Sculpture artist M.J. Anderson will tell you that she sculpts because someone needed to portray the female form differently. See for yourself in ANTIDOTE, an exhibition of her work on display now through Dec. 5 at the San Juan Islands Museum of Art (SJIMA) in Friday Harbor.
Edges of Light, Sea Siren, Eyrie
“Everyone finds a way to give voice to how they’re feeling,” offered Anderson whose marble torsos redefine historical norms of how the female form is viewed. “For me, the stone is my voice. “ “For centuries male artists have created sculptures that present women as objects of desire in poses designed to titillate. “Women have a different perspective,” she explained. “And, since traditionally, there have been so few women who worked with marble, my work expresses a woman’s body in her own right, with a message that says, “I am enough.’”
She often finds ideas in discarded chunks of marble that carry imperfections, fault lines that she transforms into art that celebrates the strength of survival and the power of certainty. Anderson has been carving marble and travertine and onyx from Carrara, Italy for over 30 years. When cooler weather moves into her studio in Oregon, she travels to the coastal community known for its translucent and pristine stone. There she gets dusty slicing and carving some of the most beautiful marble in the world. When it’s time to move back, she ships her works in progress to Oregon where she sands and polishes each piece, bringing light and purpose to each one.
The stone sculptor describes herself as an “artist dealing with personal, social and political themes” who “carves stone because I feel it is the least artificial of art forms and the most enduring to our humanity. "When I make sculpture,” she reflects, “I’m making artifacts. I’m making work out of material that’s going to last. It’s leaving a mark, an acknowledgment, a sacred object for the future, and that gives me great comfort."
In addition to the works on display at SJIMA, several of which were created for the current exhibit, Anderson’s work includes a pair of marble figures flanking the entrance to the Justice Center in Salem, Oregon, and a five-ton marble sculpture called Witness: Women of the Resurrection for a church in Ohio.
She is a recipient of numerous awards including an Oregon Arts Commission Individual Artist Fellowship and a Ford Family Foundation Opportunity Grant. She has taught design and sculpture at Marylhurst University, Sitka Center for Art & Ecology and the Northwest Stone Sculptors Association.
Speaking recently from Cinque Terre, one of five small villages north of Carrara, Anderson was asked about her legacy, and how she would like to be remembered. She said that she hopes her work connects with the viewer and allows them to be open to new ideas and new feelings.
“I’m hopeful my work will make accessing that deep feeling easier,” she said. “I’d like to be remembered for that,” she continued. “And that I make a pretty good marionberry cobbler.”
ANTIDOTE continues at the San Juan Islands Museum of Art through December 5. Museum hours are Friday to Monday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; admission is $10; free to members and those under 18, and Mondays are Pay As You Can Days. The museum is located at 540 Spring St in Friday Harbor. Call 360-370-5050 for more information or visit www.sjima.org.