The prolific, down-to-earth and exceptional Anne Austin Pearce, a Kansas City artist for as long as I can remember, has departed for Aliso Viego, California, to teach at Soka University, a four-year liberal arts college. Our loss is Soka’s great gain.
She’s leaving behind a narrative of artistic excellence, warmth, collegiality and a 20-year teaching history at Rockhurst University, coupled with her directorship of the university’s Greenlease Gallery.
While her exhibitions in the gallery space are too numerous to list, artists included Jennifer Boe, Christopher Leitch, Chris Weaver, Ke-Sook Lee, Mark Cowardin and Michael Krueger. Pearce also gave venue to Whoop Dee Doo, featuring Cody Cricheloe performing with SSION. Her curatorial duties included working with the University’s Van Ackeren Collection of Religious Art, about which Loren Whittaker wrote her University of Kansas dissertation, “An American Jesuit Treasury of Religious Art: The Van Ackeren Collection in the Greenlease Gallery at Rockhurst University.”
At Soka, Pearce will teach drawing and painting and will lead a creative forum. As she has always done, she will focus energies on providing a new set of experiences for students, exposing them to other cultures and multiple types of art and artists. One of her dreams is to “make a library of experiences” for students, knowing that important interdisciplinary encounters all feed into the artistic process. She will also have a studio on campus to continue her own work.
Pearce has shown her own work all over the world and is a recipient of a Charlotte Street Foundation Visual Artist Award, a Lighton Foundation Artist Exchange grant, two Rockhurst Presidential Grants, and has been awarded artist residencies in Sicily, Malaysia, France, Mauritius, Mexico, Spain, Australia and at Wyoming’s Ucross Foundation, among others.
Pearce’s abstract work, about which much has been written, including by me, has always felt organic, sensual, and in some ways, vulnerable. She seems to expose herself and her subjects — be they organic things, aquatic life or flora — to our scrutiny. That openness may encourage us to look on with a tender inquisitiveness; it is perhaps a mirror of Pearce’s pursuit of communion with her subjects and her fellow humans. Whether her works are monumental 61-foot painted scrolls or tiny 5-by-7-inch works on paper, the paintings can seem so delicate and detailed as to frame intimacy and yet thrill with their enormous dynamic energy and abstracted forms.
In typical Anne Austin Pearce fashion, when asked to comment on her artistic and work life in Kansas City, Pearce said, “thankful.”
Us too, girl.