I draw and paint, plein air and in-studio works, public figurative statuary for my art series, the Anna Pierrepont Series.
The images are often combined with words into pictorial essays that explore the traumatic and often violent erasure of collective and personal memories that arise in both the installation and removals of public statues.
The Anna Pierrepont Series, unsurprisingly, is being caught up in the rising tide of the evictions of objects and the backlash to the evictions since the rise to power of the current American president, particularly since Charlottesville.
Recently, I have begun creating images of the actual removals, antihistory paintings of sorts that, in their material natures, reveal the forcing of memory’s erasure as it unfolds and accelerates in the contemporary moment.
These latest works (in addition to earlier pieces with the similar themes) have been assembled into my “Bonfire of the Vanities from the Anna Pierrepont Series,” partially named after the destruction of artworks in Renaissance Florence at the urging of a reactionary friar.
The pictorial essays are being published worldwide in popular, literary, and academic publications, in addition to being exhibited in academic and other public exhibition spaces, and open studios, in NYC and elsewhere, including exhibitions on public and political art featuring numerous works from the series.
The series’ central purpose is to interrogate how groups come to “speak through the city” by additions of artworks to public places and how this power can shift between groups thus marooning the objects that speak for the past in the present with often unhappy consequences, including evictions and violence relating to evictions.
I encourage viewers to recognize the dissonance between earlier epochs’ efforts to shape memory and identity in marble and bronze products of the artistic imagination, where the persuasive power of the objects has become exhausted, leaving the objects vulnerable to real and rhetorical bonfires.
My images come into being through visual encounters with objects that have somehow survived the bonfires of the past and that can be represented in the perpetual present transformed by dynamic changes in light and color in things, ideally encountered out of doors, and that have originally been created by other artists.
I have named the entire project after Anna Marie Pierrepont, a grand dame of 19th-century Brooklyn interred in one of the most magnificent tombs in Green-Wood Cemetery in walking distance from my home in Brooklyn, New York.
I named the series after Anna because I recognized in her strident efforts to maintain her memory and the ultimate failure of that effort, something of the hapless Ozymandias from antiquity and his trunkless legs of stone in the vast desert of Shelley’s poem and more recently with Nathan Bedford Forrest and his horse hanging from a grappling hook in 2018.
HOWARD SKRILL is an artist and educator living in Brooklyn, New York. His pictorial essays have recently been published in Freezeray, ArtIs On, and Streetlight, and his art has appeared in numerous solo and group exhibitions. You can learn more on his blog howardskrill.blogspot.com.