We all know the story of Odysseus. A man lost at sea, trying to find his way home, whilst meeting an abundance of new challenges through the twists and turns brought forth by the Greek God Poseidon. But do we know the story of our very own modern day Odysseus in the flesh, here in Milwaukee?
Anja Notanja was born and raised in Franklin, Wisconsin, on the southern outskirts of Milwaukee. This suburb contained abundant wildlife - like owls, turkey, and deer - and was a beautiful, quiet place to develop as a child. Though a wonderful place to live, there was something calling Anja away from the city that she knew and loved. It was something that made her seek, in her words, “to get as far away from the familiar as humanly possible”. This calling was implanted deep into her soul at a very young age. While Franklin never was rich in poetic and artistic events, Anja’s mother, an art teacher, would take her to live music events, encouraging Anja to sketch alongside her. The young and creative Anja always knew that her journey would be that of an artist, she just wasn’t sure yet what type of artist she’d be.
When she was 18, Anja was torn between being an actress or a visual artist until her decision to pursue her undergraduate degree at the Kansas City Art Institute (her battle of Troy). There she would choose to study printmaking and creative writing. While studying printmaking, she learned many valuable trades like how to use printing presses, laser cuts, photoshop, and even how to sew. What once was her skill in drawing pretty ladies at age 8 was now becoming this new ability to express herself through multi-media. All the while through her studies in creative writing she would stir up the seas in finding what she wanted to do with her collective talents. It became clear to Anja that she wanted to produce books with grand illustrations and immersive reads. After her undergraduate degree was successfully obtained, her Trojan War had ended and her Odyssey was about to begin.
The last thing she did in college was write a modern day story based on the Odyssey. Though she did not finish the story, it did inspire her to write a blog. This blog was about her everyday life, and she amassed a very interesting spectrum of followers. As Anja proceeded to interact with her followers she found that they consisted mostly of middle class British moms and San Fransisco drag queens. She joked about how these two groups must've represented who she truly was on the inside. Eventually she felt a need to interact more with the people of her city, Milwaukee. She began to write for people in public, and they loved it. She wrote in many forms - love letters, insult letters, and even letters from pets. This was all embodied in Anja’s business called La Prossette. Her work has been healing for her customers as letters from the deceased, from the unborn, and even insult letters have provided them closure. Her letters from pets give a voice and character to those who once were silent, so-to-speak. She’s been doing this for about three years, with much deserved success.
Anja Notanja was called to another project called Radio Waves From Space where she would braid her hair with a wire so it would stick straight up like an antenna, dress up in a space outfit, and create post cards from her office in outer space.
Even then her journey, with the mission to produce illustrated books, had not been manifested. Yet through each trial and each success her skills developed and her resolve grew stronger. Her voyage would continue when she became the Narrator in Residence at the Pfister. Her position included running a blog about her experiences, and also gave her access through the kind of luxurious doors that are usually closed to most. She was their writer, their recorder of history, and was respected as such.
Recently, Anja is using her voice to reach and interact with the people. She now has not one, but two radio talk shows. Anja Notanja Asks is on at 4 pm on Thursdays. Here, she asks inspiring people of our great city what makes them who they are, questions about their work, and even philosophical questions. Then there is What The Heck Am I Doing Up Right Now, a radio show that she co-hosts with a brilliant local poet by the name of Freesia McKee. On this show, that airs every Wednesday from 7 AM to9 AM, they describe what’s going on outside, play music, create streaming consciousness conversational experiences, and overall “encourage people who have to get up early to face the day courageously and with grace,” Anja says.
The 30X30X30 show has been one of her favorite experiences in the art world, challenging her to focus on creating one piece each day for 30 days. Anja participated last year and has come back even stronger this year, investing in frames to house her daily masterpieces. Check out her work in the upcoming show at Var Gallery this April.
Anja has reached the shores of Ithaca, ready now to step into the arena of books and publishing. Her journey to the islands of a Pfister residency, Missouri higher education, talk shows, art shows, and healing letter writing has all prepared her for this moment. Now she must create her home in illustrative books, mastering the art of publishing, marketing, and of course creating. What will our young heroine do now that she’s reached the shores of the publishing realm, her heart’s desire?
Anja will be participating in the 30X30X30 show this spring, at Var gallery in Walker’s Point. Her radio talk shows are on Wednesdays from 7:00AM till 9:00AM and Thursdays starting at 4:00PM on riverwestradio.com. Follow our young Odysseus’s journey to see her progression throughout her career. She’s a fascinating character with an amazing journey behind her, and an enlightening voyage ahead. We at T.M.A.S wish her the best of luck.
Find her work at http://anjanotanja.com/home.html and http://laprosette.com/
Written by Jerrod Johnson
Edited by Bethany Price