Ann Reckling INterview  /  KC ARtist Link


Written by Blair Schulman, 2010

Ann Reckling

With an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, along with a background in writing for MTM Productions and Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, Ann Reckling understands the nuances of balancing ideas and stories. She learned to write medical dialogue and black comedy under a time crunch while putting words in the mouths of Denzel Washington, Howie Mandel, Alfrie Woodard, Mark Harmon, David Morse, and Ed Begley, Jr. Creating for television has made Ann appreciate the impetus of having a deadline.

When Ann isn't making art, she teaches fiction, poetry, and television at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. She is currently developing new courses on the architecture of drama and comedy. This stimulates the language needs of her brain, while creating art in her home studio in the Kansas City neighborhood of Brookside fulfills a visual and tactile drive. Ann is also married to the novelist D.K.Smith whose titles include Nothing Disappears and Missing Persons. Kim Smith is currently editing his third novel.

Ann constructs assemblages in a tactile mode. Her discovery of rusted artifacts, along with collecting debilitated detritus, weathered windows, and old doors, has led to the current practice of creating rust art triggered by narrative or elliptical text.

Thanks to the academic schedule of Ann and her husband, she spends the summers working in her studio on a small solar-powered island that was once a camping spot for fishing guides in eastern Ontario, Canada.

Ann first discovered these rusted pieces off-island on a day trip with an octogenarian friend, a Dutch painter living nearby who was showing her local points of interest. About an hour north of their lakes they stopped at a rural antiques shop, and, while meandering among some sheds, Ann found a heart-stopping stash of weathered windows, doors, and shutters. Turning a corner, she discovered rusted tools and bits of things sitting in rainwater-filled bins, lying in the grass, and hanging from old hooks on an outbuilding. It was Ann's first connection with wabi-sabi, the Japanese celebration of weathered and distressed objects and of the passage of time that renders things chipped, faded, oxidized, or otherwise 'imperfect.' Moved by this color palette, Ann has been hooked ever since, happily seeking rust wherever she goes.

At first this reverence for rust seemed eccentric; however, now that the culture embraces recycling and repurposing, Ann's rust work has been deemed hip by virtue of being 'green.' As Ann herself says, "The only thing greener than green is brown. Context and fashion may sway our sense of the latest and the greatest, but rust is timeless and always well worn. It's history without a facelift."

She goes on to say, "I think the cathartic component in my art is the subverted expectation, the surprise of the unexpected. The presentation of rust as beautiful is a subverted expectation in itself." When text from literature, advertising, or popular culture is part of the mix, the result has the potential to engender a moment of discovery tweaked by the unconventional. Ann muses, "In television parlance we call this moment the button; the button is cathartic when it inspires a glint, a nod, a satisfying sense of punctuation" for the viewer.

The approach that works best for Ann in the business end of her art is the philosophy of the slow build: It took years for her to heed the advice of friends and actually give her assemblage a public unveiling. Once she did, with the addition of a web site, and a Facebook presence, people have responded enthusiastically. Ann acknowledges the generous nature of local arts organizations that have made Kansas City an inspiring home for the past three years; she has especially benefited from the support of the Artist,INC workshop series and Joel Schlotterer's Guerilla Curating, as well as from the Strecker-Nelson Gallery in Manhattan, Kansas, where she showed her first rust work in 2007.

Ann has recently shown at Room 39, a Kansas City bistro showcasing the work of local artists on a rotating basis. She is also creating new pieces for the Artists Coalition auction in February and the second annual Rust Show at Dan Freuh's Trap Gallery in October 2011. As with other recent pieces, the inception for the visual springs from the verbal, the sources of her rust aphorisms varying widely from advertising slogans to vernacular expressions to literary quotations. Says Ann, "Once I get a phrase in my head, I tend to toy with it, infusing it with rhetorical manipulations to please my ear. When the result suggests a visual that feels rust-worthy, I build on that."

Ann also plans to return to her assemblage roots with mirrors, which are among her earliest constructions. She has wanted to create mirror art in the style of French trumeaux, which traditionally combine motifs of the harvest with reflective glass on wood panels. This combination offers intriguing applications for what she does, and she believes the mirror is the perfect site of duality when positioned as art. Ann explains, "The viewer is both the observer and the subject, remaining physically outside the frame, yet being invited to cross a threshold, to enter a figurative portal to a new perspective."

Whether it be rust, text, mirrors, or subverted expectations: Ann Reckling hopes 2011 will include some buttons of its own.