Visionary paints a spiritual journey 

"Visionary Artists," Crealde School of Visual Arts, Through May 15. 1998

Anita Wooten undertakes a deeply spiritual journey through her painting. She says it is a journey that explores "the visions anyone may experience in those moments between sleeping and waking; between life and death, (and the) beauty and tragedy present in the human condition." Her current works inspired by this process are being exhibited at Crealdé School of Art alongside paintings and drawings by Dennis Schmalstig and photographs by Diane Farris in a show aptly titled "Visionary Artists."

Wooten, 42, started painting at a very young age, but didn't become focused on her work until her early 20s. The Florida native attended the University of Central Florida before earning a Master of Fine Arts degree at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia in 1995. She is now the director of drawing and painting at Crealdé School of Art and adjunct professor of drawing and printmaking at Valencia Community College.

Her works are intensely introspective. The oil-on-canvas "Soul Immersion" depicts a slender mermaid diving into a moonlit ocean. The scene is fraught with tension. White-capped waves roll around the torso of the submerging figure. The tail is arched back at an odd angle, as though symbolizing its struggle not only to live but to succeed in its quest. Wooten uses murky reds and greens to give the painting an emotional impetus that leaves the viewer unsettled, sad, even frightened.

In addition to the sea, the human body is also a recurring symbol; one with intensely personal meaning, as Wooten has battled cancer for the last seven years. "The impact of receiving a death sentence and dealing with the threat of death over an extended period of time cannot be overestimated," she says passionately. "From that point forward, life is changed and there is no return to the innocence once known. ... One is thrust into a world of consciousness that reshapes the soul and tempers the spirit."

Wooten feels she can reclaim her own body from surgeries by painting the female form and portraying it as strong and healthy. She dares to journey between the physical and the spiritual through her paintings, and her works come alive with the power of her vision. It is a journey that immortalizes the strength of the human spirit.

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