You probably haven’t heard of Glenn Anderson before. He tends to dislike the public eye. But he’s been here and seen the ‘burgh change through the years. He used to make comics that were printed in Pittsburgh City Paper years ago. His art reflects the political and social turmoil he’s witnessed and reflects it back through abstraction and a variety of techniques from drawing to printmaking. We spoke with Anderson about his artistic opinions and the old piece he has up in the Mendelson Gallery.
1. Can you tell me about the piece you shared with me? The “Stop the Violence” piece?
I did that 30 years ago. That piece is 30 years old. It took me two years to do it.
I’ve always been fascinated with Pythagoras. You know Pythagoras? The Pythagorean theory. Yeah, he went way beyond that, but in this piece, I’ve used triangulation and geometry inspired by Pythagoras himself, who felt the whole universe could be explained geometrically. And this piece is based on a lot of that. If you look at that piece there are three faces. The oval is a mouth and it’s shouting, 'Stop.' Within the square, there are two profiles. And the trapezoids are the eyes, the triangles are the nose holes.
Did you see the face? As an artist, that’s the greatest fear: that you spend two years doing it and sleepless nights producing it, and it’s not seen, not understood. In my mind, this is the most dynamic graphic I’ve ever seen, and I did it!
The first person who you have to satisfy with your art is yourself or you won’t show it to anybody. This thing is totally important and relevant now and, as I said, I did it 30 years ago. It was given to me by God. It’s even more relevant now and nobody seems to understand what it’s saying. The whole thing is geometric and electric and amazing. And if you had one on your wall, it would continually talk to you. It’s saying something to you all the time.
2. Tell me a bit more about the art you make. Is there anything you are drawn to?
I’ve been doing art since I was alive. Which was quite a while ago. *laughs* What I do is what I feel - whatever the spirit gives me - I interpret it and do it. I’m sort of an expressionist. My cartoons are expressionist and I use whatever medium I choose. I just don’t paint because I’m too impatient to do that.
I can duplicate anything, but there’s no way I’m going to duplicate anything. I never quite understood why artists are so lauded for being able to duplicate something. Like the Mona Lisa is a beautiful painting. I’m not putting it down. But what the artist did was duplicate her face. And he did a great and wonderful job of duplication, but so what?
3. Can you tell me about your influences, did you make art as a child?
I’m influenced by everything that I see. I just have fun in my life. I grew up in a place called Grindstone, Pa., which is a mining town about 40 miles south of Pittsburgh. My dad was a coal miner and Grindstone was a scenic little hamlet. It was a beautiful place and I had a wonderful childhood. With the exception of a few bumps, my whole life has been wonderful.
I cannot remember not having a crayon or a pen or pencil in my hand. My mom would always make sure I had beautiful coloring books. I was fascinated by cartoons and duplicated them. I was fascinated by shapes and always loved them.
4. Are there other artists who inspire you?
I don’t admire any other artist. There's a cartoonist Gahan Wilson. But I’m influenced by everything that I see. I don’t chase it, it comes to me. I’m very visual and you should be as an artist. It’s just part of my life - it’s me. I’m perfectly assimilated and I pick and choose how I want to express myself.
I love being totally obscure. When City Paper was young, I did insider art and cartoons. Obscurity is something I enjoy. I don’t belong to other organizations. I don’t fraternize with other artists. I don’t really know any artists to talk to except Kyle Holbrook. But I am not in that circle and I don’t care about it.
5. Can you share any ideas for new projects?
Graphinition. It’s like "definition" but graphic. Words equalling art. Pick a word from the dictionary with a full definition, and that word would be translated into art by students. Every youngster is an artist. They could be old enough to hold a pen and comprehend. You can still use that as an older person to make your mind more facile. Find an erudite word and really get into the definition and etymology and translate it into art. I would like to launch that project in the future.
Prints are available for purchase at Mendelson Gallery. 5874 Ellsworth Ave. mendelsongallery.net