FACETIME- War-torn artist: Fissures fueled Slaughter's fires
Anne Slaughter saw the film Mrs. Henderson Presents, and she walked out shaking. Set in WWII-era Britain, the story stirred memories of the Belgian-born artist's childhood, when her doctor-turned-paratrooper father endured the London Blitz, and her mother spent six months shepherding seven-year-old Slaughter and her younger brother to England to join him.
"Within two weeks, we were both in boarding school, not knowing a word of English," she recalls.
Slaughter, now 71, remembers seeing bombed houses with walls torn away when her family returned to Belgium three years later. Her thoughts about time passing, the effects of violence, and what endures– especially within nature– eventually fueled much of the work included in the exhibition "Terra Incognita: Anne Slaughter, Forty Years," a retrospective now on view at Les Yeux de Monde and Second Street Gallery.
Although Slaughter grew up drawing, she first became serious about art as a restless young mother. She had met her husband, Edward, while he was in Belgium on a Rotary scholarship, and he brought her to Charlottesville in 1957. Slaughter worked for three years as a sociologist at the UVA hospital but left for fulltime motherhood. After the birth of her second child in 1963, she decided to begin auditing university art courses.
Twelve years later, Slaughter became one of the founding members of the McGuffey Art Center. Up to that point, she had been painting in her basement. Her McGuffey studio marked a turning point. "It really made me a professional," she says, explaining that she learned how to exhibit and how to make slides from other McGuffey artists.
"It's not consciously that we would tell each other what we did, but there was a lot of energy," she says. "It really was a home away from home."
Initially a landscape painter, Slaughter began experimenting with a range of media and exploring new directions, often inspired by her travels and always with an eye toward nature and time. "I would say I'm an organic person," she says. "I've always loved natural things, lichens, the small patterns of nature, textures.
"What happened with me is I started with landscape," she says, "and I found my own vocabulary of semi-abstractness"
Second Street Gallery's Leah Stoddard calls Slaughter "daring" in the intuitive way she approaches her materials. "She has a rare ability to step back from a piece and do something radical with it to make it work," Stoddard says, noting that Slaughter has been known to gash paintings and insert metal and stone in the fissures.
With the retrospective behind her, Slaughter plans to write a book about her childhood. She's also contemplating a new series of paintings exploring memory and landscape.
"The land is knocking on the door," she says.
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO