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Reverence for nature, responsible for its well-being
by Bridget Brier
Daniel Anthonisen has faith in Mother Nature. "I believe that in really contemplating nature and ourselves it is easy to see that we are all of the earth, all a part of the same nature. We are literally all part of the same thing, and so to have a love of this thing is to have a sense of responsibility," the 38-year-old Point Pleasant artist explains.
Anthonisen is fueled by this feeling of duty, which is apparent in his carefully considered landscapes and character studies.
"It is hard to imagine someone who devotes his life to an artistic field, to really contemplating and being creative with integrity, to not naturally fostering a sense of responsibility," he says.
As Anthonisen stands in his Bucks County studio amid countless canvases and inspirational detritus, explaining scene after painted scene, one is instantly aware of his innate ability to render the substantive transparency of water.
More often than not, Anthonisen's landscapes include a river or lake. (The nearby Delaware is a favorite muse.) Even portraits take place amid this element as in his painting, "Dad Fishing," which shows the slightly stooped shoulders of his father, alone in a fishing boat.
Sunlight rests on the tops of the trees and the water is dark and deep. The light that falls on his father's back seems reverent, but one is aware that there is still a mystery about the subject.
"I have an uncle in Tennessee, my father's younger brother, who tells me one of the first questions people ask him in his town is what church he belongs to and he replies that his church is on the river when he is fishing. Fishing has always been pretty big in my family," Anthonisen says.
Unlike a lot of artists who might receive a compliment with an affected shrug, Anthonisen is not one to hide his emotions, often responding to accolades with a "Wow, thanks."
Portrait of Mom
He is as earnest to paint, as he is to seek out the truth behind his paintings. Anthonisen elaborated on this in a written statement about his creative process. "It takes energy to participate in life, to get involved and to have fun. My paintings are a celebration of the energy necessary to observe outwardly and inwardly what is taking place. I want to get the subject into my soul, as well as provide insight into what I value inwardly, offered as an outward perception. I explore things as objectively as possible, dwelling on the subject and observing its depth. It is initially spontaneous and may lead to a deeper exploration.
"I don't want to limit myself in what I am exploring. I paint what I am drawn to and ask myself:‘What is the significance, why this subject, what is the meaning of this relationship?’ "
Anthonisen's formal education includes a bachelor of Fine Arts from Carnegie Mellon and study with Frank Acuri, a Delaware Valley artist. After that have followed awards, commissions, and group and solo exhibitions but much of Anthonisen's artistic education came from his home life, years before college. He cites Andrew Wyeth as one of his main inspirations, specifically Wyeth's magical take on the commonplace.
Anthonisen has lived in Bucks County since he was little over a year old so he has had much time to contemplate the river that he paints so often. In his painting "Delaware Flooding," the dirt-heavy waters fill the canvas so that the shoreline is nowhere to be seen. For anyone who has had to suffer through the last several floodings of the Delaware the picture alludes to irrevocable destruction and loss.
Even so, there is hope. In Anthonisen's painting, the clouds are parting and the water is just beginning to settle. It is not over yet, but the river will subside.
Delaware River Flooding
"Most of my paintings are intimate, emotional, personal experiences. I usually prefer the natural to the manicured. There is a degree of chaos but also a search for order in composition and meaning. Respectively I strive to achieve an order that is aesthetically pleasing and to achieve an order that provides clear thinking and clear observation," Anthonisen said in a general statement about his paintings.
In one of his character studies "Portrait of Mom," his mother, Ellen looks off the canvas with a benevolent light shining down on her. The painting, which rests on an easel in his father's Bucks County studio, is a striking likeness. Ellen acknowledges, "It is the most accurate portrait anyone has ever painted of me."
For Daniel Anthonisen the creation of art is so much more than anyone's resulting creation. "Our perception of reality is effected by the values we reinforce. In many ways it seems important to make more people feel involved and able to participate in exploring the value of art in our society instead of it appearing to be something of the elite."
This artist will not rest at mere creation. "To educate people on the value of art is to educate them on the value of self-knowledge. Self-knowledge is crucial because the transactions of the world are through individuals."