Q&A with SFO-featured Artist Anne Neely about sustainability: responsibility and stewardship for the next generation 

Anne Neely’s Offshore painting in Alaska’s San Francisco Lounge is a symbol of our commitment to making our business and industry more sustainable – to care for our guests and the places where we live and fly for the long term.

What do an airline and an artist have in common? A desire to keep growing, learning, and creating paths to keep the places we love beautiful and be more sustainable for the long term.

A powerful painting in blues and greens called Offshore by Artist Anne Neely is proudly displayed in Alaska’s San Francisco airport lounge, inviting guests and employees to take a moment to reflect on our collective responsibility to live and fly more sustainably.

It is an honor to host this piece, a symbol of our commitment to making our business and industry more sustainable, to care for our guests and the places where we live and fly for the long term. Alaska is on a path to net zero carbon emissions by 2040, a path that will require us to listen, learn, collaborate and create new solutions for the future.

Anne’s work is about sparking conversation and reflection; we sat down with her to discuss her focus on water and our work on sustainability.

Diana: Could you talk about your journey as an artist and how you came to this work?

Anne: Growing up, I spent much of my time in the natural world. The wonderment I felt grew into visual expression and I became a landscape painter. About 2000, I started living on the coast of Maine and became acutely aware of the daily changes in water – levels, temperatures, currents. My paintings began to tell a story about water, and through color and mark making, I created a visual imaginative language. My hope is that these paintings will awaken the viewers’ curiosity to think about water differently.

Diana: What led you to focus your work on water and climate issues? 

Anne: Marq De Villiers’ book, “Water, Our Precious Resource” was pivotal and introduced me to ideas which captured my imagination, like underground aquifers, foreign to us visually.

Water is a living force – it has moods with the weather, tides, waves and river currents that keep it in constant motion.  Living with water – next to, surrounded by, always dependent on it – makes one aware of both its power and fragility, a very humbling concept.

I have always been interested in the interconnectedness of all things that science seeks to understand but, for me, the difference is, through my paintings, I try to reveal the unseen and the wonder of the universe that engages me, especially the critical role water plays.

Diana: What is your hope for this painting?

Anne: Painting, for me in general, is to experience an issue or an idea and transcend it visually into an experience for the viewer. It’s not about the literal picture, and it is not a decorative object but a place to discover something, explore and learn from it.

In Offshore, there is both beauty and foreboding. My hope for this painting is that the viewer will be taken, perhaps in a moment of reverie, by the scene’s beauty, and imagine what is happening, and think about their responsibility and stewardship.

In my work on water and climate, there is a balance, often fragile, of beauty and a problem we must consider. I appreciate that Alaska recognizes its responsibility as a company and as people. I am grateful to see flight attendants sorting the recycling and working to reduce waste. That’s just one example. But we also need new solutions to tackle the challenges facing our climate to mitigate some of the human impacts on our planet for future generations. 

We are so often busy in life – we don’t have time to let our minds wander. But sitting in the airport, we do have a few minutes. We are in between things. So, I hope people will take a few minutes to get in touch with their imagination, to wonder what this painting means to them.

A note from Diana:

When I was younger and actively painting myself, I came across a quote by artist and dancer Agnes DeMille that resonated with me. She said, “living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what’s next or how … The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after a leap in the dark.” 

Art prompts us to expand our thinking – to imagine and discover new possibilities. That is also needed on the path to net zero. Solutions like sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) to decarbonize aviation are known and proven by partners like SkyNRG, Neste, and others – but there is not enough available. Further action and expansive thinking, and significant support from public policy, are required to reduce cost and scale supply. Other, newer like electrified aircraft, fuel produced from recaptured carbon dioxide, and removing carbon from the atmosphere are also needed – and at greater scale. We’re grateful to partners like ZeroAvia, Twelve, and others we connect with through our venture arm, Alaska Star Venture, who’re working to bring new innovations to life.

Diana and Anne with Neely’s “Offshore” at Alaska’s San Francisco Lounge.

Anne Neely continues to make and share her art from her studios in Boston and in Jonesport, Maine. She has won multiple awards for her work and worked in artist residencies in the United States and Europe. Her work can be found in the collections of The National Gallery in Washington DC, The Whitney Museum and the Brooklyn Museum in New York City, and numerous others. She also taught art to high school students from 1974 to 2012. About her painting style, Neely wrote in 2014: “The marks help define the passage of time in both the work and in the course of making it.” Learn and see more of the artist’s work at anneneely.com.