Annie Perkins Rosenberg is a visual artist currently based in Vancouver, WA. Her work is prolific and often times collaborative, and draws on esoteric themes of alchemy, divination, herbalism, the elements, astrology, and more. Along with her art, Annie also does recorded meditations over at Heal With You. Both her art and her meditations have been influenced and informed by her journey with a chronic illness, which she shares a bit about here.
What are your first memories of making art?
I was a very imaginative child. I know this often annoyed others around me. I was the youngest of many brothers and there was a bit of an age gap. While they were at school all day, I was often at home with my Mother and my Grandparents who had a home they built across the street. My aunt and uncle lived next to them in another home they built, and then my other aunt lived behind us. There were always people around, people going in and out. There were sports, and fishing and going to the public pool, but rarely any art.
While other kids my age were involved with all the other kid stuff, I realized I was different, very different and I really did not like being different. The way I saw the world was different from the rest of my family. I had this artistic, emotional and often dramatic way of doing things and I could see that wasn’t how everyone else was. I hid a lot of that for a very long time and it for sure affected my creating.
My earliest memory of creating therefore come from around the age of seven. I grew up going to Catholic school in a small steel town in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The sister who ran the art department was a tough cookie. She had this small room that was behind the stage in the basement and auditorium. It was really dark down the hallway and there were these dark damp stairs that lead out of the basement and up into the parking lot. When I was in second grade, she had an assignment for us to collect pieces of trees we found outside in the fall and then glue them to a piece of paper to form a tree. We had this large oak outside our house that I collected pieces from and created a tree out of. I remember when I hung it up, that it stood out. Which felt weird. I never excelled at school in any of the academic areas so I knew I was good at something and it felt good. I actually won an award for it and the sister called my Mom to tell her how amazing my work was. It felt really great.
Can you tell us a little bit about your path as an artist, and what brings you to where you are now with your art?
I was truly introduced to the art scene when my best friend, basically my sister, Tamara went to art school at RISD in Rhode Island. I spent many weekends in Rhode Island partaking in the art scene while she was in school there.
My own path as an artist is strange. My schooling is through many community colleges and local schools that I could afford in the many places I have lived. I started with studying painting and photography at a local community college in my hometown. Then I eventually moved to Philadelphia when Tamara graduated from RISD and got a job working for Anthropologie. While living there, I studied art at the Community College of Philadelphia. I did a few art shows while living in South Philly at local coffee shops and salons. I then moved to San Diego, California where I studied Sculpture and Ceramics for a good four years. I did a lot of art shows in San Diego and became really involved with the art and music scene there and I still am today.
While I was still living in San Diego my health became an issue that I could no longer ignore. I have lived with major health issues since I was a child and have gone through hundreds of different diagnoses’ but they could never diagnose me. With this happening in my body, I began studying Nutrition and Wellness to figure out more on my own about my health and did this while still taking art classes. I had been living in San Diego for almost a decade and this was a time in my life where I was fully dedicated to school, work and my art. During this time, I met my now-husband and together we moved to Oakland California. I continued to create while living in the Bay Area and studying Nutrition while I worked full time. This is where I think my art and my health truly began to intertwine. I was not well and I was getting sicker and sicker and it was becoming scarier and scarier each day. A hard part of my life to talk about, but my art is what got me through.
Eventually my health took a severe turn and it got to a point where I entered a treatment. When I began treatment, I got progressively worse and the doctors suggested that I go home to be with family. It is macabre and hard to think of this time, but I felt my body shutting down and I thought I was going home to be with family for my last days. I was too sick to even fly so my husband put me in the car and drove me, and I fought for my life for five years. I do not remember much from this time, just that I was fighting and fighting hard. Eventually, my husband joined me and my family in Pennsylvania and we literally put all of our belongings in the bay area in storage or on the curb. A lot of my artwork was lost in this time.
I didn’t create again until 2018. My father in law bought me some supplies for my Birthday and my husband would lay a towel down on my bed so I could make artwork. I remember I would get out of bed to go downstairs and stain the wood I used and that was amazing for me. It got me out of bed, and it gave me a purpose.
Long story short, I kept creating and it is what got me through. It is also when I began creating meditations that were free online for other chronically ill and homebound patients. A lot of the people who purchase my art or listen to my meditations do not know about my journey. For many years I wrote for well-known websites advocating for my disease and I still stumble across an article I have written on Google news and other random places. It feels like it is coming from another person. I have grown so much in that time.
My health did eventually get to a point where I was able to slowly get out of bed. We relocated to the Seattle area for a year and a half to work with a doctor there and that is when Laurie of Ghost Gallery found my work and asked me to do a solo exhibition. I was still doing IV therapy and in the thick of it at the time, but her reaching out I think is truly what got me to where I am today as an artist. From there, the book covers and other work that I do commissions for like small product lines and other amazing opportunities started to flow in.
Now I am living in the Portland area in Vancouver, Washington. We relocated here right at the beginning of the pandemic and I have worked with a few galleries in Vancouver as well as San Diego and Seattle. I am really excited to see where my work goes from here. I would love to have art in Europe at some point.
As mentioned in your bio, healing is a major influence in your work. Can you talk about how your role as a healer (and perhaps your own healing journey) has influenced your work?
When I first got sick, I was in bed 24/7 for about three years. I had such severe sound and light sensitivity from my body being so reactive that I was in a dark room and the house had to be silent. Anything else was torture. I could not watch TV, listen to music or even talk on the phone. Although my body was in this raw, overreactive state, I was able to listen to meditations through YouTube on my phone. There were about three or four that my body could handle.
Although I loved these few meditations, I also felt that each one was missing something. Like if one was just a little shorter, or less loud or less talking, etc. So, I took a class online that taught me how to record my own meditations affordably and bought all the equipment, and began to create my own. This too began in bed. I would write the script and then spend the hour downstairs at the kitchen table recording them. The more that I grew with my healing work, the more content I created. A lot of them focus on issues like OCD, Insomnia, Disassociation and other mental health topics that go along with the trauma of having a chronic illness. All the topics are things that I have worked through in my own healing process, and the more that I heal, the more that I see working through the emotional blocks, the trauma, and the other energetic circumstances help me to heal. The mind-body connection is a powerful tool.
There are many references in your art to the esoteric realms of alchemy, astrology, divination, the elements, herbalism, and mythology. Do you have any favorite sources that you draw inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from all these things. I firmly believe that I have the honor of being a very old entity inside this organic vessel. I have been drawn to these things since birth and would often worry my family as a child because I was so different. I also feel a certain humbleness with the gifts that I have in these areas because I truly believe we all are called to these things, it’s just the modern society we currently live in takes us away from what we internally already know.
With the art I create, I am always drawn to certain plants, animals, or images and then I read about them. I know it should be the other way around, but it is like I already know what I want to create first. Therefore reading about ancient knowledge, manuscripts and art always makes me feel at home. These things validate me. They help me understand the things that come to my awareness. Again, I feel honored at this, and time and time again I create a piece of work then read about what it means in one of my books. This vague relationship being one I have learned to trust.
I think my upbringing also hindered a lot of this creative flow. Being raised in a religious household gave me many years of shame around these gifts. I was often sent to the principal’s office in grade school for asking questions like “how do we know that” or asking how we were just supposed to believe something without any proof. Eventually, I was expelled from Catholic School. During this time I was also questioning my sexuality, getting involved in the punk scene, and becoming what I knew was the real version of myself. In Catholic School, that was very looked down on. After too many situations of me getting in trouble, or fighting, I was eventually expelled. When I was filling out the paperwork to leave, the woman who was the disciplinarian for the school waited for my mother to leave the office and called me in alone. She told me that I was going to be something someday. That people like me made a difference in the world. Of course, I promised her I would take this to the grave with me, but I think enough time has passed where it is safe to share. That experience was the best thing that happened to me. In public school I was with so many different types of people and I made so many good friends and the art program was phenomenal. I carried so much shame about that part of my life into my adult. I always feared people I interviewed with would know that I was a troublesome kid. Now that I am in my late 30s, I am so proud of that younger me. I can still look back and see myself with my buzzed haircut and dog collar.
Now, in my adult life, I look at religion with a lot of understanding and realize that the thin line of being over religious is where the issues are. I feel such an honor and respect for the Catholic religion now. When my mother tells me she is praying for me or when she tells me a story from the bible, I actually listen. I am an adult now and it is on my own terms. I just do not like any views being forced or drilled into me. That is when I stop listening – with all things.
Along with your art, you also do record audio meditations over at Heal With You. The composition and precision of your artwork feels very meditative to me – is that intentional, or perhaps just a natural extension of your work as a healer?
There is a MASSIVE connection between the two projects. The funny thing is that a lot of the followers of my art are not interested in meditation and the followers of my meditations are not fond of my art. I think my art intimidates some people who are into my meditations. It is raw and real and sometimes very dark. That is because I am sometimes a very dark person and it took me years of meditation to honor that part of me. I think the meditation part of my life shines on my lighter side and my art on the dark. I create meditations that anyone can listen to. Ones that people feel no shame or fear around dark things that come up and where there is no pressure on positivity. You can feel angry and meditate, it is part of the human experience.
At this point I feel like they are less about me, Annie Perkins Rosenberg the healer or Annie Perkins Rosenberg the artist. Now, my artwork shines without my face and the story attached to it. People are drawn to it on their own terms. It helps them see parts of themselves that they need to heal. I am a small part of that. My meditations are the same, that is why it is called Heal with You. The name is cheezy, I admit that but it is about others healing themselves, I just help them get there. They do the hard work and they deserve the praise, it is hard work.
There are certain repeating symbols in your work, such as snakes, clouds, hands, the Sun and the Moon, and eyes. It almost seems like you are creating a language of your own through your art. The symbol that resonates the most for me in your work is the eye. Can you share a bit about what eyes represent to you?
When I was a child and I felt my disease start to sneak in, I started having neurological issues. I grew up in a small row home and since I was the only girl, I had my own bedroom. My brothers all shared. Therefore when I went to bed at night, I was always scared. I had these long curtains in my windows and when the lights would go out, I would see faces and eyes in them. This carried with me throughout my whole life. It is just something my brain does when I see a pattern, I see a face or eyes. I always see this as a gentle reminder that we are not alone. For all I know, maybe the faces and eyes weren’t my neurological issues creeping in during childhood and indeed it is eyes watching me. I mean, I still see them…
The eye is so telling too. I am a shy person and speaking to someone while looking them in the eye is very hard for me. Especially as someone who works with energy. I can tell a lot about someone, sometimes good and sometimes bad, simply by looking them in the eye.
Like me, throughout the history the eye has held significant meaning for many others. For example, the Egyptians and the eye of Horus which was seen as a symbol of health and offered protection in the afterlife or the blue eye amulets also known as Nazar that offer protection against the evil eye which is known to cause death and dismay to those who gaze into it.
Can you tell us about what you are currently working on, and any upcoming shows, projects, or collaborations?
Right now I am taking time to let my work flow when it flows. Heal with You and Black Haus Art are such amazing projects, but they give me very little income. Right now I truly do it because I feel a calling to create for both of them. It feels more wrong not to create and the time I put into it I enjoy. For my artwork specifically, I have tried to use it as a way to gain income, but then it becomes less organic. It is a balance. This year I took the vow to only create as a form of healing. To channel all that I am learning about myself and this human experience into my art. When I let go of having to create art to pay the bills, that is when my art starts to pay the bills. This letting go approach has carried over into other areas of my life as well. It is when we let go of control that things begin to have more control (imagine that).
Recently, I just wrapped up a joined show I did with another artist, Coleman Stevenson of the Dark Exact and I have a few pieces in some smaller galleries right now too. I also have been selling prints of a collaboration I did with my friend Monifa Kincaid. I really like working with artists, it gives me a lot of joy to share art that is so different but coming from the same idea.
I am also working on a collaboration in the near future with my friend from back in Oakland Carrie. She works in a stained glass studio and I want to put my art into glass. We are figuring out how to combine our powers and create something together.
I never really have a plan with my art to be honest or have a goal or want to be in some major gallery one day. I create because for me, it is just as important as eating, sleeping and breathing. I create because I have to.
Who is an artist that inspires you right now?
There are so many, but specifically an artist, Alessandro Keegan out of Brooklyn, New York. Actually, he is an artist, writer, and teacher. What makes me called to another artist most, is their attitude. I am always drawn to someone who is humble and caring. That is always expressed in their work first for me and then when I read about them or talk with them, I see it in their personality. I understand, that becoming well known in the art world takes a lot of time, dedication, and sometimes money, but maintaining the proper attitude throughout that is what I think makes someone truly shine. Alessandro is a good person and his art is stunning. Speaking to him, through all the small exchanges we have had is always an honor. His work reminds me so much of the shapes I see when in meditation. The things I see when I take the time to calm my hyperactive and busy mind and truly look behind my closed eyes. It’s addicting.
What is the best way for people to learn more about your work (website, social media, etc)?
You can follow my artwork through my website at blackhausart.com or through Instagram @blackhausartshop. I also have a Facebook page, but the information is always the same as my Instagram since I never log in and just have it automatically post through Instagram. Heal with You is accessible through the website as well at healwithyou.com or through Instagram @healwithyou, the Facebook is the same situation.
And please, always feel free to reach out to me, I love meeting and talking with new people.