Sunday, November 24, 2019

Anne Hayden Stevens on breaking the rules and her latest installation, The Philosopher Walks

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In this conversation we talk about Anne’s explorations in painting landscapes. At this stage in her career, she has found herself breaking all the rules she’s learned, playing with ideas like “what if gravity stopped working” and “where are all the women in landscape paintings” throughout time. 

In 2019, Anne and I shared numerous platforms to collaborate in the arts, like the Pitner Group Show for Evanston Made this past June. At the Pitner warehouse, Anne found the time and space to play with new mediums (spray paint) and size (a 360 degree prototype for The Philosopher Walks). These collaborations have been key in growing awareness for the thriving contemporary art scene in Evanston

Anne’s recent installation, The Philosopher Walks, has made its way from the Hyde Park Art Center in Hyde Park Chicago to One River School of Art + Design in Evanston, is yet another successful collaboration between us, I am currently the Director of the One River School of Art + Design Evanston, and curate the storefront gallery with area artist's works.

The “The Philosopher Walks” installation is 13’Hx15’, comprised of five panels, based on a yearlong study of Chinese landscape painting. Exhibition Dates: December 7, 2019 - December 13, 2019 • Opening Reception: Saturday, December 7, 2019, 5-8p.

Artist Statement

The Philosopher Walks, 2019
Archival prints with spray paint 2019
Five panels (L to R): Refuge, Waterfall, Mountains, Rockfall, Bridge

These pieces are archival prints built from painting fragments that have been touched with spray paint. They are based on a yearlong study of Chinese landscape painting. How things feel, versus how they appear, is a central concern of Chinese landscape painting, and has been for centuries. As I read and I studied I asked: How do these paintings work, both formally and emotionally? Who made them? What do the elements included in the paintings mean?

I have been able to answer most of my questions, but they led to more questions. Where are the women painters in this history? Where are the female scholars and philosophers? Does the art historical record even question the absence of women artists and thinkers in this tradition?

As I studied, I inserted a character into the paintings that was absent from the story I was reading. She is a female philosopher who walks the mountains, thinking and breathing, sweating and being scared: being human. I know she was there then, so I added her now.

Typically the landscape and the horizon reinforce our sense of order. Gravity reigns. Trees and rocks and water all fall in a set of predictable lines, drawn to the core of the earth. Our bodies are also dictated by the gravitational pull.

Our minds, meanwhile, are unconstrained by gravity. We think in giant leaps and bounds, across time, incessantly observing, ruminating, dreaming. Our mind is free to wander anywhere.

In this work, the Philosopher walks as the world falls away around her. The mountains shear off the side of the path, tumbling against trees and rocks and water. Clouds of mist rear up and mask the mountains still intact in the distance. The world she feels is more infinite and intimate than the world she sees.

Artist Bio

Anne Hayden Stevens is a painter and printmaker living outside Chicago, IL. She has anMA in Visual Studies from the University of California at Berkeley, and a BFA in Printmaking and Drawing from California College of the Arts.

Hayden Stevens’ work ranges across painting, drawing, printmaking and public art. Her work has been exhibited in Chicago at the Evanston Art Center, Governor's State University Art Gallery, The Koehnline Museum of Art, and at the Harold Washington Library Center during Chicago Artists Month. Public art pieces are located on Rainier Avenue South in Seattle, the Seattle Municipal Tower, and the University of Washington.


The Lisa D Show podcast features interviews and conversations with creatives living and working in Evanston, IL. Recordings typically happen in the 1100 Florence Gallery. Learn more about host Lisa Degliantoni at

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