Ann Toebbe

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Ann Toebbe
The Doctor's Wife, 2011
Cut paper, paint, acetate, glue on paper
190.5 x 322.6 cm

Ann Toebbe’s flattened interiors have the look of both a board game and a cut-out paper home for dolls; either way, her architectural spaces are unpopulated, hinting sarcastically, in both title and details, at a social type who’ll slot in nicely. In The Doctor’s Wife, a family kitchen is laid out diagrammatically. There are the containers for foodstuffs, arranged in descending order of size; the food processor, ready to whizz; the vegetables, freshly chopped by the sink; the perfect garden, with its bowers and white picket fence.

Ann Toebbe
The Grocer's Wife, 2011
Cut paper, paint and glue on paper
190.5 x 254 cm

The imagined occupant is externally defined (by her spouse’s occupation, by the stuff in her house), and her lack of interiority is implied, most obviously, by her absence: she’s not there because, well, she’s not there, even when she is. The Grocer’s Wife is less socially elevated, as the title sardonically hints: its linoleum floor, in squiggled paint at odds with Toebbe’s schematic rendering of cupboards and stools, suggests a humbler income, though the interior is no less oppressively over determined.

Ann Toebbe
The Photo Engraver's Wife, 2011
Cut paper, paint and glue on paper
190.5 x 254 cm

Imagined occupants must move in line with the space they occupy, and it’s hard to imagine anyone other than a cut out character, shuffled around by game-playing children, inhabiting such a place. This, perhaps, is Toebbe’s point – that an ideal of personhood is no more inhabitable than a flattened-out interior.
This lends her works their ghostliness; life reduced to a pattern is still haunted by the viewer’s projected inhabitants, like children’s toys given strange life through the power of the imagination.

Text by Ben Street


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