Opening Reception: August 13th, 5-7pm
1251 Solano Ave.
Albany, CA 94706
In Fall of 2016 Amber will begin her studies at Stanford University for her MFA.
Mini- Interview with Amber, by Danielle Schlunegger-Warner
You speak about wanting to make your work accessible through using common materials like fabric and fiber. How would you define "accessible" and what about accessibility is so important to you? Why does it drive your work?
To be an ‘Artist’ is to be privileged. It’s a career of leisure, not of survival. While I may feel like I can’t live unless I am creating, the reality is I can not live without food and water, making art isn’t the easiest way to get food or water. I grew up poor. Being an artist wasn’t even in the list of prospective job professions. Homeschooled in rural Arkansas, I didn’t go to museums or art galleries and my idea of what art was... dated. Art was a part of history. Art didn’t have anything to do with my reality or my life. That was my understanding of it. I saw art, as something that was both physically and mentally inaccessible.
Being ‘out of the loop’ in a gallery has been an experience I think we can all can relate to. We went to a show, looked at the work and thought: “What the bleep is this about?!”
We stood there looking at an ugly or badly composed thing that was so saturated in insider information that it had completely lost its context in our wide culture. That’s just what most art is like for non-art world people.
Fabrics and thread are common materials. They are ones I grew up using. Everyday we interact with fabric. It’s probably the most accessible and relatable material. It also beckons to be touched, which lends itself well to interactive pieces for enticing engagement from people.
Participation is a huge part of accessibility! You are welcoming people into the work, to create their own memories and experiences. Instead of seeing themselves outside the art, or other than, they see themselves as part of the artistic significance. I feel like, if art is about the human condition, about our culture and our lives, than it should involve humans, regular everyday, humans.
Let’s talk about your photographs. You have been working in fibers for a while, lots of embroidery, soft sculpture and large installations out of fibers, but in "It’ll do Road” you’ve started to incorporate photography and video. What led you to this project? What were you looking to document with your photographs that you couldn’t capture through fabric and thread alone?
I wanted to get more socio-political. I had been talking a lot about our contemporary relationship with nature and the domesticity of fabric. By re-imagining the natural world as this safe, soft environment I was speaking about our nostalgia to the outdoors of our youth, and to how we change our natural environment to make it more safe for us to interact with. After working heavily with those themes for about 2 years I wanted to dive into the vast differences between life in California and life in Arkansas.
So I wanted to go back, visit friends and family who lived in rural homesteads, I needed to reconnect with the authenticity of southern living, and the reality of living simply. The art world is so devoid of depicting impoverished or poor lifestyles. We seem it as this great shame on our culture, instead of just a reality. I wanted to capture that reality, and also capture it’s beauty.
So armed with my camera, I went back to Arkansas for 2 weeks, with many pre-arranged home visits.Everyone was informed why I was there, and gave me permission to document them, living. Every photograph and moment was candid. And while some people would express shame about their messy kitchen or dirty dishes, I would explain to them about what I was trying to show and by and large they would open up to my lens. I think everyone, because of facebook, understand that a curated life can be harmful, and how much we, as people, look to see truths.
I had no idea what I was going to do with the photographs I took. I just knew I needed to document the culture. So I came home with over 350 photographs, many which evoked powerful feelings in myself. So I through a long process of feeling like the photographs weren’t connected to me, enough. I decided to print them onto fabric and see how it changed the digital quality and person-ability of them. That lead me to adding the threads.
My intention with documenting Arkansas rural culture was to bring these stories to the white-box conversation. So I printed these images on swatches of cotton fabric, common and everyday, then I placed them in these perfect little frames but made them cascade out and towards the floor. Breaking the mold which held them out of view. The threads are a continuation of the image, a physical representation for the digitally of their composition. They are causing a digital print to become a story which expands beyond the frame, outside the ‘simple’, beyond the edges of the camera’s lens. Life is complex, socio-economics are complex, and the people who I documented here are complex, made up of all these tiny strands.
If we don’t talk about rural culture and poverty in art, then we aren’t representing that reality, we are saying it’s not worthy of being art. I wanted to break through this, and make images that show this culture in its complexity. I feel like the threads spill out of the frame, like the words falling from a mouth and through that we start this conversation.