The painter Anessa Arehart has spent years feeling like she was living in a different dimension from the rest of the world. It started after she was in two car accidents just months apart in 2012. The back-to-back concussions led to a brain injury that came with headaches, dizziness, a ringing in her ears, memory loss, mood swings and the inability to concentrate for long periods.
To speed up her recovery, the artist and her husband, Beau, moved from Louisville to Harrodsburg, Ky., where they operate the Little Wing Hallow Art and Nature Sanctuary.
Therapy, meditation and daily walks in the woods eventually healed Arehart’s physical wounds, but the artist tells Insider Louisville she never lost the sense of otherworldliness that engulfed her after the brain injury.
Arehart said she didn’t have the words to describe what she was feeling until she discovered some writings about the fourth dimension, an astral plane that exists outside of our reality. Philosophers like Carlos Castaneda believed most people could only experience this dimension while in deep sleep, but a gifted few could catch a glimpse of it while they are awake.
This idea of a higher reality hiding in plain sight is the inspiration behind Arehart’s new show “Silver Cord Sisters: Postcards from the Astral Plane,” which opens at CRAFT(s) Gallery & Mercantile on Friday, Dec. 7.
Arehart says she choose the silver cord as a unifying image for the show because some mystics believe such a cord is what tethers the soul to the physical body when one enters the astral world.
“All the paintings go along with the fourth dimension stuff,” she explains. “I feel like I have a weird foothold into that dimension because of this brain injury. I know that sounds crazy, but it is a weird feeling of heightened senses.
“It’s like when you come home and you know someone is watching television in another room. You can’t hear the TV, but you know it’s on because you’re aware of this other vibration frequency,” she continues. “I feel like that all the time.”
Arehart graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1992 with a degree in art. She has worked as a gallery director at KMAC and Flame Run Hot Glass Studio & Gallery. Now she spends her time teaching art and hosting seminars at Little Hollow.
The artist’s work always has combined elements of pop and folk art, so it is not surprising that she would be drawn to a world full of angels, fairies and nature spirits. Her new paintings feature many of Arehart’s usual themes like twin images and women dressed as warriors or goddesses.
“Powder Room Nymphs” features two figures with three arms sitting next to each other. They are almost identical, with large black and blue butterflies covering their chests and stars in their hands. But one is wearing a crown in her hair and has two roses and a star in her hands. The other has roses in her hair and stars in two of her hands. One of the second figure’s hands is empty, as if she is missing something.
“I’ve done double paintings for years, but now they almost have this new meaning for me of feeling like two people,” she says. “It is also the before and after, because everything is pre- and post-wreck in my life. All my paintings are autobiographical. I feel like they are telling stories that are part of my life. They are my stories, so I think that’s why they always come out as women. I do think I have a masculine side, but I haven’t painted him yet.”
“Silver Cord Sister” is Arehart’s first exhibition at CRAFT(s) Gallery in five years. Her last show in Louisville was two years ago when she showed a collection of block prints at the Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church.
Arehart says all the new paintings were done in the last two months because teaching and farm work often keep her from the canvas.
“Usually I need a big deadline, because living out in the country there are always so many projects at hand,” she says. “So sometimes, I put painting off until someone wants me to do a show or a project. But once I start, I realize I don’t really want to have to do anything else.”
“Silver Cord Sisters: Postcards from the Astral Plane” runs Dec. 7 through 31. The gallery will host an opening reception with the artist on Friday, Dec. 7, from 6-10 p.m. CRAFT(s) is located at 572 S. Fourth St.