...or tries to...

Sunday, October 2, 2011


I was finishing two projects last week, one my own work, a sewn fiber piece that fits under a glass dome, and my Dad's paintings-turned-note cards, that I print for the Morikami Japanese Garden's gift shop. The first year he moved here he painted every week there, and he loved it deeply. He never intended the watercolors to be anything more than something he painted for himself. But after he died my Mom and I took them over to the Morikami for them to see, and they loved them too, and since then I've been printing them as cards. 

So my studio was its usual pre-deadline mess, everything piled up together, cards everywhere, my objects everywhere, and I saw, for the first time, a connection between my Dad's paintings and my own work, something I had never really seen before. Our art isn't about the same thing, or made with the same materials, but I could see the heredity, the similarity in the way we balanced color, maybe the way we see what we see.

My Dad and I had approached nature from different directions. He was very traditional, a very direct interpreter of what he saw. The landscape was beautiful for him, an escape for someone who had grown up in the city, who commuted to work every day to the same city, whose personal art always came second to the commercial art he created to take care of his family. Nature was an ideal you lost yourself in, something you paid homage to. Nature, for me, is a metaphor I use as a stand-in for my anxieties, at its source something I love deeply and madly but make over into my own flawed image. He reflected, I make things up. My Dad melted in the country, and for me, my issues outside of it magnified when I was there. In a way, we both longed for it based on the old-fashioned idea that nature can help us define ourselves, our place in the world.

Mixed media under glass dome, 2011

But in the beginning, painting outside was just something we all did together. 


Sitting next to him all that time, under trees, in parks, on observation towers, in fields at the side of roads, I learned more about painting than anything I did in art school. School rearranged my thinking, which was invaluable, but only part of the process. This is where the love and the need to paint, to make art, came from. 

This was the last time he painted outside, at the Society of the Four Arts Sculpture Garden. I didn't paint that day, I hadn't in a while. I took pictures of the strange leaves and flowers I would later remake and use in one of my objects. So, in a way, we were doing what we did, next to each other. And by this time, his painting was more abstract. More about what he felt, less about what he saw. 

And I didn't see what we shared in our work back then. But I do now. And I'm so grateful for that.


Daydreamer said...

WOW, Amy! What a GIFT! All those hours and years spent together in creative pursuit.... differences or not... though differences are inevitable as we MUST find our own expressions of our own perspectives!.... but the TIME together and the Silent encouragement of that togetherness...invaluable! And perhaps just as inevitable is the merging of perspectives at the edges or the CORE ..... whichever way you want to look at it....of what you are doing, making, seeing, creating.... as you both sat by that same ocean or river or forest! He seeking to reproduce the world before him, a world of light and sound and texture, and somehow capture that essence on a flat plane with only the subtlety of color and brushstroke as his tools..... You seeking to capture that minute texture and intricacy of nature and reproduce it in three dimensions with materials chosen for their Resemblance to the original World you are seeing...
Oh dear... I am NOT an art critic who knows what I am talking about....
Suffice it to say... He gave you a GIFT Beyond the inherited Genes of an Artist.... He Shared his LOVE with you... and it Shows in YOUR art... Which is Just INCREDIBLY amazingly intricate and Beautiful!

Amy said...

Betsy, I don't think you could have written anything more beautiful and understanding-this is a great gift to me. Thank you so so much-it's actually hard to write about my Dad, and I never think I'm doing it right, that it's complete enough. There's a sort of metaphor he created without meaning to, when he was teaching me to paint in oils, that a color was never just what it looked to be, that it was made up of many other colors, it only looked that way in comparison to everything else in the picture. Everything made up of so many different things. You may not think of yourself as an art critic, but you have such a deep understanding of what art is about...

Kaylovesvintage said...

amy , that is wonderful.I miss my dad everyday..

thinking about you

Sans! said...

I came from a family where my siblings and I are all creative in one aspect or another. I have often wondered where we got that from as my parents did not seem particularly interested in art or art making. It was too much of a luxury back in those days when they had to bring up 4 children and support us through school for almost 20 years each.

Then one day it struck me. I have always lived in a pretty home because my parents were house proud, still are. I remember Dad designing the interior and mum styling it. We must have understood aesthetics since then, at a subliminal level.

It is funny how I always end up sharing something personal with you here. I see that it has happened with Bets as well. I agree with you entirely about Betsy and with Betsy about you.

I love your work too and wish I can see Symptomatic up close and personal. Perhaps over a cup of tea with you telling me all about your life as an artist while I stare to my heart's content, your magnificent interpretation of nature.

Amy said...

Kay, I so understand. My Dad is with me, in a way, but it's not nearly the same as having him here. I think about you too-and I visit your blog regularly!

Sans, it's true, it doesn't seem to matter whether your parents make art or are conventionally creative, it's the way they approach life and home and the every day. My Mom didn't start making art-she collages and makes prints, until recently, but it was her excitement about life, her way of seeing things as new almost every day that influenced me as much as my artist Dad. Thank you for sharing your stories with me-I'm so happy you do-this is a very special thing, and it's opened my world up more than I could have ever imagined!