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Carl AnnalaSketch Pad

Carl Annala
Shapes of things
by Kathy Anderson

arl Annala doesn’t limit his artistic endeavors to painting and photography. He’s also spent the last 17 years touring the Portland club scene with one band or another, and he and his wife used to own and operate Katherine’s Body Piercing and Jewelry Salon. Carl, born and raised in McMinnville, Ore., moved to Portland to attend Pacific Northwest College of Art; he’s lived here on and off for 20 years.

The thrill of it all
Carl Annala believes that art objectifies its subject – that works of art are just things.

Jumbo Shrimp
"Jumbo Shrimp," oil on canvas.

"Art as an object, and objectification of a subject, is not simple or clear," he said.

"Objectification is not necessarily a negative thing. It's in the way the subject/object/vehicle is used where a morality may lie. The object exploits us. The artist and viewer get a vicarious thrill out of this exploitation.

"This object-ness is made absolutely concrete by Modernism, so well aided by Greenberg and others. The fact that we react to them emotionally tells us that we are human.

"Remember, in most instances painting is an illusion," he said. "And pure painting exalts its object-ness. With figurative or abstract work, the artist can lead the viewer to varying degrees, but during most interactions the viewer will find their own tenor for the painting's vehicle. This means that a single painting can elicit many different reactions, and hopefully so."

Shock treatment
Object belief does not mean that Carl isn't emotionally engaged while painting; he is. But the emotions are mostly related to his performance as technician.

Song in White
"Song in White," oil on canvas over panel.

"It's very much a love/hate thing," he said. "I will have already committed to my tenor and vehicle before touching paint to canvass. My specific emotions, as related to the subjects I choose, vary."

Carl loves to tease and titillate, and admits he's interested in the shock value some of his works provoke.

"I'm just as interested as De Ribera, Frances Bacon and David Lynch in shocking the viewer," he said. "But, like them, I'm also interested in beauty. Otherwise I would not paint – I'd run around naked shooting people. It's refreshingly quaint to think people can still be shocked by art. That's Oregon!"

Dawn of the Dead #2
"Dawn of the Dead #2," photograph.

Take a message
Carl's bullet paintings came out of his recent MFA thesis at Portland State University. They were inspired by surrealist photography from the1920s-40s: Man Ray, Brassai and Ubec, and the writings of Rosalind Krauss, Linda Williams and Sue Taylor.

"I'm not as interested in the violence implicated, as in the sexual metaphors and the references they make to the castration complex or the medusa complex," he said. "I've been called 'the evil Wayne Thiebaud' by art historian Charles Colbert.

"I am, however, interested in the power of painting and photography to make even the most gruesome topics beautiful or seductive. Many do not identify the image as bullets right away. I delight in this misidentification – hoping that the colors, forms and the paint itself will seduce the viewer into lingering long enough for the initial image to be recognized, then meditated on.

"Often people attach their own 'message,' regardless of what I was trying to do. It's frustrating and fascinating at the same time."

"Chocolate," oil on canvas.

Man in the mirror
The surgical imagery is a theme Carl has been working with for several years. There is, he says, no science fiction involved; all the sources are actual surgical images.

"I am heavily invested in realism," he said. "We fear surgery on a primal level, yet it is beautiful and works for the most part. It has a much stronger shock value than horror fiction – surrealism is stronger when coming from a believable or real paradigm."

A series of 20 self-portraits represents Carl at different points in his life – from age four to the present. Many depict characters he played on stage, both male and female.

"Everything an artist makes is a self portrait in some way, and it would be inhuman to say there is no turmoil to life, no vanity of self," he said. "Yes, the search goes on. One should always examine oneself whether one exhibits it or not."

Carl's Portland scenes are his memories of a changing neighborhood, a "twilight of the times."

"Just because I say some nasty things," he said, "am I not allowed to be nice as well?"

White Stag Block
"White Stag Block," acrylic on wood.

Local heroes
To Carl the most interesting artists are those who make art interesting, not interesting or cool people who make art.

"I don't create without thinking about the audience," he said. "However I do not paint for them, but to provoke their thoughts. And I certainly don't worry about what they think of me.

"People with 'images' are fascinating, though. I can say that I have been caught up in the cult of personality before and am interested in weirdoes – from Dali to Tesla and LaVey."

Self Portrait
"Self Portrait 1750," oil on canvas.

Artists who have been the biggest influence on Carl's work are almost all local to Portland: Suzanne "Fishy" Sheiffelet, Laura Ross Paul, Marckus Wolf, Rex Church, R.L. Sietz, Brendan Clennigan, Marne Lucas, Mike King, Eric Stotic, Mike Brophy, Paul Green, Bob Hanson, Harry Widman, Tom Fawkes, Lucinda Parker, Brian Koelling and Eva Lake.

"Henk Pander is one of my favorite local painters," he said. "As far as historical or current figures, I can trace an influence, but I try not to use them as a beacon or mentor. However, I am very fond of Valesquez and Ribera."

Inspiration point
Carl is motivated and inspired by the desire for certain images to become paintings.

"Sometimes it's a sense of lacking, sometimes floods of inspiration," he said. "Art theory and criticism can be inspiring or deadly. I took a class or two from Sue Taylor at Portland State University that were very inspiring."

Music also inspires Carl – particularly Part, Pendereski, Sibelius, Mayhem, Ulver, Burzum, the Moon Lay Hidden and Ludachris. Surrealist films are another mode of inspiration.

Carl exhibits his work once or twice a year in Portland. His next show is at Lovelake in November.

Unopened Love Letters
"Unopened Love Letters," oil on canvas.

Chasing the riddle
He began drawing when quite young and was painting in oils before age 10. Both parents are musicians; his father a violinist who conducted orchestra classes, his mother a pianist. They supported his art interests – up to a point.

"At times I've been told I was doing shameful things," he said. "While I can usually get some energy out of rejection, it's hard to create without that emotional backing. I guard my folks from a lot of my work."

Carl's dream: to make art all his life.

"I don't want to write or answer the riddle," he said. "I want to chase it."

E-mail Carl at Carlannala@cs.com, and check out his Web site. You can reach Kathy at kanderson138@attbi.com, and draw on other Sketch Pads.

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