Annie Truxell (1929-2015)
16” x 24”
Oil on Canvas
Provenance: London, On Private Collection
Annie was an American artist, working in the surrealist tradition who lived in the Villa Magda (or in the neighbouring studio) for 40 years. She would winter in New York where she lived in the Chelsea Hotel and summer in Mallorca. She originally arrived in Deia in the 1960s. The villa while she occupied it was the centre for a coterie of international artists, writers and thinkers; famous psychiatrists, writers, musicians, artists would sit under the porch discussing with a vermut and wine in hand. She first lived in the house/studio next door which she bought from the artist Mati Klarwein. (You will know his work from his album covers – Santana Abraxas, Miles Davis Bitches Brew, etc)
Annie Truxell was a fascinating person and no short biography can ever do her justice. Writing this brief summary of her life has been one of the most difficult tasks of mine and I’m not sure entirely why that should be so, but I have a feeling that’s because if anything, this bio should be at least a book and probably an action movie. Annie can’t really be summarized: she is more than the sum of her parts. The dry facts are one thing, but in reality there is so much more to tell. Annie has the gift of anecdote; an unstudied talent that may even surpass her tremendous gifts as a painter. She’s the raconteur par excellence, the person everyone wants at a cocktail party and a joy to be around. Her stories are witty, well told and leave you gasping as you try to encompass the famous names, hints of legendary surroundings and stories that belong on a much bigger screen than the one you’re reading this on.
Annie is my mother’s younger (by 18 months) sister. She was born January 8, 1929 and at 80, a year after a devastating stroke, she’s still more coherent than many people in their thirties. She was raised in Greensboro, Pennsylvania, a small town on the outskirts of Pittsburgh where her father’s family, second generation Dutch immigrants, owned a foundry. It was not a happy family but relief came every summer with idyllic trips to stay with her maternal grandparents in Creston, Iowa and at the family’s summer house on Lake Kegonsa in Wisconsin. Her father died when Annie was 13 and her mother plunged into a deep, violent depression which would leave her hospitalized for some years. “Mother”, said Annie to me once when I was a teenager, “Was never the same after the shock treatment.”
Annie, who possesses the great ability to land on her feet, ended up at Antioch College, that hotbed of progressivism and radical thought that would serve as a crucible for the sixties. She lasted several years, without completing any art classes (“I didn’t want my paintings to look like everyone else’s”), but eventually decided to leave college for the joys of Greenwich Village and life as a painter. She swept into Greenwich Village and became the darling of the artsy bohemian set within months; the chronicle of her life through the fifties would take several volumes and encompass action painters, jazz musicians and beat poets. She was a close friend of Gregory Corso and knew all the beat poets intimately including Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.
In the mid 1950s she married Robert Wheeler, who would go on to become a professor at Yale. The marriage lasted, with many ups and downs, into the early sixties at which point Annie left the country. She traveled extensively – as she would continue to do through most of her life – and ended up in a small village on the Spanish Balearic island Mallorca which would become her true home. Deia, the village, was already notable for attracting writers, artists and musicians, primarily because the scholar, poet and novelist Robert Graves had settled there with his family in the 1950s. Annie’s gift of being in the right place at the right time had led her unerringly to a bohemian enclave that would nurture and keep her for more than thirty years.
Deia throughout the sixties, seventies and eighties was a mecca for creativity. Artists in all media arrived, drawn by the lure of celebrity, the promise of cheap living and great collaborations and many of them stayed. Annie bought a house out on a point overlooking the Meditteranean where her long time companion, the writer Jakov Lind, lived in a medieval tower just up the dirt road and her best friend Joanne bought the house next door, which Annie and the publisher Jane Lougee would eventually inherit. From the mid sixties until the late nineties, Annie divided her time primarily between Deia, New York (she and Jakov kept an apartment at the fabled Chelsea Hotel for years) and London. Annie continued traveling all over the world, although after contracting hepatitis in India, where she had gone in the mid seventies as a follower of the guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, she slowed down for a little while. Her house in Deia was far enough from the social core of the village to allow her time and space for her work, which has always been the most important thing in the world to her.
Through all of this time, with traveling and parties, Annie produced paintings. The core of her art was done from the mid 1960s through the mid 1990s and it is an astonishing and prolific body of work. Her art seems to spring purely from her own subconscious, but the influences of her long and exciting life are there. As you look at her art you can see echoes of the Mediterranean light of Deia, thoughts from the mythos of Robert Graves and Aldous Huxley, colors borrowed from Mati Klarwein, characters from the work of Jakov Lind and fragments and thoughts of so many others that they are too numerous to name. Yet all of it has been refined through Annie’s unique worldview and amazing talent.
In the late nineties, Annie sold her house in Deia and retired to Manhattan, where she lived in an apartment uptown for some years. In May, 2008 she had a stroke and was hospitalized for several weeks. After she came out of the hospital, her sister and her sister’s children moved Annie to Asheville, North Carolina. She died in Asheville in July 2015.