Documentary profiles artist and architect Anna Campbell Bliss
“I think of myself as an explorer of the visual world, seeking to make connections between poetry and mathematics, nature and the constructed environment,” says Anna Campbell Bliss. Though her name is rarely included in histories of the Bauhaus legacy in the United States, the 87-year-old, Utah-based artist is one of the few alive with a direct connection to that renowned international school of design—she studied with Walter Gropius and György Kepes while an architecture graduate student at Harvard in the 1950s, and later with Josef Albers at a workshop in Minnesota.
Bliss’s career as a visual artist—previously little known outside Utah—is now the subject of a documentary called Arc of Light. Produced and directed by Cid Collins Walker, the film is slated for screenings at Wellesley College and the National Gallery of Art in 2014. Beginning with her quiet upbringing in Morristown, New Jersey—and framing her work in the context of her expansive education, travel, and experience —Arc of Light focuses on the ways Bliss has integrated the tenets of New Bauhaus design and Color Theory into her own vibrantly geometric paintings, screenprints, and large-scale installations for over 50 years.
“This is a story about a woman who has made a tremendous contribution, but is largely unknown to the art world,” says Walker, who was an 18-year-old art student at the University of Utah when she first met Bliss in the mid-1970s.
A practicing architect and one of the first artists to use computer technology in her art, Bliss creates multidisciplinary works that draw on her studies of numeric systems, geometry, calligraphy, architecture, photography, archeology, and even cartography. Her first public art commission was a 30-foot-long mural she created in 1989–90 for the former data-processing center at the Utah State Capitol. Titled Windows, it explores “the worlds being opened to us by the computer. It’s about ways of seeing that are central to human experience,” Bliss says. The mural’s variegated patchwork of computer-printed steel panels recalls Albers’s “Interaction of Color” series.
“In my art, I feel the need to make structure a part of it,” Bliss says. “Mathematics is part of everything I do—it’s a way of thinking.”