s tales or Anne of Green Gables. We would play with paper dolls and then make new clothes for them just so we could extend their wardrobes! We loved getting reams of blank paper to draw and paint on and dutifully followed the instructions in books titled “How to draw faces and figures.”
I started formal art lessons at 12 years old, heading off to oil painting classes after school. I still remember the distinctive smell of turpentine from the old art studio. I only every wanted to make art and was advised during my senior year at school to study a Bachelor of Art Education. Should my original plan of becoming an artist fail at least I could earn an income teaching!
Consequently I have spent most of my adult life teaching Art to secondary school students. Although I missed making my own art, the whole art process of developing sketches, creating a composition, deciding on a colour scheme and refining techniques…I circled around my students whilst they absorbed each stage of art investigation. I felt like a wallflower at a dance. I remember being told early in my career that the work of your students is an extension of your own and in some ways their art is yours. A noble idea however over time I felt unfulfilled.
My world shook when my beloved sister Fiona was diagnosed with cancer. It was such a cruel blow, she was just 48 years of age, she was rebuilding her life following a divorce and was working hard to purchase her house in her own name and provide for her four teenage children. My sister was always stoic and calm throughout her treatment, whilst I dissolved into tears each time we entered the hospital. (I was the emotional one!) Her battle with cancer was brief but dignified, she passed away peacefully with her family by her bedside just 9 days after her 49th birthday.
My grief was profound. I worried about my mother, my sister’s children, my husband and my own 2 children. I could feel myself falling apart. Luckily I was able to take leave from teaching and built a world of colour to sustain me. I painted to endure the grieving process. I travelled to Japan with my mother and daughter, it was a trip I had planed to take with Fiona as she so wanted to see the Cherry Blossoms and visit Disneyland. We moved gently through all the sites Fiona wanted to see.
Anne-Maree and her beloved sister, Fiona
When I returned I painted a series of large abstract images. I soon realised I was painting floral shapes dissolving into thin layers… edges blurred with sunshine and blossoms emerged laden with raindrops.
I applied to exhibit in a number of group shows. I was absolutely thrilled to have work accepted in an exhibition of “Emerging Artists.” During the exhibition I met a gallery curator who asked if I was interested in producing a range of artwork for a solo show. What an opportunity! My leave had expired and I returned to teaching so I continued to paint in my spare time. I was re-energised, creative and productive, I had 4 months to prepare for the solo show.
It was a wonderful yet daunting experience creating artwork to fill a gallery space. I started to understand the artists’ lot. The stories from art history became real…art is personal, it is quiet and loud…it is recognisable and abstract…it is kind and it is cruel…it is frightening yet satisfying…it is two faced and two dimensional.
My greatest challenge will always be to bring my vision to fruition, working hard on my art techniques to fulfil my design ideals. I consider my renewed love of art production to be a gift from my sister. We had many discussions during her cancer treatment but focused on what’s important in life and how to live well. We wanted the best for each other and I will keep working hard to realise our dreams. Our conversations and letters will continue to sustain and inspire me.
My greatest win so far is the rediscovery of what I knew as a child. I love art! I love everything about it. The smell, the touch, the visual appeal and the drama. It is a constant dance, the steps seem familiar but the choreography is harder to master. I am both student and teacher.
Last year on July 8th, two years to the day that Fiona passed away, I donated a painting to the Oncology Department at the Epworth Eastern Hospital in Box Hill. The image is an abstract view of Brighton Beach remembering sunny days from our childhood. This gave me an opportunity to revisit the hospital, to express my gratitude to the staff and to gain closure from the most challenging episode I have experienced.
I am constantly looking for opportunities to develop my art. I head out on regular photography sessions looking for inspiration. It might be a sunset, coastline or a close up of a flower: I usually find the right colour combination in nature! I plan on exhibiting on a regular basis but hope to see my work showcased in a retail environment (especially in one or two of my favourite stores!)
I think homeware stores and trade shows will become the art galleries and exhibition spaces of the future. Artwork is carefully styled within a familiar context and becomes more comfortable and appealing. The traditional art gallery model may become obsolete as the online world expands and social media continues to provide a broad platform on which to showcase work. I wonder too if the notion of an art gallery can be seen in carefully curated online spaces and homeware stores, funky bars and restaurants, hotel lobbies and corporate office spaces. I think they will become the “art galleries” of the future and service the wants of digital natives. I am nourished and encouraged by social media. I find it’s an effective tool in terms of promoting work, building a style and a consumer base. I found the more I shared my story, the more I understood it, what it means and how it defines me. I’m looking forward to the next chapter.
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