Adam Ewing photo
The selectors said: Anderson is an accomplished mixed-media artist whose work is shown in several galleries and nonprofit spaces. Her second career as an art teacher at Collegiate School has touched the lives and changed the futures of many students. She is an inspiration as a working artist and an enthusiastic and dedicated teacher. Poet and colleague Mil Norman-Risch wrote of Anderson's work, "Mysteriously, these perfect compositional worlds suggest both tranquility and terror."
Pam Anderson recalls Theresa Pollak's Stuart Avenue apartment as colorful and cheerful. The two met in 1988 when the Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the College of William and Mary interned at the Reynolds Gallery. She ran errands for the artist and became quite friendly with her. "That woman's memory was sharp," Anderson recalls. "And it wasn't like she was this old person; she was like my age inside. I'd drive her to Ukrop's in my little convertible and dust her books — that I had to do a certain way. She liked the Shoney's breakfast buffet. And we talked and talked about everything and anything."
Anderson was raised in Charlottesville, where, she says, "I was the kid who handed in things early," and her favorite class assignments required illustrations or maps. At William and Mary, she found herself at the open-all-night ceramics studios, equipped with handmade kilns. Her organic, tightly coiled pieces caused some classmates to think they'd explode in the firing process. They didn't. Ceramics nearly moved Anderson to switch from her fine-arts studies. She didn't, but the textural and sculptural elements of her work remain.
She cites as influences the formalism of Edward Hopper and the visceral intimacies of Kiki Smith. "I'm not a ‘painter,' in the traditional sense," Anderson explains. "I like personal content. My work is sort of pretty, and it sort of isn't. I admire people who can candy-coat it, but I'm not one of them. Beauty to me, finally, is about communicating."
A recent bout with breast cancer (detected early) and her father's death from undiagnosed lung cancer — "I watched him dissolve before my eyes," she says — have inspired her current work. (An exhibit of Anderson's new work will open Feb. 13 at the Kathryn Markel Fine Arts Gallery in New York City.)
Anderson's teaching career arose from a familiar side job for artists: waitressing (in her case at Mamma 'Zu). A customer familiar with the artist's work knew of an opening at Collegiate; Anderson joined the faculty in 1998 and teaches art in the Upper School. "I think of my friend, Ms. Pollak, and how my kids come back to me years after they've left to visit, and tell me what they're up to. It's incredibly fulfilling."