Anna Socha VanMatre was born in Poland and educated at the Kraków Art High School and the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts where she received her Master’s Degree. She has developed techniques utilizing synthetic paper, graphite layering, three-dimensional effects involving cut and torn canvases, and LED instruments. Her primary focus has been the dividing line between reality and the abstract.
From the start, her preferred medium was large-format pencil drawing. She began by creating monochromatic compositions representing configurations of clouds, sometimes permeated by light, in series entitled CLOUDY LANDSCAPE, TURBULENT TIMES, HABITAT, SPACES and LIMITS. These black and white graphite paintings, many as large as 20 feet, were described by critics as “symphonies of blackness, gray and light” and a significant step in “liberating” the drawing idiom. At an exhibition at the Jerusalem Center for the Arts, her installation was praised as much more than a collection of static pieces, but instead “a thing of theatrical character, an interaction between the stage and the audience.”
NO has been one of the longest running cycles by VanMatre. Beginning in 1982 she concentrated on themes of nuclear proliferation; later, industrial pollution and dangerous technology were the concept. The horror of Chernobyl was the subject of NO in a group of 1986-96 gray drawings on torn and cut paper. In 1997, HOPE IN BLUE entered a new phase with the addition of color, the focus of the work’s tension. This cycle in retrospect served as an ominous prediction of her 2001-02 WTC (World Trade Center) that said “NO” to terror and intolerance through three dimensional vertical diptychs.
2003-04 marked the introduction of the installations In Time In Between-Smoke and In Time In Between-Volcano containing ambiguous cloud/smoke forms with dramatic shadow effects. In 2005 her cycle LINES ABOVE featured vibrant objects in graphite on synthetic paper, three-color silkscreen on glass, and black and white lithography. Another sequence, CITIES, showed different images of the sky over various cities. In 2006 her series PRIMARY COLORS utilized collage materials like textured paper and foil, and color-layering, to evoke a magnified view of the world above the horizon. DENSITY ABOVE from 2006, is a group of paintings based on observations of rock formations in Sedona, Arizona and New York City’s Central Park.
The 2007-08 cycle OPEN, united sea and sky in perhaps the most expansive of all her nature-based themes. 2008-09’s DENATURAL DISASTER spotlighted the devastation created by Humankind and/or Nature with forms dominated by darkness and touched by the red stream of blood/lava. The ambiguity of “explosions-clouds” became a medium of communication between “earth-reality” and “sky-eternity”, allowing the viewer to understand them as either the intervention of human brutality or the power of nature. From 2010-17, her series CONSTANT, WATERFALLS, STREAMLIGHT, and DISCOVERIES, explored the endless energy of the sea and coral reefs, and used LED illumination to generate motion. Since 2017 she has explored septychs and octychs with variable order panels titled Non Omnis Moriar and Catching Light.
In 2018, she began a new series called TO THOSE utilizing multi-layered and altered photography as well as drawing techniques with graphite and pastel. Her extensive (over 71 feet) installation, To Those Who Warn…, was dedicated to victims of the Holocaust and to the Polish hero Jan Karski, and was exhibited at the International Meeting Centre at Auschwitz in Poland. To Those Who Protect… was dedicated to groups and individuals devoted to protecting our marine environment on a global scale and was shown in 2019 as part of the group exhibition Nature in Art at MOCAK Museum of Modern Art in Kraków. To Those Who Fight… was dedicated to heroes trapped in the Kraków Ghetto who conducted subversive and combat operations against the Nazis; it was presented at the Galicia Jewish Museum in Poland in 2020 and at the Center for Persecuted Arts in Solingen, Germany in 2021.
Anna VanMatre’s works have been shown in exhibitions in Europe, Africa, and the U.S. They are held in the National Museum in Torun, Poland, the Krasinski Library in Warsaw, and in private collections in many countries. She is the recipient of several prizes including the Stanisław Wyspiański Artistic Award. In 2011 Ms. VanMatre was honored to be featured in the Miami University Art Museum exhibition, Out of the Shadows: The Rise of Women in Art. In 2013 her fourteen-panel Metamorphoses-Fire and Water was permanently installed in the Karol Szymanowski Philharmonic Hall in Kraków in tribute to Krzysztof Penderecki. The work was inspired by Penderecki’s Violin Concerto No. 2 (Metamorphosen) and unveiled at the symphony orchestra’s gala inaugural concert of the 2013-14 season in celebration of Maestro Penderecki’s 80th birthday.
VanMatre also has been active in giving presentations about her philosophy and techniques. Lectures have included Miami University, and universities in Brazil, South Korea, and China where she addressed the students, participated in round table exchanges with the faculty, and engaged in collaborative painting sessions comparing her methods with Asian calligraphy. She also has presented lectures on her art to the Polish Art Salon in San Diego and the Helena Modjeska Art and Culture Club in Los Angeles. Since 1997, she has resided in Cincinnati, Ohio.