Every interview I do with an artist begins the same way: with a phone call and a little homework in the form of a pre-interview questionnaire that the artist completes and returns to me. Anne Cicero, our cover artist, responded to questions about influences on her art, favorite paintings, how long she has been an artist, and so forth. Her response to Question 8, which reads, “Throughout your career, what are the five major works that you have created?” caught my attention. There on the fax was a barely noticeable smudge, as if an original answer had been whited out and replaced. I believe that a person’s first response to a question is often the most accurate reflection of that person’s thoughts, so I now had a mystery to solve. What was her first response to Question 8? I grabbed my Scooby snacks and headed off to solve a mystery—uh, interview our cover artist.
A professional artist for more than 15 years, Anne has drawn and painted from a very young age. Since both of her parents are clay artisans, the support she received from her family encouraged her to pursue a career as a professional artist. Anne earned her bachelor’s degree in graphic design, with a minor in art history, at LSU, and then studied painting and portrait drawing at New Orleans Academy. She lived in Dallas for a few years, working as a wardrobe and set designer for a number of leading photographers and commercial film companies. Her work has been seen in several publications, including the Spiegel catalogue and the Italian Marie Claire fashion magazine. Recently, she studied pastels under the tutelage of noted artist Joyce Hagen.
While Anne was sharing her personal history with me, my mind began to wander as I anticipated the possibility of getting an answer to the mystery surrounding Question 8. It looked promising, because work as a designer in publications is a very high profile gig. It provides plenty of opportunities to do way-cool work, which is, by extended definition, major work. To my disappointment, however, the mystery remained unsolved for the moment. But the clues were beginning to fall into place.
Anne’s reputation as a wardrobe and set designer subsequently led to assignments in feature films. She worked on the movie “Hard Target,” starring Jean Claude Van Damme, as they filmed parts in New Orleans. Some producers from that movie approached her about being a costume designer on their next project, the movie adaptation of the Anne Rice novel “Interview with a Vampire.” Anne recalls the experience: “We—the other costume designers and I—worked in the costume shop. We had sewing machines going all the time. We laced up what seemed like a million corsets, and my fingers felt like they were practically bleeding from all the stitching! We had over 100 extras dressed in period costumes working out at Oak Alley [Plantation] in the middle of the night to do the night shots needed in the movie.” Anne adds with genuine sincerity, “I got to know some pretty interesting people. It was a really great experience.” I noted that it made a great anecdote for a magazine article, and she laughed—but didn’t give up the original answer to Question 8.
Shortly after “Interview with a Vampire” was completed, Anne married and took a sabbatical of sorts to spend time with her husband and start their family. As their children reached school age, Anne began to paint again, accepting commissions and doing installations for interior designers. Her works are featured locally and throughout the South, including at Annadele’s Plantation and Pelican Athletic Club. Her unique style of layering acrylics over dark under paintings and embellishing with various metallic glazes caught the attention of the Junior League. They selected her as the featured artist for the 2004 Junior League Harvest Cup Polo Classic and commissioned the signature painting, entitled “Perseverance,” seen on our cover.
“I took an illustrative approach to this piece because I was fascinated by the ancient history of polo,” Anne explains. “I wanted to give the painting an old-world, yet contemporary, feel to it. I wanted the poster to represent the polo fundraiser and the positive impact the Junior League has on our community. I’m excited and honored to have been chosen to do the poster for the Junior League.” She explains that the horse and player represent a sense of dedication and achievement, and their perseverance in moving ahead to the future.
I was impressed. I thought surely a noble painting like this for charity would warrant a mention in Question 8’s list of great works. But, as I was to discover, Anne takes her greatest pride in only three creations. And rightly so. Referring back to her artistic influences, Anne told me that she admires the works of Edward Hopper and J.W Turner for their preoccupation with light. She mentioned Jackson Pollock for his ability to let the process of creating take over and guide him. She also gives a reverent amount of credit to her parents for their creativity and devotion to the arts. But Anne told me that her children are at the top of her list as her most creative influences. When I heard that, Question 8 immediately popped into my mind, but it wasn’t time to close the case yet.
“I really admire my children’s work for their innate and fearless sense of color, composition and subject matter,” Anne says, with a mother’s pride and artist’s envy combined. “I love having them look at my work. I always ask them what they think and see what they say about it. They have great imaginations and will tell me to add colors or whatever. They have a good time with it.” She says, very tongue-in-cheek, that her children are her collaborators and art directors. Anne wouldn’t have it any other way. “In fact, when you asked what my greatest accomplishments are, I started to write down ‘my kids.’ They really keep things in perspective for me. You hear actors and actresses say that, and it sounds like a cliché, but for me it really is true. My kids and my husband are the greatest things in the world to me.”