All in the Brush Strokes

Anne Austin builds movement with layers.


Anne Austin likes creating and painting eye-popping screens, though they are taking a backseat these days to her color field paintings.

Courtesy of Anne Austin

Anne Austin has a problem with screens. The Alameda resident and artist paints them, large and small. Some beholders, including Austin, see them as fine art, while others think of them as furniture. Regardless, they are intriguing artistic endeavors: The big ones often jut with jagged edges and let light through cutout shapes on wood layered with colors and textures of paint. Usually three to four panels wide, they can act as a visual focal point or serve a utilitarian purpose and have varied front and back sides. Made of high-grade white birch plywood, they fold up and are transportable, “like a surfboard,” Austin said, demonstrating at her Embarcadero studio in Oakland.

Large abstract color field paintings—dubbed “choppy Rothkos” by her artist-curator son, Anthony Pinata—in vibrant and subdued hues hung on the studio walls, while the screens stood sentry along the edges of the room.

“They don’t know what to do with them,” she said, showing off her latest screen marked with drawn guidelines, taped-off shapes, and acrylic paint—“Oil is caustic,” she said—applied with quick brush strokes.

Courtesy of Anne Austin

“I tried small ones,” she said, indicating a miniature on her desk and another mounted as a curiously inspired 3-D painting.

Austin is curator/coordinator of the San Pablo Art Gallery. She has taught art and was a legal secretary. She took up art in high school at Piedmont High School and continued it at today’s California College of the Arts.

Of late, her screens have taken a backseat to the color field paintings that use nubby, stubby coats of shades and colors to express movement, energy, and emotion. An occasional representational figure—a bird, bug, or butterfly—made their way onto the varying soothing and exuberant abstracts that graced the studio hallway. One painting, Tibetan Elephant, incorporated pinkish-white whirls with intricate elephants rising in white from the surface; Austin deftly added them with caulk pressed through a pastry sack.

Austin has completed commissions—Pegasus and a pastoral scene among others—on ceilings and walls, and her most recent mural is inside Twin Towers Methodist Church above the choir area and pipe organ. It’s a billowy cloud-filled scene with bird and rainbow of biblical proportion.


Published online on Dec. 14, 2016 at 8:00 a.m.

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