ANN SINK WHITE
"Untitled", Date Unknown | 44”x32” - oil on canvas
This abstract painting with strong colors and composition is undated, but would appear to be part of the abstract expressionist movement of the 1950s. The dynamic red section on the right of the painting is carefully balanced by the progression of the blue, yellow, gray, and white marks ascending. The composition is highly successful because of the balance of forms and colors.
Born Ann Breese, she grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to which her father, James L. Breese, Jr., had relocated the family from Lake Forest, Illinois, in 1928. A Navy lieutenant and engineering officer of the six-man crew making the first transatlantic flight in 1919 on the NC-4 from Long Island to Plymouth, England, he later discovered Santa Fe after making an emergency landing in the vicinity while on a flying assignment from Pan American World Airways seeking a route from Chicago to California.
Breese purchased land on Upper Canyon Road in Santa Fe where he built the family home. He also built his offices and laboratories on the premises and developed the Breese Burner, the first thermostatically-controlled heater used in everything from home furnaces to Army tent heaters. In addition to horse stables, Breese also built an enormous swimming pool which became a great attraction for Santa Fe society, including notables in art, music and science.
Ann started drawing and painting at an early age. Her exposure to art was augmented by visits to the studio of Santa Fe artist, Randall Davey, a neighbor on Canyon Road. He became a friend of the family through a shared interest in horses and polo playing. On occasion he invited her father to accompany him to polo matches in Colorado Springs hosted by Spencer Penrose, founder of the Broadmoor Hotel and a patron of the Broadmoor Art Academy. In the late 1920s Ann was introduced to the work of American modernist, Andrew Dasburg, who then lived nearby on Canyon Road. She also admired Santa Fe printmaker and longtime family friend, Gustave Baumann, and became good friends with his daughter, Ann, approximately her own age.
Growing up in Santa Fe she knew a lot of the artists and personages in Santa Fe and Taos, including Mabel Dodge Luhan and her husband, Tony, to whom she taught the jitterbug at one of Mabel’s parties. Santa Fe artist Will Shuster created Christmas cards for the Breese family. Ann received additional art instruction in summer courses in Santa Fe. While horseback riding in the vicinity of Abiquiu north of Santa Fe in her early teens, she would stop and watch Georgia O’Keeffe painting which annoyed her. She offered Ann a candy bar to make her go away, fortunately not discouraging her from later pursuing her own art.
She attended the Sandia School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, founded as a secondary private day and boarding school by Ruth Hanna McCormick Simms in 1932. The school helped prepare girls for further study or college in the eastern United States. By the time Ann was a Sandia student, the school had moved to a new permanent campus, now part of Kirtland Air Force Base. Mrs. Simms commissioned architect John Gaw Meem to design the school complex in the territorial style. New Mexico Transcendental artist Raymond Jonson sometimes taught her art classes. She also received instruction from Kenneth Adams, who relocated to Albuquerque in 1938 on a Carnegie Corporation grant as the first artist-in-residence at the University of New Mexico where he taught until his retirement in 1963. The Sandia School closed during World War II.
After high school graduation Ann enrolled in 1943 in the fine arts program at Bennington College founded a decade early as a women’s college in Vermont. Established as a “laboratory to explore new approaches in higher education,” it was the first American college to include the visual and performing arts as full-fledged elements in a liberal arts education. Its emphasis on self-directed learning guided by the faculty, enhanced by hands-on field experience in their chosen major, greatly appealed to Ann. Like artist Helen Frankenthaler, who entered Bennington in 1946, she felt the college was formative in her development as an artist and a person. Both of them studied with Paul Feeley, a later central figure in the American postwar avant-garde. He taught art at the college from 1939 to 1945 and introduced his students to the work of the significant modern artists of his time. His encouragement to explore non-representational expression was reflected in Ann’s abstract paintings at Bennington.
Fulfilling the college’s unique requirement that students devote a Non-Resident Term every year to working in the world, she arranged to spend hers studying with Diego Rivera in Mexico City. A driving force behind the Mexican mural movement early in the twentieth century, he was well known in America for his Detroit Industry Murals at the Detroit Institute Arts and for the controversy in the press surrounding his mural, Man at the Crossroads, removed from Rockefeller Center in 1933. Ann worked with Rivera in his studio in Mexico City, painting a mural showing burros going into the desert. However, its large size prevented her from bringing it back to the United States. She also had the opportunity to meet Rivera’s wife, Frida Kahlo, whom she noticed was in fragile health due to the pain suffered from an earlier accident.
Following graduation from Bennington in 1947 Ann returned to Santa Fe where her sister introduced her to architect, Charles Sink, her future husband. At that time he was working on the town site at Los Alamos, New Mexico, the location of the Manhattan Project. A recently graduate of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, he and fellow classmate I.M. Pei had studied with Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus design movement in Germany in the 1920s.
Shortly after her marriage, Ann moved with her husband to Caracas, Venezuela, where he opened the first architectural office in 1948. While based there, she pursued independent art study. Two years later they came back to the United States, settling in Denver where he opened his own architecture office. In 1954 he moved his family to New York for two years to work with I.M. Pei at William Zeckendorf’s architectural firm, Webb and Knapp. In 1956 he became the Denver associate (until 1960) of I.M. Pei’s own firm, overseeing the city’s Court House Square project (Zeckendorf Plaza) that included the Hilton Hotel and the new May D & F department store with its distinctive hyperbolic paraboloid entrance (demolished in 2005) that won the AIA National Honor Award in 1961.
In the latter 1950s, along with raising her young family in Denver, Ann began painting oils on canvas and board in the styles of pure and referential abstraction. While she and her family lived in New York, she saw Abstract Expressionism in the exhibitions of its artists, including family friend Adolf Gottlieb. Her firsthand contact with the movement informed her striking and large untitled canvas in the late 1950s. Other pure abstracts from the 1960s show her attachment to Color Field painting. At the same time, she applied referential abstraction to other paintings basing their imagery on New Mexico landscape and the large Native American pueblo in Taos, which she visited while growing up in Santa Fe. The cubistic structure of the several-storied adobe pueblo appealed to her and was a very familiar subject. She likewise applied referential abstraction to still lifes, a subject close at hand, whose bright palettes recall those of Arthur B. Carles.
By the early 1960s she began painting acrylics which had become commercially available and used by a number of New York-based Abstract Expressionists. She increasingly preferred them to oils because they dried quickly and were practically odorless. Providing limitless expression and creativity, they allowed artists to achieve different textures, consistencies and color depths. Ann applied the medium to modernist landscapes on canvas and paper of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Montana, as well as of Mexico, Greece and other locales she visited with her second husband, Ed White. Some of these same places appear in her watercolors and watercolors combined with pastel.
After returning with her family to Denver in 1956, she and her husband wanted to share with the community the experience of modernist and abstract expressionist art they had enjoyed in New York. They co-founded the Alliance for Contemporary Art (AFCA) that still exists under the aegis of the Denver Art Museum. She later received the museum’s Cile Bach Award and its 50 Year Award for her invaluable hours of volunteer service. She also was a board member of the Colorado Coalition for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Her protest activities with a Denver contingent in Nevada in 1987 resulted in an acrylic on paper, Peace March at Nevada Test Site.
In the 1950s and 1960s she participated in the Denver Art Museum’s Metropolitan and Own Your Own shows. She also has exhibited her work at several Denver galleries – Rive Gauche Gallery, Brass Cheque Gallery and Neusteter’s Gallery. Other Colorado venues include the Rocky Mountain National Watercolor Show at the Foothills Gallery in Golden, Colorado, Annual Water Media Exhibit at History Colorado (fka Colorado Historical Society), Gilpin County Arts Society and the Jewish Community Center Annual Invitationals.
In 1963 Ann became a founding member of The Nine organized by Denver artist, Jeannie Pear. Active until 2000, the group comprised local painters, sculptors, potters, weavers and jewelry makers seeking to remain independent of the Denver gallery scene. They invited national prominent artists to conduct workshops and critiques. Ann exhibited annually in juried shows with The Nine and with the Colorado Watercolor Society of which she was a signature member.
Ann earned her teaching certificate in art education at Denver University in 1969. She taught the summer art programs at the Littleton and Cherry Creek schools, as well as at the Denver Art Museum and the Jewish Community Center. In the 1970s she ran the Scholastic Art Awards program in Denver that exhibits students’ work and awards the finalists a “Gold Key” and the opportunity to show in New York. During the same decade she served as regional editorial consultant for architecture and interior design for CBS Publications and the Meredith Corporation.
In the 1970s, following her divorce from Charles Sink, she married Denver architect Edward White. A prize-winning graduate of the School of Architecture at Columbia University in New York, he was a friend of Beat Generation author, Jack Kerouac, who included him as a character in two of his books. With fellow Denver architect, Victor Hornbein, White designed the roof of the tropical conservatory at Denver Botanic Gardens. As a sole practitioner after 1975 he focused on Colorado preservation and restoration projects, such as Ninth Street Park on the Auraria Campus, master plan for the Central City Historic District, and the Molly Brown House in Denver. He helped establish the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission in 1966 on which he served for twenty-seven years. For his work in preservation History Colorado honored him with the Stephen H. Hart Award in 2003, and seven years later he received Dana Crawford Award from Colorado Preservation, Inc.
In 2000 Ann White’s son Mark Sink, an American photographer best known for romantic portraiture, hosted her fifty-year retrospective at Gallery Sink (closed in 2008). Titled Ann White, 1950-2000, a selection of her paintings and watercolors traced the development and refinement of her style in her abstract and representational periods, both marked by strong shapes and characteristic color.
Collections: Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, Denver, Colorado.