The enormous, framed pencil drawing of breasts above the couch in Pam Anderson's living room creates an intriguing contrast to the tidy white-picket fence, flower flag and potted plants outside her pale-yellow 1920s Craftsman bungalow.
"It's a pretty scary piece to have in your living room," Anderson says of her 1995 drawing, The Bluest Eye, which she describes as kind of surreal, kind of vaginal, kind of like a flounder. Then again, every object in this home tells its own story, drawing in the eye, requiring closer examination.
Born in Richmond but raised in Charlottesville, Anderson received an art degree from the College of William and Mary and a master's degree in painting from Washington University in St. Louis. When searching for a house in Forest Hill, she saw a garage filled with easels (now her studio). That cinched the deal.
A well-known arts figure in Richmond — the upper-school art teacher at Collegiate, an emeritus member of 1708 Gallery and a board member of the Visual Arts Center — Anderson was the 2004 recipient of a Virginia Museum of Fine Arts fellowship and the 2009 winner (in the Fine Art category) of a Theresa Pollak Prize for Excellence in the Arts from Richmond magazine. She has shown her work in various galleries around the city and has been represented by New York gallery Kathryn Markel Fine Arts since 2005. Beyond glossy résumé and a large public persona, her home and art reveal the more deeply personal details of her life.
"My work is really autobiographical," says Anderson, a breast-cancer survivor. "I've always been ruminating on loss — issues of aging, sexuality." Over the years, the themes of self in her art have primarily changed through medium. She's worked in ceramics, prints and oil, and her current work is collage-based. "You'd be surprised what I can adhere to paper," she says. "From pencil to sewing to paint, to pieces of wood. I use throwaway items — it takes them out of the trash and elevates them. I'm trying to make things stay."
Portrait of My Desire, a companion piece to The Bluest Eye, hangs in her dining room. Self-portraits flank the desk in her office, offset by a collage featuring the poetry of a friend who died while in Italy. Anderson's bedroom, painted white and pale blue to create the sensation of floating in the sky, holds her most sacred objects, including her art books and the ashes of her father, a boyfriend and her cat.
With furnishings mostly inherited or scavenged, Anderson has done all of the interior design and decoration herself. "My artistic sensibility informs my decorating in its emphasis on editing and placement. Everything in my house is there for a reason. I like each room, in a way, to have a specific feeling, or perhaps embody even a person."
As she lives alone, Anderson's placement of each object is both intimate and intentional. She is pleased with the throw pillows from Target and delighted by the lambskin rug she found at Costco. But the most important things in her home were made by hand. Each room is lined with books and art — her own as well as that of her students and other renowned artists like Greg Carbo, Theresa Pollak, Chris Chase, Langdon Graves, Heide Trepanier and Kathryn Henry-Choisser. "My house is very sentimental in that I have ‘holdings' from a lot of different people in my life," she says.
Anderson's studio — where she spends much of her weekends and summers — houses various art materials, scraps for collage, bits of nature, a rubber model of the human brain, a huge print of a poem by Elizabeth Bishop, various works in progress, a stone fireplace and an old crib filled with thousands of ceramic casts of her fingers. "It's a crib or a coffin," she says. "It shows that place between life and death."
While many of the big questions she asks in her art are still unanswered, her search is well-documented.
"It's not a cold house," she says. "People come in and say, ‘this is like being in a little heart.' "
A ceramic bottle form by Anderson and a blue bamboo thrift store vase is filled with beach branches from Jekyll Island, Ga.
Anderson's pencil drawing, The Bluest Eye, is displayed above the couch in the living room.
Beyond the archway, a screen by Chris Chase flanks the back wall of the dining room.
LEFT: The dining room table is set with gifts from her parents — vintage napkins, a ceramic plate and an outdoor candelabrum. Anderson's handmade ceramic seeds accentuate the centerpiece. RIGHT: In the hallway hangs Doris after the Landslide, a sculpture by Langdon Graves.
Across her worktable, you can see Anderson's studio behind the house.
LEFT: This detail from an early oil-on-canvas painting by Heide Trepanier became a part of Anderson's bartered collection. RIGHT: A self-portrait by D. Scott Gregory is propped against the wall in the kitchen beneath Anderson's own flower monoprints.
The bedroom, decorated to feel like the sky, displays one of Anderson's ceramic pit-fired vessels and her charcoal-and-shellac bowl drawing.