Anonymous Source: Anna Fidler’s Topographic Celebrities

It is difficult to decide whether Anna Fidler’s (NAP #61) new show Cherry Bomb references the firecracker definition or the “smokin’ hot lady” definition of the term. The Portland artist’s meticulously constructed acrylic, pencil and cutout paper portraits on view at Seattle’s Prole Drift gallery literally portray women as their subject matter—nostalgic pop musicians including Heart, Joan Jett, and Karen Carpenter.  Yet, a sinister tone resides within the figures’ construction, a highly textural technique that combines psychedelic blasts of color with dark, map-like details that abstract Fidler’s imagery beyond simple appropriation. - Erin Langner, Seattle Contributor

Anna Fidler | Heart, 60 x 80”, Acrylic and colored pencil on paper, 2012

Cherry Bomb blasts into Prole Drift’s modest space with three colossal works that measure over five feet, depicting Donna Summer, Heart and Stevie Nicks. Sourcing the original images from Internet searches, the artist meticulously constructs the portraits by hand, without guidance from projections. Staring into Stevie’s vacant gaze and Donna’s mass of curls, the initially familiar imagery becomes less identifiable while spending time with the work: distinguishing features fade into the topographical patches that hollow the musicians’ cheekbones and bore behind their eyes.

Anna Fidler | Heart detail

Anna Fidler | Cherry Bomb installation view. Image courtesy of Prole Drift.

Fidler applied this topographic-inspired technique throughout multiple series, including depictions of imagined landscapes, the Portland Trailblazers, and vampires, as well as through the historical Oregonians also on view a the Portland Art Museum.  Uniquely suiting the women musicians of Cherry Bomb, the overall effect evokes the abstracted world the fading icons occupy between previous fame and present-day pop culture.  Rather than fade into anonymity, subjects within the more modestly scaled set of works in the show shift in the mind of the beholder between the stars they portray and more contemporary references: the rendering of Joan Jett evokes Lady Gaga’s blunt bob, while Nina Hagen’s softened features begin to look like actress Keri Russell. Although the depiction of Karen Carpenter is unmistakable, Fidler’s added contours and distorted coloring reveal the more intimate complexities of the fallen star rarely captured by the singer’s forlorn publicity shots.

Anna Fidler | Joan, 23 x 17”, Acrylic and colored pencil on paper, 2012

Anna Fidler | Karen, 24 x 17.25”, Acrylic and colored pencil on paper, 2012

The artist noted how during her process the women mostly began to resemble one another, their distinctions erased as she manipulated their facial compositions. While providing an easy meditation on the uniform beauty established by media portrayals, this observation more interestingly separates the images from their original sources while pulling the series into a meditation on celebrity studied through repetitions of variations, similar to Turner’s sunsets or Monet’s haystacks.  Instead of capturing a fading pastoral or nautical landscape, the ephemeral nature of fame and recognition dominates these scenes, making a past moment highly present as it bursts into oblivion.

Anna Fidler | Stevie, 70 x 54.75”, Acrylic and colored pencil on paper, 2012

Anna Fidler | Nina, 22.5 x 16.75”, Acrylic and colored pencil on paper, 2012


Cherry Bomb is on view at Prole Drift in Seattle, Washington through November 25. Anna Fidler is a Portland-based artist whose work has recently been featured at Disjecta in Portland, OR; Wieden & Kennedy in Portland, OR; See Line Gallery in Santa Monica, CA; and the Japan Socity in New York.   Fidler’s work is also featured in the Portland Art Museum’s APEX gallery through December 16.

Erin Langner is a writer based in Seattle and is Manager of Adult Public Programs at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM).


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