Studio Visit: Anna Neighbor

Anna Neighbor, Studio Exterior

By Elyse Derosia

Anna Neighbor received her MFA in Photography from Tyler School of Art in 2004. She has most recently had solo exhibitions at Vox Populi and Fleisher Art Memorial (Philadelphia), and group exhibitions at the Tate Modern (London), Three Walls (Chicago), and Current Space (Baltimore).  She lives in Philadelphia and works as adjunct faculty at the University of Pennsylvania and Moore College of Art and Design.

Studio location: Fishtown

Anna Neighbor

What is your day job?
I adjunct at Penn and Moore, teaching photography.   It’s a delicate dance each semester coordinating schedules, and doesn’t do much for the bank account, but I just find it so ideal.  Being surrounded by makers, continually talking about making, always learning and being challenged by students and peers– it keeps me connected to the world in a way my temperament tends to naturally avoid.

Anna Neighbor, Studio Exterior

Anna Neighbor, Studio Interior

What brought you to Philadelphia and what keeps you here?
I came for grad school at Tyler and stayed for cheesesteaks, the Liberty Bell, and those duck boat ride things.  And watching a Philly dude repeatedly high kick a meter that ate his nickel.  Mostly the latter.  And an art scene that makes things happen on its own terms, with a pretty sincere lack of competitiveness and ego.  I find it incredibly refreshing after working in Chelsea for seven years.


Collaborative prints created with Corey Antis

What are some recent/upcoming/current projects?
I just wrapped up a show at Fleisher Art Memorial and am now preparing for a show at Vox Populi in November.  My work shifted pretty radically in the last few years, and I’m still working hard to find my way in these new materials and processes, so in the studio my main job is to wrestle with this newness that is both exciting and totally perplexing.

Anna Neighbor, desk detail
Work desk detail

What is your process like?
The majority of my process– I’d say about eighty percent– takes place through thinking.  Months and months of making and revising pieces in my head until something is strong enough to begin to materialize.  During that time, I do quite a bit of looking at art, reading and writing.  It just reaches a point where the idea clicks and is ready to be made, and from that point on very little changes during the physical process.  I’ve never been an experimenter with materials.  My equivalent is a lot of quiet sitting.

Anna Neighbor, work
Scraps of stuff being worked on
(left board) Soviet monument, Lee Ufan, unidentified artist in Artforum, Joplin tornado aerials, Steven Parrino, Nancy Grossman (right board) Top: Dustin Metz, Middle: Wolfgang Tillmans, Bottom: Nancy Grossman, photo of Lucian Freud

What kinds of things are currently influencing your work?
Lee Ufan
The way clouds can look like things
The phallus
Quantum entanglement
Vija Celmins
Talking Heads “Heaven”
Watching my father age and my daughter grow
The Cave of Forgotten Dreams
An amazing photo the NY Times ran of Lucian Freud painting in his studio at age 84

What are you really excited about right now?
I’m excited about feeling lost.  Watching my work happen in spite of myself, questioning what most matters after big upheavals in my life the past few years, wandering around, reaching out.  Touching stuff, arguing, eating and drinking.  The smell of fall.

Elyse Derosia is an artist and a co-director of Bodega, an exhibition and performance space in Philadelphia founded in 2010.