Special Feature: Artist Amy Gross

AmyGrossEach year, the regional arts agency South Arts awards a State Fellowship to an artist in each of its nine member states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. The Southern Prize is awarded to one of these nine artists and South Arts also awards one finalist. This year’s finalist is Florida’s Fellow, Amy Gross, a mixed media artist living in Delray Beach. We asked Amy to tell us a bit about her journey and why Culture Builds Florida.


Amy Gross:

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Iris Mushroom Biotope by Amy Gross

One thing I have discovered is that a path only seems to make sense when you turn around and look back at it. As a teenager, one of my favorite songs featured the line “How did I get here?” suggesting a randomness that was very appealing at the time. But now, when I ask myself that kind of question, much of it can be answered by this one fact: I moved to the state of Florida.

I was born and grew up on Long Island, New York, halfway between the ocean and New York City. My father was a painter and a textile designer, my Mom a lover of books and music. I never had to argue a case for being an artist, and because my dad was raising a family of four as an art director, it was proven fact that you could make a life for yourself as a creative person. I majored in Fine Art at Cooper Union in Manhattan and studied everything I could get my hands on there: graphic design and painting, printmaking, calligraphy, sculpture. I graduated into the terrifying New York City art world of the late eighties and early nineties, and being a shy person, wilted immediately.  And realized that surviving was going to be for me like it was for everyone else on Earth, I set about finding something I could do well and make a living from.

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Spora Mutatus by Amy Gross

So I became a textile designer like my Dad, expanding into surface design as time passed: children’s bedding, baby blankets, slumber bags and rugs, plush toys, dolls, magic show stages, beach towels. I freelanced for over twenty years, working with Sesame Street and Disney and Warner Brothers, Elmo and Winnie the Pooh and Bugs Bunny. I painted at night for a long time, but the ideas I had about what kind of artist I was morphed and changed. I would only answer to the title “designer,” which is unfair to every graphic artist out there, and which only applied to my own confusion of identity. I had a lot of unformed assumptions about what kind of personality made interesting art, thinking I had some of the elements but not enough to justify sharing my work with anyone outside my family. I kept sketchbooks and journals, but they were for me alone, and I felt almost liberated by the loss of the labels I had stuck onto everything creative when I first left art school. I figured that I had chosen my path.

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Silver Bees, (h.miserablis), Adapting by Amy Gross

Then I moved to Florida. My extended family had lived here since the seventies, so I assumed that it would be known territory. I was wrong. In the almost twenty years I have lived here, Delray Beach and South Florida have been so multilayered I’m still discovering it. In New York I was always on the periphery of the art community, but once here I was almost immediately welcomed into the creative world. Museums held talks where the artists were right there in front of me, answering my questions. Studios were opened up, galleries had exhibits by people that might be too much of a risk in more expensive places.

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Silver Bees, (h.miserablis), Adapting, detail, by Amy Gross

Within months I was standing on the sidewalk in Lake Worth next to my favorite artist, a person I was too in awe of to speak to. But imagine – I could have, if I had worked up the nerve. And I became friends with working artists from places all over the world, interesting people bringing experiences to their work that I had known little about. There was an openness, a generosity that I wasn’t used to, a camaraderie that suggested that competition was not the only motivation that made you want to work hard.

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Brood Comb Biotope by Amy Gross

I became excited about the prospect of being an artist again. The landscape here fascinated me, the constant and accelerated growth, the tension between the natural and the man-made, the battle between the native plants and the invasive foliage, the adaption and symbiosis that weaves itself into every story here. Plants tangle and overwhelm any structure that isn’t constantly managed, rainforests thrive in between gated subdivisions. Water turns solid from duckweed, strangler figs squeeze palms, reptiles sleep in your drain pipes. I vitally needed to describe these collages of elements, to combine them with my own life experiences and mix the things I could see with what I could not. I started making my embroidered canvases and later, fiber sculptures to describe my fascination with this strange environment and turn this awe into metaphors that tell a story of a human’s experience within it.

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Mycorrhiza by Amy Gross

Florida’s creative inclusiveness was a very important factor in my finding a place for what I do in the outside world. This is why Culture Builds Florida. My mentors in Palm Beach County encouraged me to go beyond my earliest ambitions, to push my boundaries. And my most recent experience, being chosen as the 2019 Fellow for the State of Florida for the South Arts Southern Prize, was an affirmation I did not imagine or expect. My process is primarily a solitary and internal one; I make things now from an inner conviction and I still look up and am surprised that what I do has a life outside of my studio. So when I found myself in a room celebrating art making with South Arts, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs and the myriad sponsors, I was floored. I was surrounded by people who are deeply invested in the arts and the lives of art makers, who understand its value and what it can do for the community. Their gift of support and its translation into precious time to work made me even more grateful that I get to do what I love to do. It took me a while to get to the place where I could meet them all, and their affirming “Yes!” will stay with me wherever my work goes next.

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Collection by Amy Gross

Grantee Spotlight: Creative Clay

Creative Clay’s General Support Grant helps the organization fund their day-to-day activities. Their core program is the Community Arts Program, which serves 50-60 adult artists with neuro-differences each week. Through the implementation of additional offerings, such as the inclusive Art Around the World summer camp, Summer Studio for older teens and young adults, Artlink employment program, Creative Care Arts in Wellness outreach program and the Pinellas County Schools’january-february-2018-final partnership Transition program, individuals of all ages and abilities are mentored, taught and empowered to become working artists who actively create, market and sell their work. The end result is that a formerly stigmatized population, through the art it creates and sells, demystifies stereotypes surrounding those with disabilities and creates a culture of acceptance throughout the community.
Visit Creative Clay at their website or their new location at 1846 First Avenue South in St. Petersburg.

GRANTEE SPOTLIGHT: OSCEOLA HISTORICAL SOCIETY’S GENERAL STORE FOR PIONEER VILLAGE AT SHINGLE CREEK

The Osceola Counoctober-2017-newsletter-finalty Historical Society (OCHS) used their Cultural Facilities grant to expand the Pioneer Village at Shingle Creek. OCHS has recently built three replica buildings: a schoolhouse, a train depot, and a church. The most recently completed building is the General Store.

The general store was one of the focal points of a pioneer village. What made the store “general” was that it sold a variety of items. Many pioneers grew or raised their own food, but having a local store gave them an opportunity to purchase things they could not procure elsewhere. These items would have included clothing material, tools, dried goods and even horse saddles. The general store also provided a place for the locals to see each other and swap news and stories.

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The General Store replica takes shape

OCHS’s new General Store is a replica of the H. E. Page General Store, which served those who lived in and around Narcoossee. Included inside is the town Post Office, which boasts the original post office boxes for the town of Narcoossee from the 1880s to the 1940s. The General Store’s grand opening was during the 26th Annual Pioneer Day, November 11, 2017.

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The original H.E. Page General Store

 

Grantee Spotlight: Marie Selby Botanical Gardens’ Marc Chagall, Flowers, and the French Riviera: The Color of Dreams

Marie Selby Gardens in Sarasota has enjoyed an overwhelming response this year to its Picture4latest exhibition featuring the artist Marc Chagall’s nature-inspired artwork and personal effects. The immersive exhibition, Marc Chagall, Flowers, and the French Riviera: The Color of Dreams, introduced a new way of examining the artwork of the prolific artist. The exhibition opened February 12 and continued through July 31, 2017.

The six-month exhibition garnered record-breaking attendance numbers to this 15-acre bayfront botanical garden. The visitor experience included a glass house conservatory where reproductions of Chagall’s nature-inspired stained glass were displayed among living plants. Visitors also strolled  the grounds of the gardens which were enhanced with flora that evoked the south of France, the land that inspired Chagall and where he spent much of the later part of his life.

Additionally, the exhibition included Chagall’s masterwork painting The Lovers (1937), on loan fromthe Israel Museum, Jerusalem, and two additional paintings loaned from a private collector that have not been publicly exhibited before. Also on view were archival photos and personal effects from Chagall’s studio.

Accompanying cultural performances, special events, classes and lectures supported the exhibition, along with a French-inspired menu served at the on-site cafe.

Photos © Matthew Holler. / Stained glass © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York ADAGP, Paris

 

Grantee Spotlight: Lighthouse ArtCenter

The Lighthouse ArtCenter Gallery in Tequesta, Florida introduced a glorious celebration of children’s book authors and illustrators this summer.

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Funny Farm, Mark Teague

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My Busy Green Garden, Carol Schwartz

Drawn to the Arts, a unique exhibition that will run from June 8 through August 11, 2017, engages visitors of all ages as they explore the magical process of creating and enjoying children’s books.

Some of the nation’s bestselling illustrators and writers have generously lent their acclaimed work to exhibit including: Tomie DePaola, Mark Teague, Linda Shute, E.B. Lewis, Bill Farnsworth, Raul Colón, Layne Johnson, Henry Cole, Fred Koehler, Priscilla Burris and Kelly Light.

Janeen Mason, the Curator of the Lighthouse ArtCenter, describes the exhibition, “Here

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Big Bug, Henry Cole

in the Village of Tequesta we are honored to have these popular, well-loved illustrators send us their best work for all of our young and young at heart visitors to enjoy.”

For more information, visit www.lighthousearts.org/.

Sarah Crooks Flaire Decorates Florida’s Holiday Tree

Jacksonville artist Sarah Crooks Flaire of evervess art studio was recently selected to make ornaments for the National Parks Service to display as part of my faceAmerica Celebrates: Ornaments from Across the USA. The display at President’s Park at the White House features holiday trees decorated with ornaments designed by local artists from each U.S. State and territory as well as the District of Columbia. The ornaments reflect National Parks Service parks and programs, and the artist has taken her inspiration from the Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve at the mouth of the St. Johns River.

We asked her a few questions about the project, and she was kind enough to answer them!

Why were you chosen to make the ornaments for the Florida holiday tree at the Pathway of Peace for the National Parks Service?

I am an environmental artist passision flowerand a certified Florida Master Naturalist, so
creating ornaments to celebrate the National Parks must have seemed like a natural fit. I make images and experiences that connect us to the natural world, while appealing to all ages, I express a deep sense of spiritual ecology
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Can you please describe your process in physically making the
ornaments? How did you choose what materials to use?

The ornaments celebrate the flora and fauna of the estuary of the Timucuan Preserve and highlight the importance of oysters. I use recycled cd’s to represent a waterline and miniature worlds above and below that surface. Continue reading

Artist Brian R. Owens Brings Windover Woman to Life

Today we’re featuring a story about a Florida artist, Brian R. Owens.

On November 13th, a newly revised exhibit opened at the Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science in Cocoa, FL, about one of the first groups of people in North America. The accidental discovery of a ceremonial burial ground in 1982 resulted in the unearthing of one of the largest and most well-preserved skeletal sites on the continent. The excavation reshaped our understanding of “archaic hunter-gatherers” and how they lived 7000 to 8000 years ago, about 3000 years before the “Great Pyramid”. They are called “Windover People”. Research is constantly ongoing as new technologies emerge to analyze the remains of 168 people. Over 10,000 bones and artifacts are preserved at Florida State University. The Museum commissioned Brian R. Owens to sculpt an artistic interpretation of one particular female based on her skull. It’s the centerpiece of the new exhibit. They call her the “Windover Woman”.

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Computer-generated image based on the bones of the Windover Woman

CBF: What did you have to work from?

Lots of detailed measurements of her skull but not the skull itself. I also had some computer-generated images that were made years ago on the basis of the skull. The remains included DNA but it’s so damaged that it is of little use. At least for now. Archeologists generally agree that she was descended from Asians.

CBF: How is an artistic interpretation different from a forensic sculpture? Continue reading