ELISE ANSEL | PORTLAND PRESS HERALD | ARTICLE
Leslie Bridgers, Portland Press Herald, July 30, 2023
It’s fascinating to dissect each painting, but I would rather leave that to viewers in order not to get too didactic and spoil their enigmatic atmospheres and the visceral responses they elicit. But I do want to say two more things. One is about Ansel’s actual technique, which itself furtively avoids definitive logical or empirical explanation. There are moments in her paintings – the creamy gray-green at the lower left of “Judith and Her Maidservant II” (based on Artemisia Gentileschi), that fleshy pink of “Venus VI” or the pale green at upper right of “Venus VII” – that confound our understanding of how they came to be. Where did she start and where did she end those gestures? Clearly, she’s using a squeegee, brushes and other materials to move her color around. But I defy anyone to nail down exactly how she accomplished those effects.
The other piece is the feminine sensibility. There’s no question she admires the artistry of these Old Masters, but by downplaying the male presence, and by the soft fluidity of her gestures, Ansel is subtly asking us to reconsider the art canon that was developed by men and left out – until very recently – the story of women in the arts. She doesn’t knock you over the head with it, but it doesn’t mean we don’t sense it at some very profound level of our response.