Colors of Life

Purple onions glow against a neutral background. Apples burnished by red and gold highlights. A female torso whose contours are outlined in green, orange, turquoise and gray. This is the color world of painter Anna Kodesch, a third-generation Portlander whose upcoming show, “Oregon, My Oregon,” opens Dec. 1 at Bellamy Studios in Multnomah Village (6715 SW Multnomah Blvd.).

Kodesch, who is represented by Caplan Art Designs, explains her distinctive approach to color on her website: “I love to challenge the notion of ‘accurate color’ by using the paint on the canvas as a medium to prove that accuracy does not always equal perfect aesthetics. I do this by taking seemingly unrelated splotches of paint and combining them in such a way that, as a finished product, they result in a true, beautiful, artistic representation of the subject – whether that be a face, a landscape or a piece of fruit.”

By using her own perceptions of color, Kodesch’s representations of beaches, fruits, mountains and people capture hidden facets, like turning a cut gem this way and that in a strong light. Her paintings of everyday objects provide these ordinary subjects with added depth and sometimes a startlingly different perspective.

Kodesch studied graphic design and painting in college and later worked in design production. The mother of three young children, Kodesch has increased her focus on her painting over the past year or so. “I’m really trying to get out there and show and be recognized for the work I’m doing,” she says. “It makes me happy to share my work and see others’ enjoyment of my work.”

When you look at Kodesch’s paintings, even in the reproductions on her website (, the fat brushstrokes are notable. Kodesch applies color with a buttery thickness, explaining, “I want my paintings to be delicious. For me, paint just feels yummy, thick and rich, full of viscosity.” Interestingly, given the almost three-dimensional quality of her work, Kodesch paints from photographs rather than from life. “Painting from photos allows me to divorce my emotions from what I’m seeing,” she says. “When I paint from a photo, I have an easier time capturing what is really there, rather than what I think is there. It also allows me to abstract a little more.”

Abstraction is also how Kodesch describes her relationship to color. “I always thought I was a realist, but now I think I’m more about expressions and impressions. My paintings are realistic depictions with abstract use of color.” Although she acknowledges the exaggerated nature of her color choices, Kodesch says when she chooses a color, that’s the color she actually sees. “In traditional color theory, you learn that every color is made of every other color,” she explains. “When I look at a pear, I see that it’s reddish. I try to exaggerate the oddity or anomalous quality of the color.” This highlighting of anomalies in colors also challenges viewers to take part in experiencing the paintings. “I want the viewer to use their vision to make the colors work together.”

Kodesch does not consciously direct her art; she allows her artistic impulses to dictate her paintings. “It’s important to let the work evolve without too much conscious direction,” she says. “I’m pleased to see how my work has developed over the past year. I’ve become a more aggressive painter. I’m more confident in what I want to do and I think people respond more strongly to my work.”

In addition to her upcoming show at Bellamy Studios, a series of Kodesch’s paintings of fruits, vegetables and roosters is on display at the Daily Cafe at the Tram on the South Waterfront, located at 3355 SW Bond Ave.

Elizabeth Schwartz is co-host of the Yiddish Hour on 90.7 FM KBOO Community Radio and a freelance writer living in Portland.


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