Cabbagetown is an urban neighborhood in the midst of a transformation as is one of its newest residents, artist Ann-Marie Manker. In her most recent work, Manker – an adjunct professor of painting and drawing at Savannah College of Art and Design – trades in her familiar images of animals for exotic portraits of a morphed Marie Antoinette figure replete with lavish costumes and a faint likeness to its creator.
Rendered in Manker’s signature delicate hand, the drawings made with graphite and water-based media – watercolor, gouache and ink – reveal an unexpected brutality and psychological depth. In this series titled ‘Pearl Necklace,’ Manker has lifted images of the 18th-century French queen from the Internet, altering them extensively by hand and digitally before they appear in final form as works on paper mounted on board for display. The protagonist adapts animal features, such as rabbit and dog ears, as she hovers between the realms of base instinct and high culture and design.
Most unusual in the images, however, are the figures, people or animals, which occasionally emerge from under the ample folds of her dresses. Manker’s anthropomorphized characters speak to change and transformation, drawing parallels to early 20th-century art movements such as Symbolism and Surrealism in which heightened realities and dream states dictated artists’ choices of imagery. Manker’s ‘Pearl Necklace’ series will be part of a show based on ideas of shelter she has organized with three other artists, Brent Cox, Richie Bearden and Joy Phrasavath, at Aurora coffee house in Little Five Points (June-July).
Manker is one of many Atlanta artists who manages a multivalent career; in her case as teacher, curator and mobilizing member of the art collective Golden Blizzard, which exhibits as a group with Marcia Wood Gallery in Castleberry Hill. When working on projects, the group convenes weekly and creates murals that they draw together as cadavre exquis (literally, ‘exquisite corpse’; one artist adds to another’s work to create something spontaneous and unplanned). They have shown locally at Eyedrum and nationally in Portland. While Manker completed her MFA at Georgia State University, she ran an innovative gallery called Art Spot in her loft space (2001-2004). She participates in MOCA’s Artist Resource Council, whose efforts support the local arts community and brings her SCAD students to many shows around town.
Manker has established a successful solo career as well. First highlighted in a small installation at MOCA in 2003, she followed it with a solo exhibition at Saltworks Gallery, Perfect Fit (2004), and received the Forward Arts Foundation Emerging Artist award in 2005, accompanied by a solo show, Catfight, at the Swan Coach House gallery last year. Each of her subsequent exhibitions has shown Manker to be a resilient and resourceful artist, further developing her ideas and techniques and proving she is one to watch.
Perles Rouge, above, is part of Mankerís series titled Pearl Necklace, based on images of 18th-century French queen Marie Antoinette.