Ann Everton: Sharp Wit and Conceptual Film

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Ann Everton is a Baltimore-based artist and filmmaker, whose art reveals a wide range of talents and interests, along with a smart sense of humor. Raised in Baltimore, Everton left home to attend first Vassar, then Barnard College, with a degree in visual art, primarily painting. She also studied abroad in Japan, during which time she explored more conceptual art. Back in the U.S. she attended a hair design academy in Dundalk, later returning to Baltimore.

         Although Everton studied painting in college, she began as a graffiti artist as a teenager in Baltimore. One of her early creative projects, called “Come With Me,” is a series of photographs of graffiti, with explanations and musings on the images, written as text on the image. The photographs are visually appealing, and offer an interesting look into a world that most of us know nothing about. Similar is her later, irreverent series about Baltimore urban abandonment, called “Empathy Only Goes So Far,” which instead of hand-wringing, takes a comically cynical approach to the city’s housing issues.

Another of her projects, her multi-media “Endtimes Cookbook,” is a funny, disconcerting, and complex work of art. The story, told through text, images, and video, concerns survivors of an imagined apocalypse. The remnants of society are transformed in her art, and survival becomes a bizarre game concerning tantric sex and Boodle Bagels (see photo.)

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Since her switch from painting to video art, Everton has created a number of filmed pieces, including some of her earliest, exhibited in Japan. Perhaps the most provocative of these, “A Historically Personal Response to the Sterility of Artistic Institutions,” shows her emerging nearly naked, covered in mud, from the forest, and running into a white, clean building. Her following projects have continued to show an expansion of her concepts and technological abilities. She retains her cynical sense of humor, however, as in the short piece “I HAVE SCABIES,” which worries about the scary side effects of scabies medication. In other films, Everton experiments with visual effects and music, as in “RocknRollDrugsnSex,” and “Finding 2,” which shows two hands, moving through green-screen landscapes, progressing through different types of digital effects. Her film “Chuck’s Rascals,” has a meditative, ritualistic quality, and she continues with this sense of ritual in “Cryptic Shaft of the Heretic, Hell Well of the Infidel,” which shows some explorations of graffiti inside an abandoned structure, lit dramatically by a torch.

Her video series continues with forays into other types of videos, such as the amusing, very localized narrative short, “Hampden Goddamnden.” These films are short explorations of concepts, and include parody, found footage, and digital manipulation. The films are all similar, however, in the underlying sense of humor.

One of her most philosophically intriguing projects is “Star Mores – On Life Lessons in Science Fiction/Fantasy Novels.” This series of images depicts fantastical, science-fiction-inspired tableaux. They vary from a digital collage of Baltimore rowhouses and an alien landscape, to a flower-filled bathroom. Most include quotes from science-fiction novels, such as the oddly poignant quote, “‘There’s got to be more to life than just living’, Foyle said to the Robot./ ‘Then find it yourself sir, don’t ask the world to stop moving because you have doubts.’”1 These are the life-lessons she is exploring, and her accompanying statement makes a compelling argument for the value of these lessons. The art she bases off these lessons is both “conceptually and emotionally driven.”2 Science fiction, she writes, and the ability to “look at your life from the perspective of a sci-fi novel,” can help you understand yourself and your “cultural/societal environment.”3 A number of the “truisms” she learned in college, she says, can be gleaned from other sources, not just in “Adorno or Lyotard or Jung.”4 Everton’s thoughtful analysis of her source material is one of the pleasures of her work.

After finding life lessons in science fiction novels, she was watching the Bill Murray film “Meatballs” one night, and realized that she saw life lessons there too. Liking the idea of life lessons as “instructive advice in mundane things,” she came up with the idea to find lessons in all of Bill Murray’s movies, and make video responses to each of them.5 She has gone on to create over a dozen short works on this concept, making this a major video project. In re-enactments, she, her friends, and local artists perform, recreating and sometimes reinterpreting scenes from his films. Some of the films are scenes redone shot-by-shot, while others are looser tributes. The films develop thematically and artistically as she progresses in the project, and it is evident how her filmmaking abilities improve in each film. They are still complete and entertaining works in themselves, however. Interestingly, she uses her friends as actors in certain films based on which “lessons” she thinks they may need to learn.

When she began the Bill Murray project, Everton says she was excited about it being a long-term project. Recently, however, her motivation has waned. Having made it to the mid-’90s films, she is not sure if she will continue with the concept. Hopefully she continues to make some sort of video art, however. There is an inspiring sense of freedom in much of her work. Whether she is in front of the camera, behind it, or altering the footage, she seems liberated to do as she pleases, playing with ideas, concepts, and effects. She supposedly considers herself neither an actor nor a filmmaker, but she is selling her creative energies short. Her films are conceptually interesting, intelligently funny, and just plain entertaining. With some luck, we’ll see more art from her soon.

1http://www.anneverton.com/starmores.html

2Baltimore Filmmakers course, April 18 2012

3McCabe, Brett. Ann Everton. City Paper. Dec 1 2010. http://citypaper.com/film/ann-everton-1.1070797

4http://www.anneverton.com/starmores.html

5Baltimore Filmmakers course, April 18 2012

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