Ann Mount: Looking Back and Ahead
Ann Mount is a realist painter whose work depicts a bygone era of the American South. She also happens to be the grandmother of our producer, Aaron Lemle.
In September 2016, Aaron traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to talk to his grandmother about how she uses her art to keep the past alive.
Ann Mount: I think the buildings are just kind of a symbol of lasting, in spite of the weather, and the elements, the poverty.
Like the houses she depicts, Ann Mount's life as an artist is a testimony to strength. Born during the Great Depression in Atlanta, Georgia, Ann's mother had to scrape together the funds to buy her daughter paper and crayons from the five and dime store. These modest gifts instilled a creative passion in Ann. But, at the time, career options for women were limited, and certainly didn't include the fine arts.
Mount: I mean, there was nursing, and shorthand, and secretarial stuff. There really wasn't much. And teaching. There really wasn't much else.
So Mount compromised. She studied perspective drawing and architectural rendering in college. Shortly after graduating, she married and started a family, and found part-time employment drawing advertisements for local clothing stores.
Mount: It was good training, but it was not...not what you'd call very satisfying. Your creativeness was certainly limited.
Soon, Ann gave up making ads to pursue more creatively satisfying work. After her first gallery show in Atlanta in 1968, there would be no turning back.
Mount: We went home, came back, and I ran up to my little place where I had my paintings, and I was horrified. There was, like, two missing. I remember telling your granddad, "Oh, someone has stolen my paintings." What had happened was they had sold. It was like, "Oh my goodness!" It was a thrill. So I thought, "Oh, I've really got the bug now. This is really great. So I'll go home and paint two more."
The South that Ann depicts has all but disappeared. Drawing on family lore and expeditions into the countryside, she illustrates stories of a South struggling to rebuild in the aftermath of a devastating war.
Mount: It was such a struggle after the war. It hadn't been that many years. Everything was destroyed. I think these people were very courageous to go and try to work the land. Southern people are pretty strong—actually, particularly the women. I mean, just in my family, like my grandmother, who was widowed with a 2-year-old and a 3-year-old, and she had to figure out a way to survive. The only thing she had was that big old house. So she turned it into a boarding house. So here she was with all these boarders, cooking for them and raising two children. I'm just—it's amazing to me how she managed to do that. Then I think, "My mother was very strong." But she was able to make a good living, to come out of the depression.
This lineage of strong Southern women continues with Ann Mount. Now 86 years old, she battles arthritis to maintain the artistic practice she's fought so hard for.
Mount: It's just a series of solving problems. I hate to give that up. I really do. In fact, I'm finding other things. I'm working a lot with alcohol inks now. They're amazing. You have no control over them at all. You just pour them on, and you put alcohol on them, and they—and they do all these interesting things. Then, if you're a realist, like I am—which, I fight this complete process of being out of control—you can mask off certain areas, or you can either find things in this abstract thing. But I'm thinking, if this gets worse, then I might be able to do that. The colors are great. It's really interesting. I'm looking ahead.