42 x 30 inches
Ann McCoy (American 1946-)
McCoy was one of five Yale faculty awarded the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship. The fellowship provided her with resources to pursue a project that combines her roles as writer, projection designer, painter and sculptor. Currently, McCoy lectures on art history, mythology and projection in a Yale School of Drama class titled “Visual Storytelling.”
As a child growing up in the American Southwest, McCoy did not imagine a career as an artist. She lived near archaeologists, including Earl Morris, who reconstructed the Great Kiva at Aztec National Monument, and Joe Ben Wheat, who is known for his work in the Mesa Verde region. According to McCoy, Ben Wheat helped her with her science fair project on carbon-14 dating, which led her to an interest in archaeology. She then began helping at the archaeology museum at the University of Colorado. “I thought I wanted to be an archaeologist and the art department was in the basement of the same building as the archeology department,” said McCoy. “One day, I picked up a piece of clay and started playing with it, and this voice inside my head just said, ‘you know, you’re supposed to be an artist.’ I didn’t know what an artist did or what an artist was, but I just somehow knew I would be an artist.”
McCoy graduated from high school two years early and went to the Kansas City Art Institute. She then studied sculpture, painting, philosophy and classics at the University of Colorado. She taught in the Barnard College art history department for twenty years; in addition to her role as a professor, her numerous art awards included the Prix de Rome, National Endowment for the Arts, the Berliner D.A.A.D. Kunstler Grant and a grant from the Pollock Krasner Foundation. Her work is included in many museum collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Whitney Museum of American Art. Her work also featured in a Venice Biennale exhibition titled “Art and Alchemy.” Another of McCoy’s many hats is theatre projection design. McCoy began teaching at Yale im 2010 after meeting Wendall Harrington, associate professor adjunct of design and head of Design at the Yale School of Drama. After her exam, Harrington, who was her examiner, asked her to lecture in a class on Visual Storytelling at the School of Drama, a class they now co-teach. Her artistic inspiration comes from “dreams, mythology, alchemy and spiritual practices.” Visual Storytelling is an interdisciplinary class created to amend the “lack of information in art history, visual history and background design” in Yale’s curriculum. The class remains one of the few open to all Yale students regardless of school affiliation.
McCoy’s Guggenheim Fellowship project was inspired by the Colorado mines that formed the landscape of her childhood. Her father was a scientist who owned tungsten mines and shared his enthusiasm for the century-old Wolf Tongue Mill with his daughter. According to McCoy, The Glory Hole Mine in Central City Colorado proved especially inspiring. She described the formation as “a honeycomb inside a mountain” and noted that “this idea of going into the earth fascinated me. The wolf is a big symbol in alchemy as well. I’m interested in mining and refining of ores and how this relates to processes in the psyche, and our spiritual transformation – Alchemy was a symbolic language that dealt with the inner life, and was often linked to ores.”
After her initial success as an artist, spiritually-rooted art “had become taboo in the M.F.A. academic establishment stuck in critical theory and in the art world in general … It was very difficult to be an artist with my interests. One of the problems with positivism, secularism and our materialistic and superficial society, is that people have forgotten about the life of the soul,” said McCoy. “We are seeing environmental destruction and mass addiction in our world cut off from religious rituals celebrating agricultural renewal and nature.” She noted that she draws inspiration from childhood experiences of “seeing Pueblo and Apache rituals,” which had a “profound influence” on her art. She remembered how she “realized that these were still grounded in rituals like the Hopi Snake Dance and Apache Maiden Ceremony that transversed the deepest layers of psyche and spirit.”
According to McCoy, the recent Guggenheim exhibition based on the work of Swedish mystic Hilma af Klint may have been what made her Guggenheim Fellowship possible. The exhibition’s popularity, McCoy said, showed that “viewers were hungry for art linked to spirituality. Doing away with the inner life as a spiritual path has caused us to lose our connection with nature and in many ways with ourselves….and a synthesis of spirituality and art is coming back around.”
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Museum of Modern Art
National Gallery of Australia
New Orleans Museum of Art
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Whitney Museum of American Art
Asian Cultural Council
Pollock Krasner Foundation
Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation Award
Award in the Visual Arts, Prix de Rome
National Endowment for the Arts
Berliner Kunstler Program D.A.A.D.
New Talent Award of Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Gallery exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, New Delhi, Poland, and Berlin.