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In Ann Irwin's universe, the unexpected becomes commonplace and the commonplace is never exactly what you expect. Houses sprout heads and rays of fire. Hills bristle with stick figures. Trees grow ribs and skulls. These transformations can be both ominous and optimistic, witty and wise; they arose from a life committed to creativity and represented a daily triumph over adversity.
Born in 1942 in New York, Irwin grew up in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, and studied at the Boston Museum School and the Tyler School of Art. After years of travel, she settled in Bucks County where she apprenticed at the Moravian Tile Works, and began to create highly-detailed, meticulously crafted collages, using old books, fabric, and found objects. Over several decades she quietly produced an extensive body of work, rich in a deeply personal mythology that featured imaginative images of birds, houses, trees, and flowers. In spite of serious and ongoing health problems, she continued to visit her studio every day, making complex works that sometimes expressed her fears and troubles, but were often whimsical and light-hearted as well. Even during her final illness in 2005, when she was confined to a hospital bed for several weeks, she continued to draw and make collages until just a few days before she died.
A posthumous exhibition at the Michener Art Museum, Transmutations and Metamorphoses: The Collages of Ann Irwin, was on view in the summer of 2011.
Ann Irwin. Image courtesy of the artist's estate.
BFA Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, 1964
Boston Museum School, Boston, MA
Annette Messager, Jean Dubuffet, Joseph Cornell
Connection to Bucks County
Irwin moved to Bucks County in 1973, apprenticing at the Moravian Tile Works in Doylestown.
Transmutation and Metamorphosis: The Collages of Ann Irwin, Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, PA, 2011
Visionary Images: The Art and Life of Ann Irwin, Timbur-Henry Gallery, Doylestown, PA, 2005
Josephine Muller Gallery, Abington Friends School, Abington, PA, 1994
Philadelphia Art Alliance, Philadelphia, PA, 1990
Bucks County Community College, Newtown, PA, 1989
Obsessive Image: The Collages of Ann Irwin, John Michael Kohler Art Center, Sheboygan, WI, 1986
Eyes Gallery, Philadelphia, PA, 1980
Regina Public Library, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, 1970
Cheney Cowles Memorial Museum, Spokane, WA, 1966
Medical College of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, 2004
Treasures, John Michael Kohler Art Center, Sheboygan, WI, 1991, 1995, 2001, 2003
Robot Invasion, Method Lab, Brooklyn, NY, 2001
Domestic Spaces, Philadelphia Art Alliance, Philadelphia, PA, 1999
Works on Paper, Owen/Patrick Gallery, Philadelphia, PA, 1995
Bucks County Biennial Juried Exhibition, Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, PA, 1992
Gems, Materia Gallery, Doylestown, PA, 1991
Opening Exhibition, Owen/Patrick Gallery, Philadelphia, PA, 1989
Hothouses, John Michael Kohler Art Center, Sheboygan, WI, 1988
Small Works, Gallery 401, Providence, RI, 1986
Apprentice Exhibition, Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, Doylestown, PA, 1979
The Kitchen, Spirit of the Earth, New Hope, PA, 1978
New Talent, New Dimension Gallery, Berkeley, CA, 1969
Husband and Wife, New World Gallery, Eugene, OR, 1965