While attending artist Amy Wilson's opening for her current exhibition "We Dream of Starfish and Geodesic Domes" at BravinLee programs (through March 24th), a mutual friend asked, "So, how do you and Amy know each other?" Which made me realize that we met many years ago at yet another opening. Although we both live and work in and around New York, Amy and I first met on the occasion of Barry Blinderman's fabulous "The UFO Show" at Illinois State University Galleries where we both had work. I remember being very green. And that it was a very fun show. And that afterwards we were treated to burgers and pints at a dark, atmospheric pub. There was a fine exhibition catalog, and we all got to take home a bright green frisbee with "The UFO Show" emblazoned on it. Most of the artists, who had never met before, came out for the opening.... Amy and I lost touch after that, and recently we've re-connected. I have followed her through her work all along, and I thought this might be a great time, while her show is still up, to ask her a few questions for NEWSgrist.
NEWSgrist: Hey Amy, how would you characterize the work you were doing at the time of The UFO Show? could you describe the developments and evolution of your process since then?
AMY WILSON: I was right out of grad school then, and the work I was making was really a transition for me. I had gone to school for sculpture and loved making huge pieces... and then found I couldn't afford a studio after graduation, had a tiny little apartment, and basically decided - ok, I guess I'm going to work on drawings for now. It was a practical decision, but at the time it was the only one that made any sense. But it meant I had to really learn how to draw, which I had avoided in grad and undergrad because I figured: hey, I'm a sculptor!
So I set out to make a bunch of different drawings, basically learning as I went. The drawings in that show were part of a series about unexplained phenomena, and featured text that was lifted from what people who had had strange experiences (seeing UFOs, being visited by aliens) reported in books and articles I'd read which had fascinated me. So I was more or less coming home from work every night, sitting down at my kitchen table, and learning the basics of drawing by sketching out these UFOs (very easy to draw, good for someone just starting) and carefully writing this text.
Around this same time - totally separate from this show and this work - I started copying texts out of books by hand, into a sketchbook, in pencil. I found that being in the city was making my mind race to the point that I was having a hard time sitting down and reading a book, so that when I would try to, I'd wind up skipping over entire sections and skimming it without meaning to (this of course was fine when I was reading glossy magazines, etc., but when I wanted to read something heftier it really caused problems). So this practice of slowly copying each word in a book became a way for me to reteach myself to read. I didn't realize it at the time, but I had these two things going on at the same time - learning to draw, and also relearning how to read.
Eventually I found myself with this notebook full of transcribed writings and thought, Hey, let's put this into the work. Sometime after the UFO show, I did - that's where this practice of cramming my work full of all these words comes from. At first, it was all transcription from other sources; over the last few years, as I've become more confident with my own writing, it's been my own words. The drawings have become more complicated and complex too, as I learned more and more about working on paper.
NG: Considering that your work deals (literally) with narrative on the one hand, and seriality on the other, I have always wondered how much you consciously draw on (no pun intended!) certain popular genres such as the "graphic novel". How do you feel about that kind of comparison? is there a real, conscious connection between your work and the graphic novel, its obvious departure from that genre aside? which leads me to ask: what/who *are* your influences, conceptually and stylistically? do you consciously pull from other drawing/narrative styles and tropes? do you see your current work as being primarily diaristic? in an arch or strange way?
AW: I like graphic novels, and I don't mind the comparison. But my roots, and what I look at and really think about, is fine art. There's something about the whole graphic novel/comic book world that I really love, and something about it that feels off-putting to me. It's probably strange that I feel more comfortable and at-home in galleries and museums and intimidated by graphic novels and comics, but that's what it is.
My work is definitely diaristic. And within shows, there are definite story arcs. I'm most interested in making art that is a daily act, this little thing that you do every day that builds up and amounts to something after some time. It really is like keeping a diary, or a blog. I think of the project of someone like On Kawara - just this recording every day of the date. He's of course more disciplined and detached in his recording that I am with mine, but that's just part of the process being honest. I'm an anxious person and I have to make things, so I'm going to approach it differently than he does. A lot of times, in one of my shows you will see me contradict myself - you'll see me say one thing in one piece and the opposite in another. This isn't planned or anything; it's just that my thinking changes over time and more info filters in, moods shift, and so forth. It's just what happens.
As far as what kind of art inspires me - I've always been really drawn to Conceptual art and to art about ideas in general. But I'm a sucker for color, for materials, and for making things by hand. I'm messy, and I like that about myself. But mostly I like art that is challenging and even confusing to the viewer either by putting forward some difficult-to-understand idea or being aggressively ugly or emotionally wrenching, or something that really demands of the audience some attention and effort. I like to work hard, and I like art that demands of me that I invest some of myself in it.
We Dream of Starfish and Geodesic Domes
remains on view at BravinLee programs through March 24, 2012
526 West 26th Street #211
New York, NY 10001
tel 212 462 4404
fax 212 462 4406
Artist website: http://www.amy-wilson.com/