Intimate Immensities: the art of Donald Anderson

Nine years ago, Donald Anderson took his life, leaving behind both a family and a treasure of beautiful creations.

Anderson, an oil-rig engineer by trade, was also a jeweler, and would transform his experiences at sea into miniature works – pins and charms – that spoke of infinite vistas.

But Anderson suffered from crippling depression, and eventially it claimed him. His wife, Rebecca, was left with three children and a gaping hole where her husband used to be.

Losing him and that aspect of our life together was the most shattering and disorienting experience I have ever encountered. In the last years of his life, he became more isolated, inaccessible and conflicted. There was an elemental withdrawal that was impossible for me to penetrate.

Rather than dwell on the pain of those last years, Rebecca chose to honor her husband’s memory, and complete a project they had dreamed of doing together: publishing a book of his work.

Most of these pieces were made for me, or the kids, or his family. I have told my children we have had the opportunity to live with and know their father’s ability to create things of great complexity and beauty. It is a part of who they/we are and we will continue to treasure it forever. Now the book is taking on a new life for others to see and wonder and enjoy.

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This charm, “Shelter,” is only 1.5 inches in diameter, and made of copper, silver and titanium.

Photograph by Tom Sadowski

Titled “Intimate Immensities,” the book – published in a limited release – features an array of Anderson’s creations, from letter openers to jewelry to miniature sculptures. Small charms open up to reveal a view of a moon over the ocean; a metal fish doubles as a submarine that would fit nicely in a Jules Verne novel.

Rebecca Anderson enlisted the help of editor John Roth to create the book. Roth says he was instantly captivated by Donald’s vision.

Don’s work appeals and speaks to me from many levels. The craftsmanship of the work is extraordinary. Too often today, mastery of craft is secondary to content, but not with Don. The work evokes immense stories and worlds, fantasies of multiple dimensions. They tickle the brain while delighting the eye – a very rare achievement in art today. I also am amazed by the complexity of the work, the intricacy of the sculptures and drawings, and the elaborate engineering. And then, of course, I have to say that I love the humor. Don’s imagination was huge and filled with whimsy and fun.

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“South Pacific” by Donald Anderson

Photograph by Tom Sadowski

For Rebecca Anderson, the completion of the book marks a significant milestone in her family’s recovery from her husband’s death, and in the honoring of his life.

I never lost sight of what I knew to be true about Don’s talent and ability to create such meaningful beauty. I am very proud of this book and that Don’s work stands on its own. I have always known the level of quality of the work he was able to do; Don blew the doors off my perception of what art could be.

Anderson hopes the book will eventually lead to an exhibition of her husband’s work, allowing even more people to enjoy his magical creations.