In Conversation with Amy Boone-McCreesh
Amy Boone-McCreesh creates drawings, sculptures and installations that explore the disparate worlds of celebration, funerary display and design. Working with paper and second-hand fabric she dyes, scans, cuts and layers them to create artworks that question decoration, functionality and the human impulse to design interior environments. Her work has been presented at Hamiltonian Gallery in Washington DC, Philadelphia Sculpture Gym, School 33 in Baltimore, and soon Mixed Greens in NYC. Amy also recently completed a commission for the Art in Embassies program, making a site-specific wall hanging for the new U.S. Consulate in Monterrey, Mexico.
Paul Shortt: When people think of craft they don’t often think of technology but in your work you’ve recently started printing your own fabric and vinyl and combining them to create new works. Can you talk about your working method?
Amy Boone-McCreesh: For the longest time I was very committed to the hand made and I have always been very interested in craft and how it operates in art. I reached a point recently that I thought I might be closing doors on myself in shunning certain processes and technologies. The idea of creating the same work indefinitely or falling into a familiar process is very scary, not to mention usually doesn’t produce the most interesting results.
Technology is very hard to avoid these days and I think that is one of the reasons I resisted it for so long. I started by scanning and photographing old works, creating digital collages with this imagery, printing them on high quality paper and then working back into the pieces and taking ownership over them again with my own hand. It was an interesting creative problem; to start a drawing with visual information already on the page. The end results were really maximal works on paper that contained both handmade and digital elements. I liked the weirdness of a line drawn on the computer vs. a line drawn by hand, or printed colors vs. watercolor.
After this process I pulled interesting moments from the completed works on paper and started to create patterns. These patterns were then printed on custom vinyl and fabric. The fabric often was cut up and used in soft sculptures and the vinyl would appear in installations as a way to bring a visual vocabulary to everything in the space. There is something really satisfying about creating a visual world. I like trying to reference my own imagery rather than found imagery. I am about to start a new body of work that may continue more of these processes, with a focus on integrating and expanding 2D and 3D relationships.
PS: You work moves between 2d and 3d works that spill off the frame both onto the wall and floor often creating an immersive experience. What are you wanting the viewer to come away with when experiencing your artwork?
ABM: Creating a world is always a goal of mine. I like trying to control a space, or change the way a space can feel with color, pattern, and interacting objects. Mathew Barney is interesting for me in this sense because he has created a world in a very grand way. I suppose all artists are creating little worlds, maybe I just have a desire for this experience to be a little more aggressive but in an aesthetically pleasing way.
PS: Who are your artistic influences?
ABM: Right now I am looking at many non-art influences, things like maximalist interior design, contemporary set design and fashion. Tony Duquette is a designer from the 1960’s who I am really interested in, Mary Katrantzou, a fashion designer, is also very a consistent favorite. She creates garments that hold images of architectural spaces or interior spaces [such as] a woman wearing a structured dress that holds an image of a decadent living room. There is something strange and wonderful about a real space becoming a printed space, and then being worn on the body, the morphing of how all of these images can exist. I also have a soft spot for textiles of all kinds and artists that are working in this vein, like Anna Betbeze. Other artists I am always loving are abstract painters like Trudy Benson, Wendy White, Laura Owens, and artists that are creating immersive environments with 2D and 3D Elements like Liz Miller, Jim Drain, Diana Cooper.
PS: As an installation artist who finds both inspiration from the history of abstract painting and interior design what do you see as the similarities of these worlds?
ABM: The presence of design and an aesthetic intention with composition, to me, is present in both. Comparing the arrangement of a physical space vs. creating illusionary space within a 2D picture plane. Other design elements like repetition, color, and unity also often play a role. I think it’s also funny to think about paintings in deliberately “decorated” spaces and the role that they then play in that context. Decoration as a whole is really a big driving force in my work, how it operates in art, history, and daily life.
PS: How long have you lived in Baltimore and what brought you here?
ABM: I have lived in Baltimore for almost 7 years. I moved here originally for graduate school and my husband’s work is specific to the Baltimore area. Baltimore is a college town, so I have been fortunate enough to find work in many academic institutions the city has to offer.
PS: What is your day job(s)?
ABM: I teach college art in many different capacities. I am adjunct faculty at Maryland Institute College of Art, Loyola University and Howard Community College. I am also involved in many independent artistic pursuits in Baltimore, including curating and am currently working as a consultant for Graduate Studies at MICA.
PS: What are the benefits and downsides (if any) to basing your art practice in Baltimore?
ABM: A benefit, and I think the reason why many creative people live here, is the affordable cost of living. The city is small so the art community is very tight and supportive, unlike other cities that may be more competitive. This makes for a nice sense of camaraderie amongst artists. The downside to this, as in many small cities or tight knit groups is that the opportunities are limited and often artists hit a ceiling in Baltimore that only allows for a certain amount of success. Baltimore does offer many amazing art prizes and the availability of grants and funding seem to be more abundant here than in other cities.
PS: You recently completed the Hamiltonian Fellowship based in Washington DC. What was your experience as a fellow there and can you talk about the program?
ABM: The Fellowship operates through Hamiltonian Gallery in Washington DC. Fellow artists are represented at the gallery for two years, receive a small stipend, and get a one or two person exhibition annually as well as many opportunities for group shows, art fairs, artist talks, etc. It was really nice to have this experience alongside the 10-12 other fellows in the rotation. I was able to meet and connect with people in a way that is hard to achieve after school. On a logistics level, mounting an exhibition in a large gallery space was a valuable learning experience. I think now I am much better at not being intimidated by spaces and working in a realistic way in terms of timeline and physical space.
PS: You have an upcoming installation at Mixed Greens in NYC. Please tell me more about that work?
ABM: I’ll be doing a site-specific installation in the front window space at Mixed Greens; it opens June 11 of this year. The work will be mostly three-dimensional, a very large-scale fringe piece. Hopefully, when complete, it will appear as a decaying organic soft sculpture that draws attention through color and texture. I think that this unconventional space will offer an opportunity that can allow for a fusion of the flat and spatially developed that almost reads like an abstract painting and creates depth within that window space.
PS: What other Baltimore artists or projects should we know about?
ABM: Carolyn Case is a good friend and painter. She has been a positive force in my artistic career and I also really admire her work and aesthetic. Amanda Burnham is doing really nice work as well, where she combines drawing and installation in a very organic and temporary way. There are also two awesome blogs run out of Baltimore, Bmore Art, all about Baltimore Art, and Brown Paper Bag, a blog mostly about illustration but a very comprehensive collection of artists, both updated regularly.
Images courtesy of the artist.