Sunday, July 19, 2009

Amy Gross!

Amy Gross will be exhibiting work in the upcoming Teeny Tiny Art Show! She is a surface and textile designer by day, a painter and jewelry maker the rest of the time. Plus there's a dollhouse - “which I would work on all the time if I could, but then nothing would get done...”.

Amy received her BFA from Cooper Union and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She currently lives and works in Florida with her cat, Solomon.

I sent Amy some questions about her and her work - I would love to share her thoughtful responses as they reveal much about her life and work...enjoy!

Q: What are the main things that inspire you? Are you inspired by things that happen to you, or what you observe from life?

A: I was one of those little kids completely obsessed with scale, always out in the backyard trying to figure out how ants saw the world, building twig and moss farming communities around the trunks of our Norway maples, fascinated/horrified by what lived on and under the woodpile, way in the corner, by the fence. I don't think I ever really let go of the idea that the struggle for life co-oexists on so many levels, from the microscopic to the enormous-I grew up in a time when telescopes and microscopes were gathering all these wonderful images together and setting them side by side. But it took a while for me to figure out how to mix together my own life experiences with pictures of things I find so amazing. It's one thing to study how nature and time and change battles - when things like that happen to people you love, you start to really understand how it feels. That's when my artwork started to develop.

Q: Sometimes an artists work gives a hint to what the artist may be like, what they believe in, entertainment they fancy. Is there anything about you that would be surprising to know, if someone only knew your art?

A: I'm pretty sure that if someone just looked at my work they wouldn't be too surprised to know that I love doll houses, and that I have around 40 boxes of beads, and a world globe collection, and I still have the microscope my parents gave me when I was nine.

But I think it would be pretty hard to figure out how much I love baseball. I've cried over baseball. Hard. And if I could remake my brain over, I'd probably try to be an astronaut. But we're talking serious neuro-makeover, I'm pretty sure they still look for people who can figure out a tip without a pencil.

Q: Do have any odd habits while you paint/sculpt/sew/etc?

A: Since so much of my work involves seemingly endless repetitive sewing of beads to objects, you would think that would leave a lot of room for listening to really interesting undiscovered rock bands or NPR, but I love more than anything sewing to the sound of professional golf tournaments and tennis matches. I don't like golf, I don't play golf, but there's something about the club woosh and the ball bouncing in the cup and the announcers muted monotones. And with tennis, just that thuck-thunk, thuck-thunk, it just goes with stitching. Even the annoying grunting has a nice rhythm to it. With baseball, well, I get too worked up, and it makes me look up too often.

Q: When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?

A: No surprises. I was going to be an artist. My Dad was, and is, and it was just what was, and we all just assumed it was genetic. And good thing-even when I was a doofy funny-looking pre-teen I knew what I was going to be, and that was infinitely helpful. I think when I was eight I considered becoming the greatest child actress who ever lived, but that was about the time that Jodi Foster was a big deal, and I think that lasted about a week and a half.

Q: How do you get inspiration for the pieces you produce?

A: It's everywhere. I started working this way after I moved to Florida, after living my entire life up until then in a pretty well-behaved New York suburb. The town I live in now is about as shopping malled and sub-divided as they come, but it's still the subtropics, and there's this strange and insistent undercurrent of wildness that we keep trying to tramp down. Things grow so fast you almost think you can see them change, and the canals between communities are like feverish little jungles. Strangler figs squeeze the life out of other trees, duckweed make ponds look carpeted, everything tangles around everything else. It's amazing, the idea that a landscape can transform so quickly, both visually and invisibly, and there are so many parallels in the human body and the way we think and remember. So I started making objects that look like found objects from nature, little biotopes that are really completely man-made, a way of mixing my own experiences with what the landscape gives to me.

Q: What has been your best creation to date?

A: My best isn't my favorite-it's a piece called "Came Close to Drowning", and it's 40" by 40", which is pretty large for me, and for a beaded and fabric painting. It was important because it wasn't just about the experience of almost drowning that I actually had, in a river in Connecticut, but about the experience of remembering it, how it changes each time you try to recall it, it gets abstracted and the scale of each part of it gets larger and smaller. I was trying to fix the memory, to sew it tight. Of course, that's impossible, artwork is an object, unlike a true fluid memory. But we don't have many ways we can try to trap time, to mark our path, and I think that's why we make things.

Q: Describe your ideal day?

A: I've always had an art day-job, a self-employed one, but a necessity and a time-eater. So there's some wish-projection involved: Up, feed cat, feed myself, morning ride on shiny new pink bicycle, coffee in large cup, stitch and bead and sew for hours, lunch, soap operas, back to stitching and beading and sewing, meet Mom for iced coffee, a little more sewing, make a miniature flat file for the doll house art studio, goof around on Flickr for an hour, design some jewelry, feed cat, eat dinner, read, pass out. Not too far from actual life, but without a day-job taking up most of it. If it were really ideal, there would be a large studio to putter around in, instead of the living room coffee table, a silver Air Stream Camper all decoupaged inside, a tricked-out tree-house, and lots of extra money for clothes and buying other people's art.

Q: Last book you read?

A: The book I'm halfway through right now is David Copperfield! It sat there on a shelf staring at me for years, and I had no idea how much fun it is. Before that, Proust was a Neuroscientist, by Jonah Lehrer. I can't back up the science in it, but there are some terrific things for artists to run with in that one.

Q: Ask yourself (and answer) a question?

A/Q: It's taken you longer than you would have planned to find a vocabulary that helps you say what you have to say creatively. If you could start over, would you have spent less time as a commercial artist and more struggling to develop your own language?

A: For me, it turned out that I had to release myself from all the preconceptions I had of what an artist should be. I was in art school in New York City during a time when the painters we heard most about had generally bombastic personalities, making gigantic paintings and a lot of noise, and I couldn't imagine how someone like me could find a place in that world. I was convinced that I was lacking some element, some piece that made an artist whole. So for a while I went in other directions, sometimes far enough away that I stopped thinking of myself as an artist, and it was only then that the need returned. Because it wasn't about the end product, finally, but about the experience of making things, of keeping a record of what's happened to me. And things had to happen first. That came with time.

These beautiful photographs are courtesy of Amy Gross - you can see more of her photos here on her flickr ("world in a matchbox")!

1 comment:

  1. I love Amy Gross! She is a great friend of mine! Thank you for posting her on your blog! She has amazing art and jewelry! Oh, did I tell you about the Dollhouses that she done!!
    Please put her on your blog again I enjoy her artwork and her photographs and everything else she does!
    Melissa from GA
    AKA M