by Edward M. Gómez

If the art of collage did not exist, then certainly the artist Anne Marie Grgich would have to invent it.

In brutjournal’s special issue focusing on collage artists, which was published in May 2022, we noted about Grgich that she “blends collage elements seamlessly into her mixed-media pictures, some of whose compositions are complex and packed with narrative ideas, and into her artist’s books, which are striking, colorful objects oozing with mysterious auras.”

Anne Marie Grgich, “The Infamous Menagerie,” mixed-media collage, acrylic, and encaustic on birchwood panel, 24 x 35 x 1.5 inches (60.96 x 88.9 x 3.81 centimeters)

Ggrich, who is based in Tacoma, Washington, just south of Seattle, also has worked with fabric and sewing techniques to create quilts, purses, and wall hangings. Born in 1961 and brought up by Croation parents who, the artist has said, passed along to her their strong work ethic, Grgich suffered a traumatic head injury when she was about 20 years old. Prior to that accident, she had long enjoyed making art, but following that milestone event, for Ggrich, producing her art become more satisfying and meaningful than ever.

In March of this year, Grgich was in New York to attend the 2024 Outsider Art Fair and also the opening of a solo exhibition of her newest works at Van Der Plas Gallery in downtown Manhattan’s Lower East Side district. That presentation, featuring works the artist created from 2019 through this year, ran from March 1 through March 24. Grgich told us that the works she exhibited were not necessarily thematically related. About them, she observed, “I didn’t think of a theme [when making them] but I feel that my art comes from the same thread, and through it I reveal a lot about myself and my view of the world, although I’m also always ready to imagine things, and faces seem to come out of me.”

The Van Der Plas Gallery exhibition included several large-format and smaller collage works; some small paintings made on antique, black-and-white, studio-portrait photographs; and some unusual portraits painted on old, shellac-resin 78 r.p.m. records.

About those paintings on such an unusual surface — those old records — Grgich told us: “I bought a Victrola as a gift for my husband, and we accumulated tons of 78 r.p.m. records. After several years, we realized that they were taking up space, and I recalled having painted on old 33 r.p.m., vinyl-LP records and CDs back in the 1990s, so I made a stack of the 78 r.p.m. records to paint on someday.”

Grgich said that, one day, while waiting for her husband to return home, she began painting on the old records. She recalled, “I was not necessarily thinking so much about what they were. I was noticing the titles of the records, but it all happened so fast. When my husband came home, I said, ‘Hey do you want to see what I did while you drove home? When the Van Der Plas Gallery show came together, I suggested hanging these paintings together on one wall.”

The artist Anne Marie Grgich at the opening of her exhibition at Van Der Plas Gallery in New York, March 2024. Photo by Steven Hirsch

About the subjects of her densely packed, wildly fecund-feeling compositions, Grgich told us, “Sometimes I dream I’m inside my paintings but I think of myself as more of an intuitive automatic painter. But then I get stuck sometimes and I try things that ruin everything and spend many months fixing. Then it all works out. I dream of having a huge space to work in one day.”

In her multifaceted compositions, Grgich combines images culled from old books, snippets of type from assorted printed matter, and many of her own drawn or painted elements. Her compositions seem to churn with the energy of so many diverse, agglomerated images, drawing viewers into their richly layered pictorial space.

Anne Marie Grgich, “The Road Before Us,” 2024, mixed-media collage, acrylic, and encaustic on birchwood panel, 48 x 36 x 1.5 inches (121.92 x 91.44 x 3.81 centimeters)

Grgich noted, “When I paint, I’m inspired by the immediate materials, although I spend a lot of time collecting [them]. Then, once I’m ready, it just happens. With my [collage and mixed-media] books, it’s the same. Often, I paint something, and then 20 years later, it [turns out to have been] a revelation or a person in my life. My art is so intense for me that I like to keep it in books. It’s also a space issue. I have a lot of art in my collection, including works by Della Wells and Norbert Kox, and a lot of visionary art.”

The works on view at Van Der Plas Gallery showed Grgich at the top of her creative game and more in command than ever of the distinctive artistic language she has developed over the years. Many of her compositions, for all their daunting visual cacophonies and esoteric air — exactly what does any one of the artist’s complex pictures mean? — felt majestic and joyous. With her newest mixed-media works, Grgich continues expanding the frontiers of a enticingly enigmatic, imagined world.

Anne Marie Grgich, “Blue Girl,” 2024, mixed-media collage, acrylic, and encaustic on birchwood panel, 60 x 40 x 1.5 inches (152.4 x 101.6 x 3.81 centimeters)

to read the whole article.