The image on this week’s cover by Anne-Marie Kornachuk is not only striking but also ambiguous, especially when considering its title, “Weightless: Mad Tea Party 2.” The “weightless” idea we can easily understand because the figure is floating. (The artist relates this quality to not having responsibilities.) But what about the “Mad Tea Party?” We could associate it with American politics and current events, but Kornachuk is Canadian and a little removed from our state of affairs. Instead, the image’s title is a reference to Alice in Wonderland. Again, a nod to ambiguity.
Unlike many artists, Kornachuk was trained to think about the meaning of her work first, then figure out the technical side later, a difficult feat because her realistic style is so precise and detailed. But she has managed through the years to bring both content and form together, creating images that some might label “conceptual.” Then again, we can also appreciate the literal beauty of her subjects, without considering any hidden meanings.
You studied art at Concordia University in Montreal. What influence did that have on your work?
My art teachers taught us to think about theory and Postmodernism. We were taught how to make a painting work. I learned how to layer meaning into my art, to learn how to see. One teacher, Guido Molinari, was particularly influential. He was a color field painter.
Technique is so important, too, especially your realistic style. How did you learn about color and everything else that they didn’t teach you at Concordia?
Your skills get better every day that you paint. But I took drawing, which is important. However, I didn’t know color. It took me years to learn it. I finally went to a hardware store and showed them my wedding dress. They showed me what was in the color white. Eureka. After that, I could match any color.
How did studying in Montreal, inspire you?
It’s a city that totally embraces art. People there think that being an artist is a valid pursuit. They don’t ask you how you make money, like they do in Toronto, where I lived before moving to this small town where my husband and I are now, Lakefield.
What influenced your realistic style, in particular?
My father was a realistic painter. I got interested in that style during my last year of high school. It’s not like I was painting since I was a child.
Your use of drapes and folds is a significant part of your style. What artists influenced you in that regard?
I loved Caravaggio. I knew I could never own his work, so I thought I’d better use some of his techniques. Gerhard Richter is also incredibly compelling. Bernini’s sculpture is another inspiration.
What are some of your favorite cities or locations?
The Meatpacking District in New York. It’s gritty and down-to-earth. I find New Orleans so vibrant and it has so much character. I love Venice, too. It’s the coolest place on earth.
These are authentic places, not fantasy, yet your images often seem like fantasy, not real.
Yes, my figures are removed from the real world; they have significant emotional space, internal drama. My images are a little strange, too, they’re not just beautiful. I don’t idealize the human body.
What will you be doing in five years?
I won’t change my medium, which is oil. I’m excited about the possibility of changing directions, but I don’t know what it will be.
Anne-Marie Kornachuk’s works are available for viewing at RJD Gallery in Sag Harbor, 90 Main Street. 631-725-1161, rjdgalery.com. She will be having a solo exhibit at the gallery in May 2014.