The Joy of Anna Dibble's Paintings
The animals in Anna Dibble’s paintings go to bars, dine out at restaurants, and hang out on couches. They wear t-shirts and pants, eat cheese and paella, and drink glasses of wine. They seem to do all the things we do.
“I use animals as a means of indirectly addressing some of the ways in which we live our lives and approach our problems,” explained Dibble. “I’m aware of the absurd ways our species has gone about things. We take ourselves too seriously, and equally – not seriously enough.” By embracing anthropomorphism, Dibble is able to tell humorous stories where cats, dogs, owls, and birds stand in for humans.
Dibble grew up in Vermont and “lived with raccoons, a sparrow hawk, a great blue heron, amphibians, and a convoluted sequence of domestic animals.” In her youth, she wrote scripts for puppet shows. This led to a career in animation where she worked at some of the biggest studios–Disney, Marvel, and Hanna-Barbera–on some familiar and beloved programs, includingTransformers, Tron, The Flintstones, and The Electric Company.
The animals in her paintings are “inspired by a love of comics, natural history, and the art and stories of indigenous cultures.” Dibble said, “I like to compare human behavior and traits with those of the other animals, seeking similarities and differences.”
And here is the nub of Dibble’s work: Many artists cast animals in place of people as a means of softening the blow of their observations about humanity. Others humanize animals as a way of creating comic effect. Dibble is doing a little of both. Say Cheese captures that cumbersome moment where three people are spending time together and two of the three don’t really get along and the third person is focusing much more of their attention on one of the two. In Say Cheese, the cat isn’t having it and the owl is confused by the attention. Dibble renders this relatable social awkwardness with simple humor.
In After Being Neutered, Dibble imagines a world where a recently fixed dog is on a date with a cat. Ezra desperately wants to know what Fluffie is thinking. The story is written out in the painting as if it were a comic, but unlike comics, Dibble serves up a folkish painting full of interesting details that could easily be paintings themselves: a vase of pink flowers, an orange bowl with fish on it, a night scene of a bird in a tree. These are gems, Easter eggs hidden in Dibble’s paintings, rewarding viewers paying close attention. They are small moments of joy, waiting to be found.
Anna Dibble was raised in a Vermont village, and lived with raccoons, a sparrow hawk, a great blue heron, amphibians, and a convoluted sequence of domestic animals – including humans. She drew, read, and wrote plays and puppet scripts for community productions. Her early life is the foundation for her art and writing. For many years, Dibble worked in the animation studios of Disney, Marvel, and Hanna-Barbera. Some of the television and theatrical productions she worked on in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York included The Black Cauldron,Transformers, Tron, The Flintstones, Dungeons and Dragons, and The Electric Company.
She was also a freelance writer, co-designer and composer of animated shorts for The Children’s Television Workshop’s Sesame Street. For over 30 years, Dibble, primarily a self-trained artist, has exhibited her animal paintings, drawings and sculpture in solo and group exhibitions in New England galleries and cultural centers. Her work is in private collections throughout the United States.
See artwork by Anna Dibble in "Menagerie: Animals in Art," presented by West Branch Gallery.