On The Cover: Annika Tucksmith's Magical and Nostalgic Paintings | May 2021 | Visual Art | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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On The Cover: Annika Tucksmith's Magical and Nostalgic Paintings | May 2021 

click to enlarge Phantom Limb

Phantom Limb

For centuries artists have flocked to the Hudson River Valley, attracted by its awe-inspiring views and serene landscapes. Annika Tucksmith, a painter who was raised in Chatham, studied art at Connecticut College, and then found herself drawn back home for the same reasons that inspired her artistic predecessors. "The landscape here has its own character," Tucksmith says. "As an artist, it's wonderful to be working and living in this area. If I feel blocked with a painting, I can go for a walk and within a mile or two I've got inspiration for another one." 

Tucksmith's work represents the youthful rites of passage of a rural childhood. "My paintings aim to capture the experience of coming of age in the Hudson Valley and express the inextricable relationship between the land and the kids who grow up in it," she says. 

There is an element of risk in Tucksmith's images, which often feature children playing at twilight. "When you look at how kids play and explore, there's this kind of duel between danger and delight. Look at fire—it's warm, inviting, it's mesmerizing. But it's also chaotic and totally capable of real danger. I like examining that line," she says. "When it's nighttime, are we drawn to the comfort of the light in the darkness, or the thrill of what could be out there."

click to enlarge Secret Song
  • Secret Song

Her work has a narrative quality with a slightly surrealistic edge that balances the familiar and the unknown. Some scenes get stranger as evening turns to night—"a time when realism seems to bend a bit anyway," she says. The viewer sees the flickering eyes of roadside deer caught in headlights, telephone poles dissolving into darkness, youth gathered in seemingly ritualistic circles. A portrait of a freckle-faced boy is rendered almost supernatural by what is presumably a large bonfire burning in the background. Tucksmith purposefully leaves in elements of mystery to arresting effect. 

She also draws inspiration from magical realist authors like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Haruki Murakami. "I love how they play with the idea of time thinning, slowing down, and going in circles," she says. "Growing up in Chatham, where many of the last names in the village are the same last names as 200 years ago, it feels like time likes to play tricks." 

Painting provides Tucksmith with a way to express the ineffable, giving her work a wide appeal. "I put into painting what I don't know how to put into words. Images of youth resonate with people. They remember being outside, being around a fire, being outdoors, going exploring," she says.

click to enlarge The Afternoon
  • The Afternoon

Like the Hudson Valley's most famous and iconic storyteller, Washington Irving, who captured similar uncanny qualities of the area in "Rip Van Winkle," Tucksmith perpetuates a regional heritage. "I think there's an interesting sort of undercurrent of the Hudson Valley that people understand and can recognize. That's my hope. I love being part of the tradition of artists here," she says.

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