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Anne Labovitz lands two hometown shows

A piece from Anne Labovitz's "Journey," a dual show being exhibited downtown. Image courtesy of the artist

Aspiring globetrotter Anne Labovitz has been a lot of places and seen a lot of faces. Yet, Duluth's wayward daughter has never forgotten about her hometown. This week marked the opening of not one, but two, exhibits downtown featuring the artist's wares.

"For me, this show represents a really different turn in my art career, so I'm really excited about it," the painter said of "Journey," which is split between Lizzard's and the North Shore Bank of Commerce.

Labovitz, who now lives in St. Paul with her husband and kids, was in town this week for the show's Wednesday opening. She told the Budgeteer that "Journey" is all new, consisting of textural and layered work.

Explaining her art's newfound directions, the Duluth native nodded to Harold Adams, an oil painter in his 80s whom she's known for the better part of the last three decades. (They met at university -- she was securing majors in philosophy and art, and art was something he turned to after retiring.)

"He wanted to make sure that I understood what he is doing, so I learned his technique," Labovitz said of her friend, whose studio -- dare I digress -- is in the same row as one of F. Scott Fitzgerald's former residences.

Despite being a fan of Adams' precious oil-based paints -- she called them "intangibly excellent" during our interview -- she's always preferred the faster-drying acrylic paints.

"I thought, Well, how can I extrapolate that really exciting technique?" Labovitz said of her fondness for Adams' approach to making art. "I went on an explorative path ... and that's where the layering comes from. Many of [the 'Journey' pieces] are really glossy and have a different sort of textural feel that my work didn't have before."

Seeing as how a large chunk of the "Journey" material consists of labor-intensive paintings --Labovitz said many of them contain at least 20 layers -- another advantage to eschewing oils reveals itself.

"One of the benefits to acrylics is that you can, theoretically, do two layers in a day," said Labovitz, whose grandmother, Ella, was also a well-known painter. "That you could never do in an oil painting, especially the way that I'm doing it. I work really hard, so I have a day shift and a night shift -- I work during the day while the kids are at school and after they go to bed -- so I can treat paintings in the morning and re-retreat them in the late evening."

Labovitz is able to carry on such sporadic, at-her-convenience hours because she works at home, in a basement studio lovingly referred to as "The Dungeon." (For more on this curious space, do yourself a favor and check out "A Dozen Dungeon Days," her hot-off-the-presses book with fellow artist Carole Best.) One big plus to Labovitz having her own space is that, when something isn't working out, she can just turn those frustrating ones against the wall and not deal with them for a few days, weeks or, as it turns out, much longer.

"There are three paintings at the bank -- which I think are dynamite -- which I started probably 15 years ago," said Labovitz, who learned the trick from her grandmother. "They were finished, but I didn't really feel them.

"So I sanded them down and re-attacked them...."

Before finishing her thought, Labovitz's face turns slightly sinister and she makes -- a smile bursting through -- the deathly sound of her power sander.

"So," she continued casually, as if power-sander noises were somehow normal or expected sounds during an interview, "they have that wonderful history of 15 years -- but then they got sanded and treated for four months ... so they're actually new. I would consider them brand-new work. But they're 15 years old."

Not only does Labovitz find these new/old ones beautiful because of their history -- some were even started when her husband's work found the family living overseas -- but because they're the product of her determination to approach every day as a new day, artistically speaking.

"This experimental approach is really different for me as an artist than how I used to paint," she said. "There's a certain process of discovery that I find really, really, really exciting and captivating -- and sort of hard to stop, actually.

"I will push further. I will go somewhere. I don't know where I will go for sure, but I will go further."

NEWS TO USE

Anne Labovitz's "Journey" will be on display through Sept. 8 downtown at Lizzard's and North Shore Bank of Commerce. Find out more about this Duluth-born painter at www.labovitz.com.

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