Category Archives: artists

Guest Interview for CIVA: Moving Image/Subjective Surface

Originally Posted: December 3, 2012, 10am, CIVA

An Interview with Karen Brummund, Artist in Residence, DGW 2012
By Bonnie Kate 

Earlier this year, CIVA assembled thirty-some young female artists, historians, and administrators for a conference situated in scenic Vermont. The conference, Doing Good Well (or DGW,) set out to celebrate, encourage, and further train a select group of skilled women working in creative fields. I was honored to be among the attendees of the conference as an Independent Curator and Arts Administrator alongside some truly brilliant individuals from several different disciplines, counties and continents. 

DGW was first held early in 2011, and has received support through the Sister Fund and Sword and Spoon Foundation. Laura Cootsona directed the conference with significant leg-work by Shannon Sigler (CIVA’s Associate Director) and their remarkable leadership team: Jinny Bult De Young, Saundra Diehl, Linda Stratford, JJ Hansen, Allison Cook, Marianne Lettieri, and Kimberly J. Miller, with 2012 apprentices Janna Dyk, Kim Garza, and artist in residence, Karen Brummund.

During this rare event, Karen Brummund engaged the attendees of DGW in a site-responsive project of interpreting the homestead façade, (298 Holiday Farms,) located on the property in Vermont.  Ms. Brummund describes the process on her website saying, “Over the course of one weekend, arts professionals made images that represent this building and shared context. Their marks, both abstract and representational, are projected onto the building and blend with the physical place.” The result was an installation that both reflected Karen’s historical style of work and our very mission of sharing together in generative dialogue.

298 Holiday Farms by Karen Brummund from kmmbrummund on Vimeo.

Intrigued by Karen’s unpretentious, physical, and time-based process – she and I continued to dialogue after departing from Vermont. I began to imagine what it could be like to encounter her work in an urban setting such as my own neighborhood. Karen employs somewhat common aesthetic values such as the photocopy, or line drawings (made by collaborators with various skill levels,) and projects the interpretations of the surface onto the original. The outcome is curious, surprising, arresting, and yet accessible and familiar through her choice of media. 

Below is the result of an interview that occurred over the last month between Karen and myself via email. I hope that her words and work inspire your thinking about surface, structures, and sublimity, as they have mine.


Bonnie Kate:
Karen, Tell me a little about your roots/Where you come from.

Karen Brummund:
I grew up in Atlanta.

My background is actually in education and community development. I was drawn to the philosophical aspects of education and eventually realized I was approaching curriculum development more like an artist.

In order to explore a new career path, I went to graduate school for fine art in London at the University of East London. Once I realized that I don’t like (and am not that good at) painting… I became more interested in making art outside of the studio… and interested in other artists who were working that way like Francis Alys, who had just finished a 5 year residency project with Art Angel, researching London; other younger artists were building on the (short) history of community-based art in England; and the Jerwood Center‘s exhibitions, questioning “what is drawing?”

After graduate school, I moved to Ithaca, NY. I’ve been practicing art since 2005 with little to no experience before that, (except for a great high school art education).


BK: Were there structures in Atlanta that inspired your consideration for the façade? Or was it during that time in London when this all started developing more concretely?

KB: In high school art classes, I learned how to approach art as an idea. (I left Atlanta after high school and just now moved back to the Southeast.) In college education courses, I learned to construct activities or environments where knowledge could be discovered. After college, I was working for a community-development organization, in Indianapolis; I learned how the history, structure, and culture of community affect the lives of individuals and families.

I found an interest in the façade through a few projects early in my art-making career. In 2005-2006, I had one exhibition at The Brady Art & Community Center in the East End, London where I used the outside façade like a canvas for a street level/outward facing/active drawing, and in a completely different series called the Invisible Gaze, I began installing my photographs in public space


BK: Through your community-development lens – Do you think your work will be informed by returning to the south and having started your own family? 

KB: Calling Alabama home and being a parent still feel very new. They both will change me, but I don’t know that either is pushing my work in a specific way right now. Through working in community-development, I began to see cities/places as layered and connected. I like to explore new places (Alabama included). It’s layers and landscape. 


BK: Do you recall your earliest experience with a work of art? What about the work provoked you? 

KB: The first art exhibition I remember attending was the “Rings” exhibition at the High Museum of Art. It was curated in conjunction with the Olympics in Atlanta.

They curated 5 large themes, like love, awe, and anger. The exhibition had a ton of paintings and sculptures. A lot of well-known works of art had been included from around the world.

The link between emotions and art moved me… being able to sense an emotion so clearly when walking into a room of paintings was a new experience.


BK: Are there any artists who you feel have inspired you – even if not evident in your work, who stick in the back of your mind?

KB: Francis Alys, Robin Rhode, and Rene Margritte.


BK: Where would you place the sacred in relation to the (at times) mundane built landscapes we encounter in our day-to-day lives? 

KB: I don’t consider the buildings I work with as sacred or mundane.

Buildings might be considered one or the other because of their function, symbols, or labels. 

I’m more interested in the questions and priorities that lead to mundane, branded, copied, or thoughtless landscapes and in reflecting on the dialogue that parking lots, parks, bridges, and highways create.

 I like working in public space because it’s communal, complicated, and creative. But I’m not sure we require our built landscape to be that or  “sacred” or even inspiring.  I don’t think “sacred landscapes” should be relegated to National Parks. I want to be able to work, walk, and live in a built landscape that inspires similarly.

Maybe I work in public space to find some kind of personal sublime. I don’t want the façades or the artwork to be sublime. I don’t want the installations to be awe-inspiring. I more want them to ask why the building across the street isn’t …or maybe it is and I just stopped long enough to figure that out.


BK: Do you observe any correlations (anecdotally or ideologically) between your own artistic social practice and what could be called religious practice? 

 KB: Yes, the word “practice.” 

Both domains are seeking to apply ideas and beliefs from one place into another. “Art” that is no longer relegated to white or black spaces, but is integrated into our living. “Religion” that is worked into our very being and working; they both are practiced in the colorful spaces.

“Practice” is a word full of “process” (my other favorite word). After the installation at DGW, a few people asked me what I consider the artwork. The artwork, “298 Holiday Farms,” is the process and memory.

It is important that the installations at DGW, and others, have the dissonance and resonance that comes when we’re “practicing” something. During the installation, the video lit up the grand homestead under an incredible starry night. But I’m not looking for a flashy, saturated moment that often comes with technology and big screens. The installation is rough, textured, and full of questions. The projection highlights the struggle to translate what we see rather than the achievements of the drawing.

At DGW, the audience was solely the people who made the images in the video projection. Therefore the installation is more personal to the audience. I talk a lot about drawing. Drawing is the immediate, physical link between what we think and what we sense. It’s the link that is most interesting to me. In the DGW installation, I want to see where the link becomes fragmented (as many participants just drew one part of the facade) …where it becomes a whole different song (as many responded abstractly or personally). 


BK: And do you seek the sublime in these excavations of the facade? 

KB: When I “excavate” the facade, I want something simple to be complicated. And the experience of complicated to feel rich. 

When I started working on the piece for DGW (before we ever got to Vermont), I wrote this about the piece. It is the context for the process and the work of the piece:

The place where we are

The place that we share

The place we don’t know

The place we believe will come


BK: If you could work on any facade in the world, what would you take on?

 KB: I loved working at Casa Poli.

The experience of living in the building before making an installation was incredible. Rather than a specific building, I would love the opportunity to live in a building and then create based on that experience.

More specifically, living in a building that is inspired – where the architects pushed themselves and the materials to create an altering experience.


 BK: Do you secretly wish you were an architect?

If you had the chance to make your own “Inspired” structure, what are some of the elements you might include or borrow from others?

KB: I sometimes joke that when I retire, I’ll become an architect.

I have opinions about architecture, but I am amazed by the gifts of truly great architects. A lot of different things draw me to a building, but there are some that were simply designed to be thought about and to be felt. 

I prefer buildings that don’t work too hard to draw attention to themselves, but rather transform your location or mood. They don’t need to be dressed up with decor because they create their own imaginative spaces. 

It’s similar to what I look for in art: surprising, freedom, layered, and connected.


 BK: Like Phillip Johnson’s Glass House? Although, I guess there aren’t really great surfaces to project onto.

KB: I would love to make a paper installation for the glass house.


BK: So, on a personal note: Your son is turning 1 year old. What is something you hope for the future of the world he will grow up in? 

KB: When I think about how my artwork and my parenting overlap, especially in terms of hoping and futures, I hope for a world that better understands itself and better loves itself.


On that note, let us all engage the world in the process of becoming one that better understands itself and better loves itself, “The place we believe will come.”


Related Links:



3-Day Forecast of (a portion of possible) Events


Wayne Adams “The (Sacred) Void” Curated by Allison Peller Thursday, 6p
 First Things Editorial Offices 35 East 21st Street, Sixth Floor (between Broadway and Park) 
A wine and cheese reception will follow.

Performa is having a fundraiser, 6p or 9p
Special Performance Guest! Loc: 508 West 37th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues

Hurricane Sandy Relief Benefit at Pianos, 8p
Performances by Grooms, Zambri, Hooray for Earth, Cymbals Eat Guitars



New York Women Social Entrepreneurs (NYWSE) announces the first annual GIVE GOOD Market, a holiday market for women-owned sustainable businesses on Friday Nov 30 – Saturday Dec 1. Sign up …It will be located at 601 West 26th Street in the iconic Starrett Lehigh Building.

NYU, Art Education Colloquium w/ Oliver Herring, 6p 
Oliver will talk about some past projects and more recent work after returning from a 4 month residency in Kyoto, Japan, at the Eisenstein Auditorium

Performance Night: Folk Remedy, 7p
PARTICIPATING ARTISTS:  Judith Shimer, Lucia Pedi, Mira Hunter, I-Hsuen Chen, SeoKyeong Lee Yoon, Shengkai Huang, Xu Wang

Shadows Through A Prism: Opening, 7p
Curated by Heidi Hahn for 109 Gallery, opening Friday, November 30th, from 7-10p.
Featuring the work of: Claudia Cortinez, Olof Inger, Krysten Koehn, James Miller, Lauren Seiden, Nicholas Steindorf; 109 Gallery – 109 Broadway, Brooklyn



Opening: CRASHCOURSE IV; Work by John Silvis, 6-9p
Norte Maar in Bushwick, showing my recent CrashobjectsPhotographs and Car Assemblage! NORTE MAAR is located at 83 Wyckoff Avenue 1B Brooklyn &

Hunter Open Studio Review

Were you there? I admit that academic open studio events are not for the faint of heart. But fortunately some artists take pity on the poor curators and hipster-friends who dredge out to their academic buildings, up flights of stairs, and get lost in the labyrinth of hallways, and temporary wall divisions by offering dollar store candies, or Charles Shaw! That makes it all worth it! No, I am kidding, we go for the art! We go hoping to snatch up some goodies of another sort.

Enough chatter: Here are my TOP picks of Lady Artists at Hunter’s grad program: 

Theresa Andrea

Theresa’s offering for their department auction was a directive to make a personalized work for the winning bidder. A process oriented artist with a consideration for the personal and direct experience.


Elizabeth Tubergen

Elizabeth was responsible for a large Pyramid, which took up nearly the whole common area in the department auction space. It offered seating for some, and other more ponderous looky-loos considered it’s sturdy crafts-woman-ship.


Sophie Grant

Sophie is “Interested in childhood perceptions of reality and agency, her work reflects upon the education of the senses.”


Janna Dyk

Playing with connectivity of objects and the construction of the photographic image… We’re excited to see what comes next out of Janna’s studio.


Margeaux Walter

Capturing subtle observable “people watching” gestures in photo/digital collages. I liked her “Sweet Dreams” work that was up for auction. I nearly bid on it, but my art-budget is limited these days, even in the case of student work!

Young Curatorial Assistant: Alli Peller

Her name may not appear on the press release, but Allison Peller has been critical to the organization of the New.New York exhibit (curated by Artist / Photographer / Curator / Educator, John Silvis) at the Essel Museum in Vienna. With the exhibit (open NOW, since November 23rd) quickly approaching, I wanted to get a few words from Allison on the experience of assisting with this exhibition, and her path as a worker in the cultural field.


Allison Peller was born in Washington on military base Fort Lewis and has lived in Missouri, and Maryland. Ms. Peller, her siblings, the Dr., and Mrs. Peller eventually returned to Washington State, for a time. The family now resides in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

The first time Ms. Peller came to New York was as a 5-year-old child with her family. During this visit they attended an exhibition of Monet’s bridges at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The work left an impression on her young mind, noting, even then, the aesthetic difference that it made, “As Monet started going blind.” They visited the Museum again when she was in Middle school, on another family trip, and she knew then that she truly loved New York, and the art that was accessible there.

A story her father likes to tell, which follows their first trip to New York, is of an incident where he pointed to an art print, proclaiming, “Look! It’s a Monet!” Allison calmly corrected him, “No Dad, that’s not a Monet, it’s a Manet.” This is the moment it became clear to her family that her interest went beyond the children’s books, but stretched into a real curiosity of the field. Her confidence in this direction came later as she matured and explored her options for further study.

She attended Bethel University’s undergraduate program for Art History, and Studio Art in Minnesota. She choose the program specifically for the advantage of spending a semester in New York at their Center for Art and Media Studies (NYCAMS). She thought that the semester would quench her love of the big city, seeing her self as more of a “country mouse,” but instead she fell in deeper love, and returned to New York upon graduation for a post-baccalaureate fellowship for curatorial studies under the mentorship of NYCAMS director, John Silvis.

While still in her undergraduate studies, she was trying to be “practical,” by exploring interior design and other applied versions of her creative bent. But it was futile. When she finally faced that fine art history was indeed her passion, and she should be pursuing curatorial work “for real”  – she obtained an internship under the museum director at her university, and later went on to an internship at the Pace Gallery in New York, where she also was employed until recently when she began working as a freelance curatorial assistant.

Her Post-Baccalaureate fellowship began in the Fall of 2009 under the mentorship of John Silvis. She started as an assistant for the exhibit “Incarnational Aesthetics,” and culminated with her own curatorial project “Regeneration: Root Beer Float Social,” in the Spring of 2010. During this period she became the point-person for events such as a fashion show, curated exhibits, and student shows; also facilitating the transport of work and the website updates for each project. Although she had co-curated an exhibit during her internship with the Bethel University Museum, drawing from their collection, “Regeneration” was the first time she had the freedom to make curatorial decisions on her own, building an exhibit that she could truly take ownership of. In her words, “I felt like it looked really good once it was up. It felt really good.”

In the instance of the current Essel Museum exhibition, New.New York, Ms. Peller again came on board as an assistant to John Silvis, but on a scale that she had not yet worked. There are 19 artists in the exhibition (two of which work together as a collaborative team,) all working in New York, with several installation works being installed on-site, in Vienna, opening this Thanksgiving week. Silvis brought Ms. Peller on-board early-on to aid in preparation such as studio visits, (taking measurements, photo documentation,) managing images and videos for their Tumblr page, and keeping details organized for the shipment of work. Peller also assisted Silvis in the portrait sessions for each artist, which would be included in the catalog for the exhibition.

The Essel Museum is hosting the exhibition as a part of their emerging artist series as an example of the work currently coming out of New York City. What ties this group together is not necessarily their “young” or “emerging” status, rather their aesthetic ties to a New York heritage while contemporarily “re-imagining how they use their medium. For example, the Ladd Brothers use beading, textiles, and ribbon,” which, “came out of a [garment/fashion-related practice,] and used those influences to make these really beautiful stacking sculptures.” Another example she gives is of Robin Kang’s brick installations that are essentially built of photographs of bricks printed on acetate and used to construct new structures. Overall the exhibit focuses on this act of “changing the formal paremeters” or giving a new twist to familiar material; Keeping the definition of the New York art scene open to the entire city, not just one borough, furthermore, not one industrial zone.

Allison Peller had prior experience working with a few of the artists who were on the exhibition roster, and plans to build on those relationships. (This includes Reid Streilow, who was also among the artists in her Regeneration exhibit.) She also hopes to continue to put herself in the way of Silvis, as he has played a critical role as a mentor to Peller. She has only begun investigating graduate programs for Art history, but will continue to be actively involved with emerging artists, making studio visits, and building her own curatorial values and style as she emerges onto the New York art scene herself.

New. New York, Curated by John Silvis

Essl Museum, Vienna, Austria
November 23, 2012 – March 31, 2013
Opening Reception: November 22, 2012 from 6-8pm
Gartenbaukino film screenings November 23, 2012 9pm

[photo courtesy of the Essel Facebook page]

Jude BroughanVince ContarinoBrent Everett DickinsonRob FischerRyan FordEgan FrantzRico GatsonRobin KangSteven and William LaddSarah LeeChristopher McDonaldAnn PibalLisa SigalShelly SilverReid StrelowSiebren VersteegLetha WilsonTamara Zahaykevich.

“New York, often described as the world capital of contemporary art, is the focus of exhibition activity in the Essl Museum this autumn. NEW. NEW YORK offers an insight into the work of 19 young artists from New York. A vibrant young art scene has developed in Bushwick, Brooklyn, in recent years, with numerous ateliers, culture initiatives and alternative art spaces. It is here that the American artist and curator John Silvis made his selection of artists for the coming exhibition in the Essl Museum.

All 19 artists are at different stages of their careers; what they share is that they use familiar materials and media in their work in an often surprising form, and in doing so produce “something new” in order to distinguish themselves from the traditional art canon and to develop their own forms of artistic expression. They all work with familiar media such as painting, photography, sculpture etc., but they change the formal parameters, combining, for example, materials such as concrete and photography in a refreshing way. The fascination with presence and the object seems to be an apt investigation in our media saturated landscape accentuating the absence of the human hand.  The work in New.New York does this by deconstructing existing art genres, slowing down time, re-purposing material and resurrecting old technologies, without attempting to issue its own manifesto, instead the viewer is presented with diverse artistic visions and forges anticipation for the unexpected by infusing art objects with the potential of transformation.”

Related Links:

SftPwr project/not alone!

Yesterday I told my little brother in an all-too-rare phone call of sisterly wisdom how I’ve seen that there are just so many different ways to live life in this world. That there are so many different ways to employ one’s self. I noted also that if you can imagine something – there has probably been someone who has also imagined it, and more! …Maybe in a different way than you imaged, but there are kindred spirits out there, you just have to find them.


Today, I saw an article about some women who call themselves the East London Fawcett (ELF) Group, or Art Audit.

The mission of the Great East London Art Audit is to provide a platform for celebrating women in the arts. The projects and events we conceive, and are involved in, encourage a wider examination of the position of women within today’s art world, and address contemporary issues surrounding gender inequality within London.”

Something tells me that we are on to something if women in different countries are investigating these issues. (Yay – I found some more of my “people”!)

Incase you had not heard, I am working on a new website that is less of a personal blog (like and more of a resource and digest for women in the arts (globally). I’ve started by launching a facebook page and twitter account for the namesake project “SftPwr” and the primary web site is under development now.

SftPwr will include a bunch of things:
We hope to inspire younger women with original content (such as professional interviews), educate ourselves about the past with information on historical role models, and highlight contemporary cultural issues and events (primarily in New York City where we are based, but we are expanding this).

I hope that YOU can continue to be involved in this new phase as a reader, and hopefully on a level of interactivity where your voice can be heard, and your projects can get seen, and maybe we will even get some people jobs, grants, and the honor they deserve!

Because we’ve gotta have each other’s backs…

Related Links:
Huff Post article
See the results of their report

Young Artist Profile: Sarah Cram

I met Sarah Cram at a conference for female leaders in the visual arts. Acting as the intern she kept a low profile as she scurried around setting up the event space. After shooting the breeze with another Art Admin regarding our different, but parallell visions and work, she suggested I sit Sarah down for a chat. Further explaining that Ms. Cram was making work specifically addressing feminist issues, I took the bait. As it turned out, there were plenty of layers to be unveiled in this young artist, as I have happily discovered with just about all of the recommendations I have received lately.

Ms. Cram attends Gordon College, a Christian University north of Boston, and explained to me how she has not given up on the community there, but wants to contribute to the Christian dialogue with her young and empowered perspective. Within her edu community she contributes to the Barrington Blog with updates on cultural goings-on. Her artwork is aesthetically based in graphic design (also print-making and drawing,) but her concepts are still working out their best way to be let loose, with video and installation projects in the works. She has been writing a lot and thinking about self image, as many of us have/do.

In Highschool, she studied the Renaissance and a sliver of classical Art History. Van Gogh and Picasso were the favorites of her teachers, which included her mother’s preference. Although her Grandmother had a Salvador Dali magnet, her mother disapproved, and encouraged a very specific taste. Eventually she found Edward Gorey on her own, around the same time that she got into Tim Burton. She was uncovering a bit of a darker side and the beginnings of a more contemporary art exploration.

She saw her first Warhol at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on a visit to New York, (this was her Freshman year). Looking back she thought it was “absurd,” just discovering him as a freshmen, but his art simply wasn’t taught to her before then. She clearly sensed the importance of his work. When she looked at that self portrait in camouflage she thought, “That speaks more to me than any classical piece hung on a wall.” From then on she fell in love with contemporary art, and went on to learn more. She now cites Marina Abramović, and Jenny Holzer among her favorites.


Looking back further, from her early visual memories, she recalls the enamoring illustrations of Eric Carl’s collection, and the 5 year old wonderment of reading Curious George Goes to the Hospital. However, those fairly standard childhood images were surpassed one day when she discovered her father’s LP collection, pulling out Boston’s LP with the guitar spaceship cover art. It was the first time she considered composition, the illustrative plane, the type treatment, and morphing of imagery. She was hooked.


Now, she admits to feeling a tension between her own self expression and the Christian community that she finds herself in. She feels weird at her College, or in the church, when there are not people like her around. She gets the feeling that female expression is frowned upon. She mentioned other male students could show up with a mowhawk and everyone would love it, but her short hair, for example, would put her in a box where she was lumped in with a bunch of other kinds of people. “You’re under a finer microscope [as a woman].” She said.

Very naturally, she started exploring issues of feminism. At first a subtle interest, but now she wants to scream her ideas! She wants to acknowledge that there are all different types of women. She doesn’t share the ideology that there is one kind of femininity, or align herself with common codifiers of being a “lady”, though she doesn’t exclude being a wife or mother from the possibilities.

In her world, women are just as guilty of having a restrictive view of femininity. She submitted an article to an anonymous journal on campus, and was turned down for being too bold in her ideas on femininity. (The deciding pannel was comprised of women.)

A text-based tattoo on her left arm reads “teleios”, Greek for completion or maturity.
This is a symbol of her perpetual state of becoming complete.

Sarah alluded to personal experiences with women that include breast cancer and very specifically resulting in a loss of joy from the physical effects, as well as other uniquely female struggles that are tied to the body. Also empathizing with women who think or feel like men, Sarah wrestles with that knowledge, even though she identifies herself as a woman, and is a natural born woman. As a physical and emotional being, this is at the core of her exploration. She says that knowing that she was born a woman, is a daughter, sister, girlfriend, she finds her comfort in the thought that she was born a woman by design… but admits that this is an every day struggle to understand and define those terms.


When I asked her about her own body of artwork, and how all these ideas are being put down, she explained that the work that people haven’t seen yet is most important to her. The work done on her own, outside of school, and as a young teacher – being a leader, and setting an example for a different thought pattern for young (Christian) students. Getting the chance to explain that they have choices outside of the sub-cultural norms has been invigorating. She says her art is getting more bold, which is a challenge, while going through the internal process of preparing to make more visible statements.


“It isn’t a sin to be an artist. It’s not a sin to struggle with femininity. To not be lead to be a mother, lead to single-hood.” Sarah recalls being given opposite instruction. “I was reading scripture, and I didn’t see that anywhere. Because you are a woman doesn’t mean you have to sit at a desk… or cook wearing an apron and high heels. But we can still be servants by being leaders, and we can still do God’s work by being major voices in the art world.”


Related Links:
Warhol, yet again, on view at the MET

Artist Interview w/ Amanda Hamilton

Recently I’ve been hearing some talk about the fall-out rate of female artists after giving birth. While I do not doubt that it happens, my own observation has been of a different demographic. Let us consider a more substantial statistic of women falling off the studio-practice bandwagon in the immediate exodus of those who, upon receiving their degree, do not find the wherewithal to stick to their craft.

I’ve seen a high percentage of students walk away from their studio practice before attaining a mature stage of work. I used to think that this was just part of the vetting process, but the casualties to the total women practicing in the visual arts is no small thing. The instance of those who trail off into unrelated territory out of school is partly due to a lack of encouragement to develop work at the onset of their career – untrained in the skills needed to maintain a quality studio practice, they throw in the towel. (Feel free to contradict me below in COMMENTS.)

The petering out that I have observed typically happens at the end of their studies or within a couple years following. Poor training and discipline, rather than specific personal life events, enhance the “starving” artists’ fatigue before they can sustain themselves. Setting a more rigorous standard of art-making can come from within a person, but is rarely developed without a mentor or teacher to inspire or direct it.

Still others simply find new interests to pursue, which may include a more singular focus on family life, among other things. It takes a lot to maintain a practice when we find ourselves pitted against other duties, so, it happens. But I think that the artist who is well equipped for their studio practice to begin with, who is making work with integrity – that is the artist who will continue to make work regardless of familial obligation or (what Betty Fridan would have called) sexual roles.

I’d venture to say that women who have become mothers after beginning a dedicated studio practice are more likely to find a way to make room for it in their life with children. Sometimes it takes on another form or style, but nevertheless is existant, and not only for the benefit of play in the home.

I met Amanda Hamilton eleven years ago, and although our acquaintance seemed brief, she left a lasting impression. When I met her she was working for the Art Department at my undergraduate university, and she has continued to teach and inspire. I am happy to share her story with you here as an example of a skilled exhibiting artist working with a variety of media; she is both a teacher and a mother. I can’t build up her work enough to you as she epitomizes the dedicated practitioner of the arts whose work has actively grown in its complexity over time.

Amanda Hamilton


bk: First of all, tell me a bit about your roots, or where you come from?

AH: I grew up with two very different realities:
My mother’s parents were second generation Swedish immigrants to Los Angeles.  They had done very well in the aluminum casting business and owned a factory downtown.  The Swedish community they were part of still enacted a number of traditions and were all quite conservative, affluent Baptists.

In contrast, my father grew up in Ohio and his parents were from rural Kentucky.  Their generation had been the one that moved away from farming and into factory work.  The tension between the dying farming communities and the industrialization and strip mining of that part of the country looms large in my family history.  I have felt very tied to the KY farm all my life, and spent some time in the summers there as a child.  I think this is where some of the really basic generative concerns about place, identity, nostalgia come from.

The two histories are wildly different both socially and economically, in terms of habits, norms and traditions… both very real and both very mine but exist in some form of opposition.  As a young artist I was pretty obsessed with trying to reconcile these seemingly disparate experiences or realities.


All that being said, where is your current home?
Does your current environment influence your art practice?

My husband and I moved from Pasadena, CA to Boise, ID almost eight years ago.  I took a position teaching drawing and painting and so we moved to Idaho within the span of a few weeks-cold.

I think my time in Idaho has certainly influenced my practice in the sense that there has been a lot of consideration of loss, continued investment in the question of the nature of experience… The early years here were quite lonely and any connection to personal history felt ripped away.  It was like floating with no anchors- place, community, routine, even the well worn and boring path to the grocery store- gone.

Idaho is a very stark place with long summers and winters- Fall and Spring are compressed into these brief moments and it gives the year a sense of drama.  The landscape itself is barren and desert for miles and then lush in the mountains and by the rivers. It was a foreign landscape and it took me some time to see the variations and even the beauty.  And it is beautiful.

My practice has echoed this quiet empty space at times.  There is a stillness.  As a smaller city, it’s culturally quiet here and that was something I wanted in 2005/6 when we moved here from Southern CA.


detail from Sun Valley, by Amanda Hamilton


Do you have themes that you contend with in your practice,
which have evolved out of early seeded ideas or experiences?

I think I spoke to this a bit earlier… I seem always to be thinking about the nature of things.  I have always enjoyed philosophy and aesthetics.  I like to think in a structured way about nuanced aspects of language or meaning.

I used to be obsessed with the questions of  what is the real or what does it mean for something to be authentic. I have worked with scale models over the last ten years in large part as a stand in for this interest.  I also seem to gravitate toward melancholy, loss, solitude, repetition or labor.

I’m not as interested in delineating boundaries or having an answer for things as I used to be.  Now I see the work as asking better and better versions of those old questions, maybe making observations.


Does your Spirituality bleed into your artwork?
Can you describe for me any Spiritual ritual or practice that might be mimicked in a studio practice? Are these even related?

I don’t think of my “spirituality” and my “studio practice” as separate things.  The person I am or am becoming is present in all moments of my life and is informed by all varieties of experience.  My artwork is a form of spirituality- it’s where I ask questions and reflect.

My artwork requires the same integrity, dedication, thoughtfulness, that parenting does and that teaching does, that my marriage does.  My posture to these things is not different but the specifics are…


As a discipline, what keeps you making artwork?
Is it driven from within you or is it more of an act of dedication?

I want to/ have the inclination to/ have learned to think this way… and sheer force of will moves me to completion on various projects.  I have to be careful not to think or process faster than I work or I get bored and abandon projects.


What would you say brings you the most inspiration in life right now,
even if it does not reveal itself in your work aesthetically?

So many things…
My current studio space (solitude and a place that is not multi-use), everything about my daughter, I’m learning to do Pilates which is very challenging for me…but I am not giving up…maybe the “not giving up,” the fact that I’m not very successful, is inspiring.

I read a good book of poems by Ben Lerner last spring called Mean Free Path and some aspect of the meaningfulness  elevating itself above the acknowledgement of limitation of language and poetry and the process was really a big deal for me… artists should read it. It’s really influenced my choices in painting this year.

When my students take risks and really go for it in their studio practice- that’s pretty inspiring.

My family is moving to Minneapolis next summer and I am thrilled and inspired by starting our life there.  I’ve become pretty close friends with a half dozen or so artist in Idaho whom I really admire- the studio visits and creative community have been really life-giving.


What was your first or most memorable interaction with a work of art?

I remember seeing an El Greco painting at the San Diego Museum of Art, I must’ve been in elementary school so maybe 9 or 10?  I stared at it for a long time – I just couldn’t figure it out.

…I haven’t thought of that painting for years,
but your question brought it to mind.

I also grew up with paintings.

My great great great Swedish uncle was a painter and we have this oil painting of the summer solstice tradition of lighting massive bonfires by the edge of a Swedish lake. As a child I would write stories about the painting.  I remember just staring at it forever.

I really worked up a belief that it was inhabited and that things could move within and beyond it.  Especially the clouds.  It was porous to me.  I now have that same painting in my own home and like living with it.


Do you have any big projects in mind, or in the works?

I’m wrapping up some things I’ve been working at for about 3 years now.  This work has to do with my time in Idaho, Marilynne Robinson’s book Housekeeping (which seems also to have been written about Idaho in a specific and vague sense) and ideas about process and tentativeness in art making and in life.  The work includes painting, video, sound and objects.  I’ll update my website in the next few months as the work is finished.  I’ll get to show a bit of this work at Black Hunger in Boise this Fall and at the Olson Galleries at Bethel University in St. Paul this February.

One of the nice things about getting a little older is realizing it does take me 2-4 years to settle in with an idea.  I spend a lot of time researching and thinking.  I collect a lot of sounds, images, create models or shoot footage and at some point things start to gel materially in the same way the ideas have started taking shape.  It’s nice not to stress out about how long this process takes for me- it’s just how I work. I know better how to plan for this longer process and how to commit to shows and other opportunities.

Once the current work is done (around December) I’ll start in on another project that I’ve been thinking about and working up to for the last year and a half.  It has to do with a city in France at the end of the 19th century and my fictionalizing a collected history and my newly formed memories of it.


Is there something that you hope for the “art world” community?

I wish what I do for all people or communities… honesty, inquiry, dialogue, courage, kindness.

I guess my biggest “wish” in general is that people would have the guts to own what they think is good work or boring work and not take cues from major information outlets- have debates, people!  There are already communities that do this, so I hope more people will adopt this way of being in the world.

And that artists would make what they truly want to make –stop thinking so hard – especially with graduate school’s burden of theory (though I love theory) – and stop putting what is fashionable first.

Move on to making things for the reasons you first wanted to make art.


Do you have any specific advice for artists who become parents?

I think it’s different for each person.  In my experience, I found that the birth of my daughter was clarifying.  I lost the ability to always be planning and preparing and moved more toward action in my practice.  I think I did my best work after she was born because I couldn’t do things half-way.  I felt I needed to go for it in the studio so I could get back to my family life.

I am grateful that my husband values my studio practice and at times has practically pushed me out the door to go work despite my sense of guilt.  I think artist mothers have a unique sense of guilt- at least most of the ones I know do.  So actually, here’s my advice:

Do not do this alone.  Surround yourself with a few other artists who also value parenting… and talk.  Know that it is harder to get time in the studio than if you had no child, or if you were single, or swimming in grant money, or wealthy and had no need of employment, but probably you are not many of those things and so find a way to do what you love.

I think of something Ghandi said that wasn’t about art but I’ve thought of a lot “actions express priorities”.  I think we find ways to keep what we need in our lives- so you’ll find a way to make your art even if it’s terribly difficult.

And also, it’s okay to take a break from art production for a while!  Read and think and go see shows.  Everything doesn’t have to happen all at once.


Installation view of On Floriography, Amanda Hamilton

Amanda Hamilton holds degrees in Drawing and Painting from Biola and Claremont Graduate University, and has been regularly exhibiting work since finishing her undergraduate degree in 2000. She was a resident in the Painting’s Edge and Whale and the Star Summer Workshop. She has received several honors including a QuickFund$ grant through the National Endowment for the Arts. Ms. Hamilton has two exhibits scheduled to open over the next five months (at Black Hunger in Boise, ID, and at the Olson Galleries at Bethel University in St. Paul.)

Related Links :

Exhibit Announcement: Joyce Lee

@ Capitol Skyline Hotel in D.C.
Thurs, Oct 4 – Sunday, Oct 7.

Announcing Joyce Lee at the (e)merge Art Fair. “Made in China” will be Ms. Lee‘s first foray into live performance with video installation! “Made in China” is an experimental work about luxury commodities, labor production, and global economies.

Also from Ms. Lee: “Perspectives: a Look through Cultural Lenses,” solo exhibition at Silber Gallery at Goucher College, Oct 30 – Dec 2. The opening reception will be Friday, Nov 9th from 6-9 pm. This show presents new video work of cross-cultural sensibilities made in response to previous work referencing western art history.

Tomorrow at Soho20: 547 West 27th St. #301, NYC, NY

The Secret Rooms of the Dirt Palace
performance, sale and exhibition:

(Including “Women I’ve Known, Biblically.” by JR Uretsky at 7pm)

The Secret Rooms of the Dirt Palace is a multi-media performance that explores constructing and performing femininities through a series of vignettes framed by the explicit explanations of Madame Von Malt Liqueur, our narrator whose narrative is drunk on all of the love in the air and full of repetition and lies. Madame Von Malt Liqueur knows that every story is a story of survival and that in order to make sense, a story must have at least a beginning. The Secret Rooms of the Dirt Palace has at least five beginnings; each presenting a navigation of contemporary womanhood that draw on personal experience as a point of departure to present diverse femininities that are not a reaction to or imitation of male power. Combining traditional storytelling, aggressive magic realism, surrealism, awkward realism, and utilizing puppetry, video, song, ritual, objects and dance The Secret Rooms of the Dirt Palace is a mystical look at what femininity might be — fluid, constructed, individual and sometimes a little wasted.

The performance will be on 27 September 2012 at 7pm.

Sale: Also on Thursday the 27th, the people of the palace will be selling zines, apparel, prints and much much more!

Exhibition: The DP will be filling Soho20 with prints, sculptures, paintings, comics, puppets, drawings and videos. Come to NYC and see what we’ve been working on! Exhibition runs 23 – 29 of September.

The Women of Norte Maar

[Norte Maar]
“NEW YORK CITY, September 2012—Norte Maar and the 1285 Avenue of the Americas Art Gallery announce the exhibition To be a Lady: Forty-Five Women in the Arts, on view at the 1285 Avenue of the Americas Art Gallery from September 24, 2012 through January 18, 2013. A reception, open to the public, will be held on Monday, September 24 from 6-8pm.
Curator Jason Andrew brings together forty-five artists born over the last century who happen to be women. Striking examples by historic protagonists, Alma Thomas, Louise Nevelson, Alice Neel, Lenore Tawney, Louise Bourgeois and Grace Hartigan set the stage for an exhibition designed to challenge and reshape the meaning of the word lady.”… [Full Press Release + Further detail]