I’ve been a fan of Anne Lemanski’s work for as long as I can remember. I first met Lemanski many years ago when she was in the first year of her residency at Penland School of Craft, and I’ve been following her career ever since. In my youth, I came to know her quite well as I became friends with her niece and nephew who visited during their summer breaks and attended Penland’s Summer Art Camp alongside me. I remember thinking Lemanski was such a force to be reckoned with and so unapologetically, creatively herself, and I recognize that same quality in her work. Her works of art are often bold, elaborate, and whimsical, leaving the viewer astonished and wondering what a mystical place her mind must be. Her sense of color and design is impeccable. After seeing one of her more recent creations, Tigris T-1—first at the Penland Gallery—I was thrilled to learn it would be one of the works on display in Asheville Art Museum’s exhibition A Telling Instinct: John James Audubon & Contemporary Art.
Lemanski’s Tigris T-1 is my favorite contemporary work in the exhibition which will continue when the Museum reopens. I’m immediately drawn to the dynamic pattern of bright colors on the tiger. I had the pleasure of interviewing Lemanski for our May issue of the Museum Profile and got a sense of what it’s like to be a part of her artistic process. During our interview, I was intrigued to discover that she’d always wanted to build a tiger; although I’m familiar with her various birds, rabbits, snakes, and other woodland creatures that remind me of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, I find the tiger to be her most fantastical yet. As the tiger is positioned standing on what looks to be a circus ball, it feels performative—as if visitors to the exhibition hall are intended to stop and indulge in a long moment, awed by the dreamlike nature of the tiger. Each time I visit the work I find myself asking “Am I seeing this right? Is this a painting? Am I in the painting?” I like to think that Tigris T-1 must be a character from Lemanski’s world, and I’ve been given a glimpse. I remember the first time I was able to interact with the tiger; I made sure to carefully examine the physical structure from each angle, admiring the accurate proportions. It’s not just that the tiger is a precise three-dimensional resemblance to a tiger, but my very favorite component of Lemanski’s work is the “skins” of her sculptures. As I learned from my interview, the print on the tiger’s skin is comprised of neon bubble tea straws from Asheville’s Asian Market, where she remembers being so enamored by the hot pink, stating “I just love pink!” I love neon colors and bubble tea and have been obsessed with the print of this skin ever since I learned of its origin.
~ Contributed by Devon Fero, communications & external affairs assistant