Anya Spielman was born in Berkeley, California. Spielman graduated from the University of California at Davis in 1989 with a major in Art Studio and a minor in Anthropology. She was a student of Wayne Thiebaud. She also studied with Squeak Carnwath, Robert Arneson, David Hollowell, Roy De Forest and Roland Petersen.
Ted Mooney, Senior Editor of Art in America says of Spielman’s work: “Anya Spielman’s mastery of her invariably appealing palette can be deceptive: she knows the depths of human motive and does not hesitate to take the viewer to places both more ambiguous and darker than may at first seem evident. What’s more, it may take you some time to figure out how you got there, let alone how to get back. But that, after all, is what serious painting is all about.”
As Mooney states, there exists a complex duality to Spielman’s work: it is both intensely physical with elements of violence while hyperconscious of the beauty and evanescence of life. The result is work that is expressionistic and yet operates within a framework of restraint. The saturated color of the canvases and works on paper are juicy and sensual, yet there is something disturbing in their beauty. Spielman’s surfaces are extraordinary, gorgeously layered, yet upon close study, rough nail marks scar the paint and deconstruct the work. Above all, there is a strong sense of mystery in Spielman’s work – she reminds viewers who are brave enough to keep looking of the tenuous balance between knowing and not knowing.
Much of the work is sexual- some of it veiled, some explicit, but, as with all of Spielman’s work, her paintings bear a dual meaning. In the painting “Sugarbush,” for example, the shower of white smudges can look like falling petals, a first snowfall, or ejaculation. And the main object in “Things to Suck,” resembles a lollipop, however, suspended testicles loom overhead. The juxtaposition hints at two separate realms of experience, while also displaying Spielman’s bold and mischievous sense of humor.
Spielman’s work draws upon direct experiences: drawing from cadavers; hands on work in construction and demolition; informal ethnographic research, and traveling alone around the world in 1988. In Fall of 1992, she spent several months painting in Paris. From 1999-2005, Spielman lived in New York, working out of her Bowery studio in Manhattan. The intensity of daily life in New York City, 9/11 and the birth of her first child there in 2003, greatly informed the work. The Japanese blossom explosion of color annually at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens inspired Spielman’s blossom series. Snow brought a play of light and a new language. The inherent micro/macro aspect of her work became more defined in this New York series. Returning to California in 2005, Spielman had her second child; stored images from her pregnancies and the early child-rearing years set the ground for her body of work in 2007. With a new move to Portland, Oregon in 2008, her recent work continues to plumb color and duality as primary subject matters.
Spielman has exhibited extensively both nationally and internationally. In 2010 she was included in the New Museum’s Bowery Artist Tribute, and in 2007, she was awarded the American Artist Abroad Program by the US Embassy, to serve as an Art-Ambassador in Uruguay, teaching and lecturing. Spielman has shown at Aqua Art Miami, Miami, FL; Art Fair 21, Cologne, Germany; Michael Roesnthal Gallery, San Francisco, CA; White Box Gallery, New York, NY; Deitch Projects, New York, NY; Terrain Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Artists Space, New York, NY, and The Palm Springs Desert Museum, Palm Springs, CA. Her paintings have also appeared on the reality shows “The Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and “The Bachelorette,” and in several motion pictures. Her work is in numerous private collections.