“Anne Diggory: All in a Day’s Work,” layers the past and present through painting and photography to give viewers a captivatingly fractured look at the Adirondacks.
The combination is perhaps most starkly present in “Out of Place in Huletts Landing,” one of the first pieces in the exhibition at the Albany Institute of History and Art. Half the sky is a vibrant blue, while the other half is pale, echoing the tone of an old photograph. In the foreground rests a bright yellow and red pool float, contrasting with the pale background.
From her Saratoga Springs home and studio, Diggory has spent many years researching the Hudson River School, specifically the locations around Lake George and the Adirondacks that artists like John Frederick Kensett painted. She’s given lectures on the topic and written articles on it. Thus, the works of the Hudson River School artists have become part of her perspective.
“When I’m standing on the shore of Lake George, I can see their vision of that landscape," Diggory said. "So, it’s part of my vision, it’s part of my experience. By combining it [with my work] I’m placing myself in relation to them, but then creating a more contemporary view of it. It’s a fractured vision, but I think that’s the way I see and express things.”
In works like “Shoreline Retrospective II,” she layers painting with photography, with present day scenes and prints from Hudson River School artists. Each medium is so intertwined with the next, that it can be difficult to tell which parts have been painted and which are photographs.
It’s especially difficult to tell in “Float,” as the canvas seems to dapple the sky and lake, rather than the other way around. The piece is grounded by a bright yellow float and, no matter how long one stares, it’s difficult to tell whether it’s painted or part of a photograph.
Diggory’s process is complex and varies from piece to piece.
Usually, she’ll go out to paint on site early in the day, staying sometimes until dusk to capture varying visions of light. Sometimes shortly after and other times years later, she’ll take the paintings, scan them into Photoshop and layer it with a Hudson River School print. Then, depending on the piece, she might continue to paint it.
In the Albany Institute's gallery, notebooks detailing her process rest on the bench, each entry slightly different from the next.
Though her works in “All in a Day’s Work” feature fractions of works from the 19th century art movement, she doesn’t necessarily strive to create in the style of the Hudson River School.
“It’s a redirection of vision from their's more than an adoption of vision,” Diggory said.
“There are artists who actually paint in the style of the Hudson River School," Diggory continued. "That doesn’t interest me whatsoever. But I enjoy the challenge of trying to put their vision in the context of mine. You’ll notice in those works, their vision is usually a pretty small part of the image I’ve made.”
Using fractions of their work points to another focus of the show — the Diggory’s artistic choices, how she shapes the narrative or the composition of her works.
While putting the show together, it was challenging to whittle down which series or works would best reveal those choices, according to Diggory.
In one series, done at Crane Point on Blue Mountain Lake, Diggory’s watercolors take viewers through her more immediate process, capturing the morning fog over the water (“Crane Point 2”), as well as the midday light (“Crane Point 3”).
Later on in the series, she returns to those pieces and builds off of them with the intensely bright “Crane Point 4” and then with “Crane Point 6,” in which she inserts a self-portrait in the corner of the piece. She depicts herself working on “Crane Point 2,” capturing the fog even as the sun is shining in the piece. It points to the passing of time, not only in the environment but in the artist’s process.
“The title ‘All in a Day's Work’ refers both to the nature of the inspiration for the artworks — an intense experience in a single day that inspired work that day as well as much later when I returned to the material — and the artistic choices that are part of any artist's ongoing work,” Diggory said.
The exhibition is on view at the Albany Institute of History and Art through August 18. For more information visit albanyinstitute.org.
If you go:
“A Brilliant Bit of Color: The Work of Walter Launt Palmer,” opened at the Institute this week, featuring watercolor paintings, pastels, pencil drawings by the artist and son of Albany sculptor Erastus Dow Palmer. The exhibit also includes a rare painted ceramic cup from Palmer and personal letters and photographs that give viewers a glimpse into the artist’s life. The exhibit will be up through the end of the year.