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Anouk Gunter: with ‘Permission to Land’

At a glance, it would seem that the main gallery of the Johnson Center for the Arts is filled with artwork from several different artists. But, at a closer look, one would find that each piece is the work of a single artist, Anouk Gunter.

Gunter’s artwork won “Best of the Show” at the 2009 TroyFest and was selected for exhibition at the Johnson Center prior to and during this year’s juried arts and crafts festival April 24 and 25 in downtown Troy.

There is variety in Gunter’s work that is not often found in budding artists. But, not only is Gunter’s work “varied,” it also has mass appeal, said Richard Metzger, Center executive director.

“Anouk Gunter paints in a variety of styles as evident in her ‘pilot series’, which shows her love of aviation and then her more whimsical works that come from having two young children,” Metzger said. “She also paints on gourds and, although painted gourds aren’t usually found in a museum, they make me laugh and giggle in a good way every time I look at them. Her abstract work is colorful and geometric. Because of the variety of her subject matter, her exhibit will appeal to almost everyone.”

Gunter hopes that her artwork has a wide range of appeal because her interest in art and in life is wide range.

“As a child, I was always busy drawing, mostly knights and creating,” she said. “With my friends we made silly songs at the piano and, because my mom was painting herself, I was allowed to paint on some walls in our house.”

Gunter is primarily a self-taught artist although she did take classes in high school and attended the Academy of Art in her native country Holland.

“School was a dread to me, and I always stared out of the window wishing I was a bird and could fly away and be free,” Gunter said. “When I was about 11 years old I had this dream. I stood in our backyard and this big 747-airplane came over so low that I could see the pilot. He waved at me and I waved back.

“Now I am married to a ‘knight’ pilot and still the theme ‘Flying’ attracts me a lot. It can be scary in your dreams when you go too high in the air and see the world disappear, getting lost in space.”

Gunter’s fascination with flying and the daring of those who fly is fodder for her work.

“My husband, C.J. is in pilot training here at Fort Rucker,” she said. “He flies Apache helicopters. The longer we lived here, the more I learned about American pilots, and the more I wanted to know about them.”

Gunter is especially fascinated by the lives of American aviators Charles Lindberg and Amelia Earhart.

“They were very brave,” she said. “In the painting of Amelia Earhart, I wrote a letter to her. It is hard to see unless you are close but the words are there. I’m asking her questions. I want to know what happened to her. I ask her, ‘What happened? Were you scared of crashing?’”

The fearless flyers intrigue Gunter, and she paints hoping that viewers can see the history of their lives that is written in their faces.

“Many of them died doing what they loved, flying,” she said and added with a smile. “When I die, may I die painting.”

Painting has become a huge and extremely meaningful part of Gunter’s life. Perhaps so much so because she paints from her heart of hearts – her husband, C.J., and her children, Fabienne and Olivier.

Much of her inspiration comes from flying and most of the other comes from ideas from children’s books.

The more whimsical pieces are uniquely Anouk Gunter.

“That is a style that I have developed, and I really like the fun paintings,” she said. “In my nave work, it is more the happy part of flying, going places, feeling free with no object in your way.”

“The Flying Dutchman” she, laughingly, said actually started as a clothed aviator but she found that he appeared much too heavy to be floating about the earth, so she just simply took off his clothes.

It’s a very happy piece that illustrates the joy of flying.

One of her favorite pieces is titled “Leonardo” and depicts Leonardo da Vinci perched in a high, pensive position.

He is trying to figure out how to fly like a bird but with a machine, Gunter said.

“People have always wanted to fly like the birds.”

Gunter’s artwork also includes abstract designs, which are primarily squares.

“I’ve always loved squares,” she said. “In my life, I am not so organized, but with my painting, I am very organized. I have to be organized to put the squares together.”

Gunter is putting together quite an exhibition of her work and is being recognized for her creativity, her style and the spice she adds to art.

She recently won “Best of Show” at the Piney Woods Festival in Enterprise.

“I am getting more confidence in my work and that it is good,” she said.

“And with ‘permission to land,’ I hope people can appreciate the variety of styles.”