On The Art of Annie Dover
by John David Ebert
Walking the salmon pink streets of the Plaza in Santa Fe, my attention was momentarily distracted by a small painting hanging on the wall of the Sugarman-Peterson Gallery. The painting, as it turns out, is entitled Streaming Light, and it depicts a lone woman in a blue dress sitting at a table in the Blue Corn Cafe quietly perusing a menu. She is the only person depicted in the painting, and I was at once drawn into the private world interior of her quiet, pensive silence. The emotional space drew me in like a planet pulled in by the curvature of the space warped by the mass of large stellar objects: her silence was the loudest thing on the street.
After inquiring of the owner, I discovered that the painting was done by one Annie Dover, a periodic occupant of Santa Fe, with her primary home situated in San Diego. And to my delight, the owner revealed a whole collection of paintings by this extraordinary Southwestern artist who has busied herself with mapping out the emotional contours of the Internet Age, an age which supposedly, through electronic technology, includes everybody, but which yet–as is evident in the art of Annie Dover–has ejected the individual subjectivity into ever more private, withdrawn and isolated emotional interiors.
“Who, if I cried out, among the angelic hierarchies / would hear me?” announced the poet Rilke in the first of his 1923 Duino Elegies. That annunciation was echoed by Heidegger in his 1927 Being and Time, in which he revealed that the ontological status of the contemporary inhabitant of the twentieth century was characterized by being-in-the-world as being thrown into the world, and therefore excluded from all cosmic immune systems. As the philosopher Peter Sloterdijk puts it, there have been three metaphysical world ages in the first of which being-in-the-world in the pre-metaphysical age meant being taken up into the body of the Great Mother during the epoch of Egypt and ancient Sumer. With the rise of the metaphphysical world age in the time of Homer and Moses, however, being-in-the-world meant being in the mind of the Father, for with the second generation of high civilization the powers of the Great Mother have been appropriated by the paternal vulva which has taken from the Great Mother her creative powers and turned them over to demiurges like Zeus and Yahweh who give birth to the logos from out of their own heads, just as Athena, the goddess of reason, is born, not from the mother’s body, but from the head of Zeus. In the post-metaphysical age, however, the individual has been simply thrown into the world in a state of shell-lessness, unprotected by any immune systems whatsoever, and exposed to the hazards of a world interior that has deworlded him from any and all locality whatsoever.
Observe the plight of the young woman in Waiting: she sits on a couch, by herself, in a tasteful living room gazing away from the viewer and looking quietly out the window. What she is waiting for we do not know: perhaps it is an Orpheus whom she is yearning will come to liberate her from captivity in the Underworld of global capitalism in which electronic technologies that have rendered the far near and the near far have come to exclude them.
The woman at her laptop in Greensleaves, with her back, significantly, turned away from the viewer, in a corner of some global cafe, is in dialogue with the art of German Romantic painters like Georg Friedrich Kersting’s Woman Embroidering who likewise sits with her back to the viewer as she works upon some hidden textile.
The difference, however, between the two worlds is one of entirely differing ontologies: in Kersting’s art, his protagonists are embedded in the metaphysical world of Infinite Space in which strong Subjects confronted Objects in a realm in which meaning was guaranteed and anchored in the various Transcendental Signifieds that guaranteed that there was a meaning to the world they occupied; whereas the protagonists of the art of Annie Dover exist in private world spaces into which they have been cast off by a public sphere that has failed to take them into account, and situate them in a horizon of meaning. Dover’s subjects are “beings who have been abandoned by Being,” as Heidegger would put it.
The woman in Expresso, gazing into the electronic window of her laptop is participating in a technology that, far from what it advertises as “social media” is making her feel more alone than ever before. The virtual entities and avatars animated by the world space of cyberspace have receded away from her across a horizon that is ever more and more remote. As the world interior of capital has grown, so the micro-spaces of individuals who feel excluded from it has receded into ever smaller and more remote world corners. Like the various objects of the art of Joseph Beuys–pianos covered in felt, or records soaked in paint–which have receded from functionality and withdrawn from any ability whatsoever to communicate their traditional functions as objects embedded within a world horizon that gave them their meaning–what Heidegger called Zuhandenheit--so the entities in the broken, fragmented worlds of Annie Dover have inexplicably lost their ability to communicate.
Indeed, the very fact that they never meet the viewer’s eye emphasizes and highlights their disengagement from all human feedback loops. Unlike the portrait studies of the various individuals of Renaissance and Baroque art, who meet the viewer’s gaze as transcendental Subjectivities embedded in a functioning macrosphere, the entities in Dover’s works have come unplugged from all collective social assemblages whatsoever. The world into which they are supposed to be protected by meaningful metaphysical immune systems has failed them. They have been disincluded from the world interior of capital.
The girl in Street Singer who plays her guitar on the street in front of the cafe window has averted her gaze from the viewer and is focused only upon the object that gives her any kind of meaning at all. The failure to meet the viewer’s gaze suggests a breakdown and fragmentation of the social order. The viewer, try though he or she might, simply cannot reach into the worlds of these individuals and connect to them. The age of connectivity does not, it seems, apply to the social order, but only the gadgets that illuminate a virtual world from within.
It was Gunther Anders who said that the advent of the television into the living room significantly changed the seating patterns of what had previously been the Family Dinner: instead of meeting each other’s gazes directly across the table and fostering community and conversation, the television averts their gazes from each other to form an intersubjective communion with the new Electronic Presence that cuts through such relationships and melts them down with its swimming-pool blue plasma.
The art of Annie Dover is an art that drew me out of my own private space as a flaneur and brought me, through their powerful emotional cartographies, into the quiet corners of the various cafes and restaurants in which such lonesome and solemn individuals go on with their lives disconnected from Being. She is a profound poet of the soul of contemporary hypermodernity: her work belongs to the same world horizons as the poetry of Rilke or the paintings of Edward Hopper. They seem to suggest that there is something in the human soul that is not being reached by the new technologies of planetary shrinkage that make the earth ever smaller in direct proportion to the degree to which it makes individuals ever more and more cut off from one another. The various feedback loops created by smartphones and laptops increasingly disconnect the relations of individuals from one another and foster linkages with tiny self-luminous machines that beckon with a phantasmatic power for them to leave their bodies and become avatars in an electronic phase space that retrieves the age of stained glass with all its Biblical denizens and their profound and meaningful agonies. The avataric entities in the electronic phase space, however, are slick, glib and essentially meaningless. They touch only the surfaces of the human subjectivity and fail–as was the job of poetry once upon a time–to reach inside their souls and turn the inner world into the outer landscape of social significations.
You cannot afford to overlook her art and it is now available for sale at the Sugarman-Peterson gallery in Santa Fe.
Here is the link to their website: http://sugarmanpetersongallery.com
The paintings are affordable and I highly recommend snatching them up before they recede into the world interior of capitalism itself that is currently encasing the planet in an etheric hypersphere of deworlded entities and circulating numbers.