Interview with Julian Rankin, Director of the Walter Anderson Museum of Art

First and foremost, I would like to thank you again for your time and agreeing to participate in an interview with me about Carlyle Wolfe and her work. Wolfe provided me with your email saying that you would be an ideal person to reach out too and interview as you have become familiar with her work. I am glad Wolfe suggested this, as you are the Director of the Walter Anderson Museum of Art (WAMA), in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, but especially because of a quote of yours I found in an article announcing your directorship of WAMA:

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For my entire personal and professional life, I’ve been steeped in the power of place and inspired by the ability of Mississippi artists to distill meaning from the world. I share with Walter Anderson a belief in the sacred interconnectedness between people, nature, and the vitality of communities.
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DLG: I find this a good place to begin as it shares a similar language to Wolfe’s artist statement. Coming off of this quote, how would you describe Wolfe’s work to someone who had never had the opportunity to experience her work? What would you say Wolfe has distilled from the world and presented for us, the audience, to explore?

JR: I find in her arrangements of forms echoes of human experience as seen through this natural lens. Form emerges from, and then returns to, shadow. Decay and beauty are intertwined. As leaves stack upon one another, so two do family histories — especially Southern ones, in this case — creating the foundational soil on which the contemporary viewer walks.

Or as Walter Anderson writes, “I live and have my being in a world of space and forms which have color and shape. Consciousness of this means being alive.”

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DLG: Wolfe mentioned that she participated in a panel discussion for the symposium at the University of Mississippi Museum, ‘Meditations on the Landscape in Art and Literature, in which you were the moderator and that you connected on a discussion of landscape and the work of Walter Anderson. During that conversation or any that spurred because of it, what did you learn of Wolfe’s process and method of development?

JR: In terms of connecting with Walter Inglis Anderson, Carlyle’s process is not just observational, but participatory, which was also an integral component of Anderson’s approach. Her layering of forms, and the way she works with contour and shadow, connote the particular “histories” that exist in nature, where things are perpetually regenerating and rebirthing.

Carlyle Wolfe is an artist whose approach to the land around her has drawn her into experiential meditation with the contours of its plant life, in order to reveal the rhythms, designs, mysteries, and progressive histories of the natural world with which we interact. Her silhouetted forms of leaves, flower, and a variety of flora engage the viewer through brilliant accumulations of verdant growth, and invitation to look closer to some of the smallest, most majestic, and most threatened beings that compose the landscape.

-Introduction from Julian Rankin at ‘Meditations on the Landscape in Art and Literature’

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