Friday, September 3, 2010

May Review/Interview of My Work by Margaret Phillips for KMAC

(May 2010)
KMAC Artist Spotlight: Fiber Artist Michelle Amos,
Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft's Artist-in-Residence
by Margaret Phillips

In a triptych of her most current artwork, 'Ohio River Rising on a Tree Line,' Michelle Amos' Ohio River flows in a silent rush. Each of her sculptural fiber vessels reveals warm-hued river water moving steadily over soil, roots, trunks, branches. From one vessel to the other, it is easy to imagine the left-behind history of the river: the rich dark water lines etched into tree bark, the gradual channels being carved into the submerged limestone. Amos' vessels bring to life the conversation taking place between tree and river, soil and stone. In the grace of movement, each sculpture reveals the beauty in the asymmetry of the other's biology: water and tree, each singly perfect in their interlocked states.

Louisville-native Amos, KMAC's newest Artist-in-Residence, credits her father with influencing her love of the water through a childhood spent reading Mark Twain's stories. Rounding out the Mark Twain experience, she once spent on a two-season stint on a commercial fishing boat in Alaska. One event that furthered her fascination with large bodies of water was the experience of traveling through a locks system to reach the Pacific Ocean.

'We have the locks [in Louisville], but the only time I've traveled through a locks system was in Washington, on a commercial fishing boat leaving the port of Seattle heading for the open ocean,' she says. 'It's an amazing system to go through.'

Amos' vision for her current sculptural work will eventually include two more sets of large-scale Ohio River-based triptychs, as well as smaller-scale woven pieces. Part of her inspiration will come from her KMAC studio's close proximity to the Ohio River, as well as from her journals documenting numerous hiking trips along the river's banks. Some of her smaller scale vessels include what she calls 'peepholes,' after the peephole knots in wood and shells that she's discovered while hiking.

'I've moved away from Kentucky many times, and each time that I come back, I love it more, embrace it more,' Amos says. 'Several things influence my interest in the river: my love of large bodies of water, my love of Kentucky, and just how powerful and awesome the Ohio River is.'

A visual and performance artist, Amos' work is centered in her background in fiber arts. Initially interested in physics and art as an undergraduate student, Amos discovered her love of fiber art in a class taught by Lida Gordon at the University of Louisville.

'My first thought was that I would study fiber to inform my sculpture,' Amos says, 'but Lida turned me on to the work of so many interesting fiber artists. Joan Livingston was one artist whose work I immediately took to. Lida was nurturing; she challenged me to be a better student and artist. I found my home in the fiber studio, and it was sculpture that ended up informing my fiber art.'

KMAC's Artist-in-Residence program, made possible through a generous grant by the Windgate Charitable Foundation, has nurtured the talents of four other artists since its inception in January 2008. As an Artist-in-Residence, Amos enjoys museum-based studio space, a stipend for supplies and work, exhibition invitations to one or more shows at KMAC, as well as the opportunity to demonstrate her works-in-progress to the public.

'I'd like to think that my work reminds people of nature,' Amos says. 'We live in a very masculine world, and if you're in or near a city, you become so removed from the source. I feel that my work seeks to find a feminine balance in the world. Not all of my work is about the natural world; sometimes, it is about issues, feelings or relationships that are deeply personal, but I almost always use natural elements to express those ideas.'

As an artist educator who will graduate from the University of Louisville in August 2010 with a Masters in Teaching Special Education, she feels a kinship with KMAC.

'I have an enormous respect for what the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft does and represents in its gallery spaces, retail space, and especially its support for education and local artists,' Amos says. 'The work represented at KMAC is high quality, with a good mix of national, regional and local artists. Often, the work that I've seen at KMAC is interesting, quality work that I've seen nowhere else. I'm extremely proud to be a part of KMAC as an artist who teaches workshops and now as the Artist-in-Residence. It truly is an honor to be here.'

Amos will continue to work on her sculptural fiber vessels in her third-floor KMAC studio space until August 15, 2010. The public is invited to stop by to observe her works-in-progress and to learn more about fiber arts.

Recent Interview by Elizabeth Kramer for The Courier-Jounal

The First Time Sculptor Michelle Amos' first dip in the Ohio
August 8, 2010

I do remember swimming in the Ohio when I was a kid. I went with my mother and one of her friends on a boat and we jumped in. It had a different smell to it than a swimming pool — and definitely I remember that when it was hot. It also had muddy banks and debris, because you have a lot of trees and such that make debris, but you also have garbage that kind of floats and gets caught up on the banks. But when you're a kid you don't care because you're having fun.

Trips — and moving — to the West Coast emphasized how different it is. I'd come back here and the Ohio just seemed like another world.
My grandmother grew up in the Parkland neighborhood when there was the 1937 flood. She would talk about it all the time and that probably had a lot to do with my interest in the Ohio. And I remember the year I was pregnant with my son, 1997, and the Ohio flooded.
Michelle Amos recently completed a residency with the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, 715 W. Main St., where she completed a fiber-based sculptural installation called “Ohio River Rising on a Tree Line.” The installation will be on display in her studio at KMAC through Friday. Amos also will exhibit the work next spring at Zephyr Gallery, 610 E. Market St

VSA Art Installation in Bowling Green

Yesterday afternoon I drove to Bowling Green, KY with artist Brenda Wirth and her husband, musician, Greg Acker to install a group show at the VSA of Kentucky's Arts Access Gallery. VSA is a statewide, nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting arts, education and creative expression for all, with an emphasis on persons with disabilities. VSA Executive Director, Delaire Rowe, worked with Wirth to put the show together to showcase some of VSA's teaching artists on their roster. I've collaborated with Wirth and Acker individually and as a couple over the years on several projects. This project was different in that it is the first time the three of us were doing a formal show of just our work. Even though our choosen mediums are completely different, walking through the show you get a glimpse of our commonalities and a key into probably why we are good collaborators, friends, and inspiration for one another's work.

The above picture is Wirth standing behind one of her vinyl pieces with one of Acker's homemade instruments, Imbira Harp, behind her. Wirth's vinyl pieces were done in pairs for a show we did together on symmetry. One in each of the pairs is vinyl on vinyl with it's counterpart paint on vinyl.

Because so much of my other work is in progress, and I need to reference my new pieces, I brought six pieces from my older doll series (2008). The blue and red dolls are approximately 7.5 feet in height where the other two dolls are approximately 4.5 feet and 4 feet. Although it looks from these picture the dolls are hung in isolation from Wirth and Acker's work, that is not the case. All of our work is actually intermingled throughout the show.
Here Acker is tuning one of his drift wood instruments, Driftwood Koto. The chime instruments, Homemade Gamala, in the corner are all tuned to the black keys of the piano so that a pleasing sound is made no matter how you play them or how skilled you are at music. Acker is brilliant in his adaptations to instruments. He uses many techniques to make music making accessible and comfortable. In addition his calm, open, and welcoming demeanor draw even the least gifted at music into his world of exploration and playfulness.
Here you see the work of all three of us together. One of Wirth's pieces from a series of paintings she did looking up to the sky through trees. I believe this piece is called River Dweller. Next to it is a pair of my dolls titled Convulused Reunion for Michelle and Convulused Reunion for Melissa. Below is one of Acker's driftwood instruments with a gourd attached. It is hard to see from this picture but the diftwood is stung in two places, along the entire length of the piece and then a small section toward the right hand top.
The reception for this show is in conjunction with The Bowling Green Gallery Hop, Friday, October 15, 2010 from 5-8pm at VSA's Arts Access Gallery, 515 East 10th Street Bowling Green, KY 42101. Gallery hrs are Monday - Friday8:30AM - 4:30PM and the phone number for the gallery is 270-781-0872.

Leaving KMAC

Moved out of the studio at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft in August. Here are a few pictures of the installation coming down.
Part of the experiment with this installation was to hang the strips of cotton muslin while they were still wet with dye to see what kind of effect I would get with the dye dripping down the walls and onto the floor. The concept was an abstraction of the muddy Ohio River flowing over the walls of the studio. The above picture shows what was left of the dye on the walls and floor, which of course I cleaned up when I de-installed.

One load waiting to go with my trusty coffee cup that mostly held water to drink while I worked.
The final load waiting next to the elevator.