Steven L. Anderson notebooks start collection of Atlanta-based artists' papers

Published 05-04-2016

by Maureen McGavin

An array of notebooks from artist Steven L. Anderson's collection, now held by the Rose Library. Credit: Paige Knight, Rose Library at Emory University.

Personal notebooks documenting the creative process of Atlanta-based artist Steven L. Anderson now have a home at Emory University’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library.

Randy Gue, curator of modern political and historical collections at the Rose Library, said the collection consists of 39 notebooks ranging from 1993, when Anderson was an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, through 2015.

“The notebooks provide a window on a creative life,” Gue said. “They are an interesting portrait of an artist and his creative process.” The notebooks include sketches, notes, logistics and layouts of art installations, and other fragments of thoughts and ideas.

Anderson’s art is influenced by the “power of nature, and the nature of power,” as the artist states in his biographical information. His work in recent years depicts ferns, huge tree rings, and “energy spirals,” some measuring as much as eight feet wide, done in marker and pen. The energy spiral drawings have phrases embedded in them, such as “What is my myth?” and “The money will come.”

Some of Anderson’s work is currently on exhibit in a show called “The New South” at Kai Lin Art in west Midtown, and he has a piece on display at the Atlanta Contemporary, where he completed three years in the organization’s Studio Artist Program in March. Anderson, who is represented by Poem 88 Gallery in Atlanta, is a 2015 Hambidge Fellow and a 2014-15 Walthall Artist Fellow.

An example of Anderson's work, which he develops in the pages of his notebooks. Anderson's depictions of tree rings are often named for the age of the tree; this one is called "102 Years," 2016, done on paper in marker and pen. Credit: Image courtesy Steven L. Anderson.

Anderson also works at Emory University as a senior graphic designer for the undergraduate admissions department. He has exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Georgia, Swan Coach House Gallery, the Michael C. Carlos Museum, and the Atlanta Contemporary, as well as galleries in California, New York City and Chicago. He earned a BA from the University of Michigan and a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Gue says this is the first step towards building a collection of Atlanta-based artists’ notebooks and sketchbooks, starting with Anderson’s. The Rose Library has the papers of other artists, including Benny Andrews, John Biggers, Lucy Stanton, Camille Billops, Amalia Amaki, Mildred Thompson, Samella Lewis, and several others.

“The Rose Library has the papers of writers and poets such as Alice Walker, Seamus Heaney, and Salman Rushdie, and you can look at drafts of their work and see their creative process at work,” Gue said. “Artists and photographers also go through that same kind of process – we just rarely see it.”

Anderson said he never thought his notebooks would have value to anyone but him, until Gue talked to him about documenting the history of the arts in Atlanta.

“I’m thrilled to have my notebooks in the library’s collection,” Anderson said, adding he hoped they were useful to those researching the city’s arts history. “You can see the ideas begin to take shape. Obviously some of the ideas in notebooks never go anywhere. But you can look at one of my pieces and sort of trace back my thinking about it and the origins of it because they’re all in the notebooks, and I think that’s pretty exciting.”

The collection of Atlanta-based artists’ notebooks intersects with other Rose Library collections about Atlanta and the arts, including the records of the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Fay Gold Gallery, Get This! Gallery, the Southeastern Arts, Media, and Education Project, and the Atlanta Ballet collection.

“I wanted to provide a home for this kind of work so that students, researchers and the general public can see this part of the process,” Gue said. “You can go to a gallery and see Steven’s artwork, and then you can come here and explore the ideas and the process in more depth. The lesson for everyone that comes across in these notebooks is that this is work – if you rely on inspiration alone, you’ll never get anywhere.”

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