he rooms depicted in the nine works by Ann Toebbe in “Shared” were cobbled together from paint, cut paper, and memories—both Toebbe’s own and those of people in her life. The resulting pieces on panel and paper dazzle with their precision, while challenging whether the past can ever be exactly recalled, let alone reconstituted. Blending aerial and frontal views in a folksy style, Toebbe paints rooms as seen only in the mind’s eye, reinforcing the contradictions at the core of her art.
The bedroom occupied by Toebbe and her sister as girls is revived in gouache, paper, and pencil in Caroline and Ann’s Room (2013), a composition in blue dominated by contrasting patterns of carpet, curtains, and sheets. Two versions of Six Sisters (both 2014) reproduce the childhood room of two aunts, now elderly, according to their descriptions of it. Both images feature a pair of spindle beds with striped covers, lace curtains, a bureau, a nightstand, and a lamp. But while one of the aunts remembered a rose color scheme and a braided rug on a wooden floor, her sister recollected yellow linens and blue floral carpeting. Toebbe has faithfully replicated each woman’s vision, down to different views out of the bedroom’s three windows, framed with snippets of real lace. Through Toebbe’s art, the once-shared space here became shared again instead of being forgotten.
A version of this story originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of ARTnews on page 108.