Intense, unsettling, and boldly composed, Anna Noelle Rockwell's paintings radiate a sense of ominous implication and Gothic discontent. Drawing from influences as diverse as horror movies, haute couture, and the rural nostalgia of traditional equine painting, she has crafted images that roil with conflict and unspoken threat. Her horses explode with expressive power, while her human subjects hover eerie and still. Nonetheless, both sets of images express Rockwell's concern with the balance between restless, even chaotic energy and the dominating constraints of form. This thematic dynamic, perfectly captured in the tense symbiosis of horse and rider, also informs her most consistent stylistic trait: the disciplined pairing of forcefully defined, almost allegorical figures with abstract, dissolving backgrounds that undermine any sense of solidity or coherent reference.

Rockwell herself is familiar with moving between worlds. Though born in Laguna Beach, California in 1968, she moved around so much after her parents divorced that it's tough to say she's from anywhere at all. An outsider in high school - she was asked to leave one Portland, Oregon private high school for violating the dress code and another in Santa Barbara, CA for producing disturbing art - Rockwell moved to New York at age 16 to attend the Parsons School of Design. Rockwell also became a fascinated habitue of the city's dark side demimonde of sybarites and fetishists and wound up modeling for several prominent photographers who probed the arty edge of the fashion underground.

Leaving New York, Rockwell studied painting and sculpture at the San Francisco Art Institute before her wanderlust drew her to Asia. After trekking through Nepal, she returned to school, earning a degree in Anthropology and Fine Arts from Bennington College in Vermont. For her bachelor's thesis, entitled "Perforating the Soul," Rockwell researched the then-emerging world of ethnic tattooing and body modification that came to be known as the "Modern Primitive" movement. Her research helped focus her artistic concerns as well, and when she returned to San Francisco in 1995, her work in sculpture, performance, and painting began to extend and twist the meanings and emotional dynamics of these potent but marginal subcultural practices.

Back in California, Rockwell also took up riding horses for the first time in a decade. Rockwell had fallen in love with horses as a young girl, and later showed hunters and jumpers in high school. As an adult, Rockwell returned to riding as a form of psychic escape and emotional healing. Committing herself to a rigorous schedule of dressage training, Rockwell found that the sport reflected her ongoing concerns with conflict and the power dynamics of domination and submission. Riding also heightened her appreciation for the process of interpretation. Honing an intuitive relationship with horses allowed the artist to explore and deepen her own forms of nonverbal communication. Though Rockwell had been sketching horses since her teenage years, the creatures in her drawings and paintings increasingly became mirrors of her own emotional life self-portraiture, she says wryly, "without having to show my face."

Rockwell's exact and expressive equine images also drew interest from within the riding world. Far from tarnishing her more sophisticated aspirations as an artist, Rockwell's success within this community underscores her sensitivity to the pleasure and power of equine images, as well as the expressive boldness and accuracy she brings to her work. By moving her horses into non-equine contexts in works like "Jumping Purgatory", Rockwell taps their concrete, almost fetishistic energy and channels it in new and startling directions. This process culminates with her “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Series", which uses the formal and symbolic power of the horse to probe the pervasive but unfocused sense of dread that underlies our times.

By unleashing such totemic figures into broiling spaces of abstraction, Rockwell also suggests our fundamental loss of ground. The disappearance of the landscapes that traditionally accompany equine images speak to the loss of the homestead, of the melancholic rupture of continuity, tradition, and inheritance. This nostalgic disruption is the subject of Rockwell's creepy "The Horror of the Family Series", portraits based on photographs of unidentified relatives drawn from both her maternal and paternal lines. Rockwell has compared her art to pushing and pulling the "skins" of paint, and the waxy flesh on these uncanny figures hangs loosely on their skeletons as if they are beginning to undergo the sort of diseased metamorphosis that Rockwell so enjoys in horror films. The pressure Rockwell puts on her figures is also pressure on figuration itself. As with the paintings of Francis Bacon, persons begin to dissolve into ghosts, or even further, into intimations of apocalypse.

Erik Davis

Erik Davis is the author of Techgnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information. He writes about popular culture for a variety of magazines and journals.



2017        Yesterday’s Feast: A Celebration of Embarassing Abundance, an ORT project collaboration, ORT Project Space, Crockett, CA
               Spectrum, Group Exhibition, Hosted by Catherine Clark, Access Institute, San Francisco, CA

2016        What Is, Was, Group Exhibition, Curated by Anna Noelle Rockwell, Epperson Gallery, Crockett, CA
               EAT, Group Exhibition, Curated by Anna Noelle Rockwell and Kathy Kearns, Epperson Gallery, Crockett, CA

2015        Drawing, Group Exhibition, Juror Jack Fischer, Marin Museum of Contemporary Art, Novato, CA
               Next Generation Garagiste, Featured Artist, Rancho Gordo, Napa, CA
               Art Of Gastronomy, Group Exhibition, Healdsburg Center for the Arts, Healdsburg, CA
               Strait Arts: Member Show, Group Exhibition, Milano Arts, Crockett, CA

2014        Shelter, Group Exhibition, Juror Catherine Clark, Artworks Downtown, San Rafael, CA
               Best Of Marin, Group Exhibition, Fairfax Pavilion, Fairfax, CA
               Feast For the Eyes, Group Exhibition, Blue Line Arts Center, Roseville, CA
               Featured Artist, Hands on Gourmet, San Francisco, CA
               Featured Artist, Heritage Culinary Artifacts, Napa, CA

2013        Food Memoirs, Solo Exhibition, Hands on Gourmet, San Francisco, CA
               Drawing, Group Exhibition, Art Works Downtown, San Rafael, CA
               Food, Projekt30, Online Exhibition
               Group Exhibition, Fence Salon, Capital Region Arts Center, Troy, NY

2012        Flux Tableau, Collaborative work with Midori, Oona Nelson, and Bay Area Artists, Gallery 111, ICB Arts Center, Sausalito, CA
               M2W, Gallery 111, ICB Arts Center, Sausalito, CA
               In the Flesh, Gallery 111, ICB Arts Center, Sausalito, CA
               Bi-Annual Juried Exhibition, Falkirk Cultural Center, San Rafael, CA
               Solo Exhibition, Hands on Gourmet, San Francisco, CA
               Featured Artist, Heritage Culinary Artifacts, Napa, CA

2011        Collective Actions, Group Exhibition, Marin Community Foundation, Novato, CA
               Portraits, Group Exhibition, Gualala Arts Center, Gualala, CA
               Works on Paper, Group Exhibition, Santa Cruz Art League, Santa Cruz, CA
               Group Exhibition, Fence Salon, Capital Region Arts Center, Troy, NY
               Mixology 101, Gallery 111, ICB Arts Center, Sausalito, CA
               Open Studios, Sausalito Artists at Work, Sausalito, CA

2009-10  Featured Artist, Sonoma Horse Park Classic, Petaluma, CA
               Aghast: Art From the Underworld and Afterlife, curated by Jennifer Holmes, Rythmix Cultural Works, Oakland, CA

2000-8   Art for Aids, Butterfield’s, San Francisco, CA
               Group Exhibition, Bert Green Fine Art, Los Angeles, CA
               Marin Art Festival, San Rafael, CA
               Erotic Art, Soundscape Gallery, Santa Rosa, CA
               Coup d’Etat, San Francisco, CA
               Art for Aids, Somar Gallery, San Francisco, CA
               Group Exhibition, Art Ink Gallery, Ballston Spa, NY

1997-99   The Horror of the Family: New Paintings, Solo Exhibition, Merrin Gallery, Half Moon Bay, CA
               The Horse as Icon in Contemporary Art, Merrin Gallery, Half Moon Bay, CA
               The Second Hanging, Solo Exhibition, Spaghetti Ravioli Salon, San Francisco, CA
               Art for Aids, Somar Gallery, San Francisco, CA
               Anon Salon, Curated by Joegh Bullock, San Francisco, CA
               Odd, Poundcake Gallery, San Francisco, CA
               Queer and Kinky Danger, curated by Willy Walker, Gay & Lesbian Historical Society of Northern California, San Francisco, CA
               Post Card 2 and Post Card 3, Four Walls Projects, San Francisco, CA
               Strange Manipulations of a Scavenger Savant, Crucible Steele Gallery, San Francisco, CA

1995-96   American Indian, American Devil, (invitational), 848, San Francisco, CA
               Halloween, Solo Exhibition, Curated by Jennifer Holmes, Roderick’s Chamber, San Francisco, CA
               The Body, the Tarot & a Fetish, Solo Exhibition, Roderick’s Chamber, San Francisco, CA
               Judgment of the Innocent, A Salon, San Francisco, CA
               Sex Object, La Luz De Jesus, Los Angeles, CA
               The Art of the Corset, (invitational), 111 Minna Gallery, San Francisco, CA
               Paintings and Drawings, Solo Exhibition, Spaghetti Ravioli Salon, San Francisco, CA


United States Dressage Federation’s 2016 Art Competition, 2nd Place, Lexington, KY


Featured Artist, Thunderbird Show Park, BC, Canada, 2017
Featured Artist, CDI Grand Prix Premium, Belgium, 2017
Featured Artist, Studios Magazine, Fall 2014
Featured Artist, The Home, K.M. Thornton & Co.,, September, 2014
Interview, Sausalito Artists at Work, 2011
Anna Noelle Rockwell: Paintings and Drawings, Introduction by Erik Davis, Tesori Fine Art Publications, December 2002
Editorial and Featured Artist, Southern California Riding Magazine, September 2000
Featured Artist, The Equine Image, October/November 1999
Featured Artist, Next Monet,, 1999
Art Talk, Merrin Gallery, Half Moon Bay, 1999
Featured Artist, Carpe Noctem, September 1998
Featured Artist (with interview & article), Suffering is Hip, Volume I,, 1997
Featured artist, Discovery Channel’s “Beyond Bizarre: The Gothic Underground,” 1997


B.A., Anthropology and Fine Arts, Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont, 1994

Coursework in Painting, San Francisco School of Art, 1996-97
Coursework in Painting & Sculpture, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA, 1989-91
Foundation Design coursework, Parsons School of Design, New York City, NY 1986-88