An ongoing series of Q&As with some of L.A.’s most active and eclectic contemporary artists, introducing themselves to you in their own words. This week it’s painter Anne Faith Nicholls, who embraces the smooth perfection of surrealist fantasies, inflected with narrative and psychological symbols and emblems of female power.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
ANNE FAITH NICHOLLS: I was born an artist. I’ve always been creative. That said, like a true artist, I question this identity daily.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
I call my style Neosurrealism, and I create works that explore the subconscious and self-realization, through symbolism and narrative.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
I often fantasize about being a clog maker, an erotic novel writer, a park ranger or a Realtor.
Did you go to art school? Why/why not?
Yes, I loved art school. I am a proud graduate of the Academy University, with a BFA in illustration. I also studied art history abroad in Italy. I’m the first female in my family to earn a college degree. I was raised by a single mom, and my family and I worked really hard to put me through school. Making the decision to move away from the Northwest, where I grew up, to go to art school in California, was a radical shift that reset the course of my life. That said, I don’t believe art school is absolutely necessary to be an artist, as I know many successful artists who are self-taught.
But for me and my family, education was, and is, very important, and I really do feel my art degree legitimized my practice. It also armed me with an academic knowledge of art, essential for the lectures I now give at other institutions. I think that part of being an artist is forever being a student … always watching, always learning. In that spirit, since art school, most of my travel has revolved around art, and I’ve made a point to see many of the world’s masterpieces in person. These art trips have been the best times of my life, and there’s nothing like seeing a masterpiece in person. I’ll always be a student of art.
Why do you live and work in L.A.?
Los Angeles is the West Coast arts hub, no doubt about it. The convergence of the art, film, music and design industries makes it especially exciting. Anything goes and everyone has at least three gigs, so the hustle spirit is alive. And no one can complain about the beautiful weather and hot babes. I lived and worked in DTLA and Venice Beach for years, but actually, I just recently relocated to Palm Springs, where my husband and I bought a midcentury house that we fixed up. I still visit L.A. often for friends, business and shows, and still consider my art business somewhat based in Los Angeles, but for me the change was welcome.
I love Los Angeles, but the reality today is that it’s really hard to get ahead as an artist and business owner with the ridiculous rents, and nearly impossible to get into the real estate market. I think my relocation is a good example of the wave of young or midcareer creatives flocking to the “secondary cities” just outside the traditional creative hubs. Now artists, who used to be attracted to, say, Brooklyn or downtown Los Angeles, are getting creative by going a bit out of bounds, for more space and autonomy. This isn’t new; so many stars of the golden age flocked here to get away, get some space and get inspired. For me it’s the same. Los Angeles, though, will always be my West Coast anchor, and remains one of my favorite cities in the world.
When was your first show?
I’ve been exhibiting art since the late ’90s. But my first “break” was around 2003: A solo show in the downstairs VIP room of the Key Club on Sunset Boulevard, and artist Elizabeth McGrath’s band, Miss Derringer, played a set. It was an amazing, crazy time for the pop-surrealism and lowbrow art scenes, which I found myself a part of, with lots of camaraderie, and all sorts of crossover project opportunities. Some of the collectors I met that night are still some of my best patrons and friends to this day. Shepard Fairey also gave me an important show, early in my career, in L.A. when his Subliminal Projects Office & Gallery was located in the Wiltern, on Wilshire.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show?
I’ll be hosting a Neosurrealism workshop at the Palm Springs Art Museum Jan. 19-20.
My paintings will be featured at the L.A. Art Show/Littletopia Jan. 23-27, with the VIP preview on the 23rd.
And I also recently launched AFN Collection, featuring exclusive offerings and female-focused collaborations.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show with?
It’s amazing to say my work has already been exhibited alongside Dalí, Warhol, Haring, Basquiat and Picasso! That said, I’d like to be in the company of more great women, like Cindy Sherman, Mickalene Thomas, The Guerrilla Girls and Frida Kahlo, to name just a few.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
I love music, and for me it’s usually classic rock, Russian classical, Trojan, reggae, psychedelic rock, electroclash and new wave music. I like books on tape, too. The Art of War by Sun Tzu, performed by Aidan Gillen (who plays Lord Baelish on Game of Thrones), is particularly great.
Website and social media handles, please!