Featured Artist: Amy Masters

Amy Masters has been an artist all her life. Formally trained as a painter and printmaker, she pursued a degree in Interior Design at the Parsons School of Design, and worked as a draftsman for an engineering firm in New York City, before dedicating herself exclusively to painting and drawing. For over two decades, she taught in the New York City’s public school system, and spent her summers painting and drawing the world around. Moving to the Catskills in 2006, she was suddenly given far more space and limitless opportunities for inspiration. Amy likes to think about her work as being inspired by the natural world and the actual objects and vistas around her studios. But she likes to re-arrange and re-envision the landscape in the abstract. What is important to an abstract painter, says Amy, is the relationship between colors, lines and shapes, and the complexities of pattern and texture that emerge at the end of the process.

Amy Masters at Her Desk. © Simona David
Amy Masters at Her Desk. © Simona David

I spoke with Amy in her studio in Arkville, New York, earlier this summer.

Simona David: Amy, let’s talk a bit about your training.

Amy Masters: As an undergraduate student, I was a studio art major at Ohio State University in Athens, Ohio. I mostly studied painting and drawing. Then I wanted to come back to New York, and went to Sarah and Lawrence College in Westchester. I studied for about three years under Ansei Uchima, a phenomenal printmaker. And then I started my life, just working different jobs. I ended up working with my dad, who was an engineer. I worked as a draftsman, drawing plans – that was before computers. And then I went back to school and studied interior design. For a while I worked in an architecture firm, doing architectural design – I thought that was kind of a creative job. That’s where I met my husband, Ted Sheridan, who is an architect. All the while I was still painting; I had a couple of shows in the City. Fast forward, I went into teaching, and continued to paint, mostly throughout the summer, when I had time off from school. When I moved to the Catskills, ten years ago, I got all this space to work, and that’s when I feel like I got really serious about it.

SD: Do you think that moving to the country has helped your career as an artist?

AM: Absolutely. The environment informs my work. My work has always been about the place where I am.

SD: I’m reading a book What is Art? by Leo Tolstoy. Ultimately Tolstoy defines art as the transmission of an emotion felt by the artist, and calls it an infectious phenomenon. What moves you, as an artist?

AM: That changes. As an artist of course you’d like to think that your work has improved over time. You get better, just because you’re doing it: the muscles get stronger, you get more confident, the dexterity improves, everything. But going back to just what moves you, I think that has changed dramatically for me. The things that I’m drawn to now I wasn’t drawn to before. And I see things in other artworks that teach me something new or move me in some way I didn’t think possible.

SD: Where do you start a new project?

AM: That’s a really good question, because I do feel like I get onto something and I can’t stop. Sometimes it would be just the strangest thing. For instance, the feather print series – I don’t know where I first got the idea of this feather. There is something about the object itself, it’s very fluid. And I was thinking how unique, how individual each feather is, and that resonated with the process. Each time you make a print, it’s completely different.

Amy Masters Showing Her Prints. © Simona David
Amy Masters Showing Her Feather Prints. © Simona David

SD: Let’s take a closer look at this series.

AM: There are different versions. Some are just monotypes, one-time prints, made with a soy based ink that I was experimenting with. I took a printmaking class in the City – an etching class, and had access to all sorts of equipment there, and began to explore what I could do with an etching. I made hard ground etchings where you just draw on a plate, and then etch it in a bath. I’ve also made actual impressions of feathers: you lay the feather onto the copper plate, it picks up the image, and then you remove the object, and etch it, and that’s what you get. It’s an amazing process.

SD: What kind of paper do you use?

AM: Some are done on rice paper, others on printing paper. A lot of the etching is done on printing paper.

Amy Masters' Feather Series. © Simona David
Amy Masters’ Feather Series. © Simona David

SD: I see other types of prints in your collection.

AM: I was doing etchings, and just couldn’t stop. And from there I thought, oh, I could do other botanicals. And the leafy quality of the feathers made me think of roots. So I started doing a root series. From there I don’t know how I got into these.

SD: Bird nests?

AM: Yes. Keeping with the botanic idea, I started to do the nests. And inspired by the nests, I started doing a new kind of monotype: wiped monotypes. I would start with a plate full of ink; and then it’s more of a reductive process. I like these two images together. One reminded me of the sky at night – the galaxy; and the other one is a nest.

Orbit + Nest, monotype and drypoint,  3” x 6".   © Amy Masters. Contributed photo.
Orbit + Nest, monotype and drypoint, 3” x 6″.
© Amy Masters. Contributed photo.

SD: What an unexpected association! Especially if you see them from a distance.

AM: Yes, I like that. From doing these, I got into this wiping process. I use a reverse surface roll. With an etching you push the ink into the etch line. With the surface roll, it’s reverse: it’s like a relief process, when you’re just keeping the ink on the surface, and you don’t want it to go into the etch line. It’s tricky. But you get a different kind of image. It’s interesting to try it a couple of different ways. For the past year or so I’ve only been doing prints – learning the medium, and the limitations of it. With printmaking there really aren’t any limits: you can do tremendous things.

SD: Let’s talk about your paintings. You’ve been a painter your entire life. Abstract painter. I know that your approach has changed over time, especially after moving to the country. How about your color palette?

AM: My palette changes a lot. I get into a color palette, and I work on it until I feel like I exhausted all the possibilities. Late last summer I did a series of white paintings. I don’t know how I got into this subtle palette, but I just wanted things to be very peaceful. I was looking for a way to convey that. I like to use a little bit of red, because it makes everything else look so much calmer. Generally, I like a limited palette. One reason I’m attracted to prints is their limited palette. Then you have to think about other things like the image, and the composition.

Pond, oil on linen 11 x 14.  © Amy Masters. Contributed photo.
Pond, oil on linen 11″ x 14″. © Amy Masters. Contributed photo.

SD: What do these paintings represent?

AM: These are trees. It’s the landscape.

Landscape, oil on linen , 11 x 14. © Amy Masters. Contributed photo.
Landscape, oil on linen , 11″ x 14″. © Amy Masters. Contributed photo.

SD: I’m just wondering how you name your paintings. As an abstract painter, if you name your paintings in a fashion that doesn’t really give people any hint of what they’re looking at, I imagine it makes the whole experience more intriguing.      

AM: The naming of work is a really curious thing to me. Sometimes it’s very obvious, other times more mysterious. For instance, some of the feather work I’ve done began to look very fossil-like to me. I began to name them “Fossil I,” Fossil II,” etc. They kind of look like something that was left in a stone.

SD: Let’s talk a bit about the artistic process.

AM: It’s always an idea that I start with. For instance, there is this orchard on the Thruway. In the winter all the trees look like big hands, and fingers. I wanted to pursue that idea for a while: the idea of these finger-like trees. I got distracted by printmaking, and were put aside for now.

SD: How do you know when a painting is done?

AM: It’s such an elusive thing. I guess when there is nothing more you can bring to it. You don’t want to overwork it.

SD: Talk about your transition to country life.

AM: I really struggled in the City. We have a very small apartment, so it’s very hard to set up things. I had periods when I had a lot of materials in the studio, and painted a lot. Printing, on the other hand, is very portable, I would just bring it back and forth with me. I could print all winter in the City.

Indigo Pond, monotype, 3" x 3". © Amy Masters. Contributed photo.
Indigo Pond, monotype, 3″ x 3″. © Amy Masters. Contributed photo.

SD: How has your daily routine changed after moving to the country?

AM: In the past few years it’s become really important to spend a few hours daily in the studio. Even if I’m not producing a new piece of work, it’s really important that I commit to spending time in the studio. I could be cleaning, or doing research, or just doing anything to be in this space. I like a book called Rituals – it’s about artists’ daily routines. It maps out what everybody does. For instance, some writers would take walks and think. I like to get up early, and garden for a bit, and then come in the studio and work six – seven hours. I try to get a swim in there, if I can.

SD: Who are your influences?

AM: I love Turner. Bonnard was an early influence of mine, for his colors. I like Morandi, an Italian painter of the early 20th century. Morandi is a painter who uses a very limited palette. I adore his still life bottles. You can really feel the artist’s presence in all his work.

SD: Looking back at all the work you’ve done as a painter and printmaker, is there any piece in particular that you can call your favorite work?

AM: It’s a painting called “Rocks in the Pool.” It was painted on an island in Maine. I think it’s my favorite, because it’s me – I think this painting really is me as a painter. The colors reflect what I was seeing. It’s a magical place that I like to remember. I struggled a bit, because I’m not a realist painter. But I just wanted to paint what I was seeing.

SD: What’s your next project?

AM: I think I’ll do more beet roots.

To learn more about Amy, visit her website at http://www.amymasters.com/.

© 2016 Simona David

Featured Destination: The Corning Museum of Glass

Source: Facebook
Source: Facebook

The Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, Steuben County, has on display some of the world’s most exquisite glass collections, spanning over thousands of years of history. Glass objects and glassmaking techniques from various parts of the world are showcased in several different galleries. A gallery dedicated to Glass in America includes early and rare artistic and decorative pieces. Glassmaking is considered to be the country’s first industry: it started with a glass workshop in Virginia in 1608.

A new wing, dedicated to Contemporary Art and Design, opened at the Corning Museum in 2015 in a newly designed 26,000 square foot modern building shaped like a large white box. A GlassApp, including videos, photographs, and artists’ bios, also launched in 2015 to enhance visitor experience. Demonstrations and workshops as well as lectures and other events are offered from time to time.

Two new exhibitions are on view at the museum this summer: Fragile Legacy: The Marine Invertebrate Glass Models of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, which will remain on view through January 8, 2017, and Revealing the Invisible: The History of Glass and the Microscope, on view through March 19, 2017.

Earlier this summer I spoke with Dr. Marvin Bolt, Curator of Science and Technology at the Corning Museum of Glass. Dr. Bolt’s job is to enhance the museum’s science and technology-based collections and exhibits, and to interpret the information for diverse audiences, from schoolchildren to working scientists. Dr. Bolt holds a PhD in the history and philosophy of science, and is a specialist in telescopes.

Click to hear my interview with Dr. Bolt.
https://app.box.com/embed/preview/8wh054mdaabooom8ll36gdrlekb8ziik?theme=dark
To learn more about the Corning Museum of Glass, visit

http://www.cmog.org/

© 2016 Simona David

Weekend in the Catskills – 8/26/2016

This weekend:

  • David Bromberg Quintet performs at the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock;
  • Visual artists Lisbeth Firmin and Richard Kathmann lead a workshop called Double Vision: Plein Air Painting at the West Kortright Centre in East Meredith;
  • And author Lowell Thing discusses his book The Street That Built a City: McEntee’s Chestnut Street, Kingston and the Rise of New York at the Delaware & Hudson Canal Museum in High Falls.

Learn more at Upstater.com.

Weekend in the Catskills – 8/19/2016

This weekend:

  • Chamber music with Adam Tendler, Emmanuel Feldman, and Aurea Ensemble at Maverick Concert Hall;
  • As You Like It and Macbeth at Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival;
  • Robert Hite: A Distant Embrace at Wired Gallery;
  • And Writers Exposed with Writers in the Mountains at the Erpf Center.

Learn more at Upstater.com.

Writers Exposed at The Erpf Center

Writers in the Mountains (WIM) is hosting its annual summer reading event called “Writers Exposed!” Sunday, August 21 at 4 pm at The Catskill Center for Conservation and Development (The Erpf Center), located at 43355 State Route 28, Arkville, New York, 12406.

This casual but convivial gathering creates a forum and sets a stage for WIM students and instructors to share with each other, other members of the WIM community, and any and all interested writers, readers, listeners, and literary enthusiasts in the neighborhood what they have written, are writing, and have been thinking about in the past year. Be prepared to experience stories and poems about things like the exhilaration of returned affection; the heart-wrenching pathos of ordinary life; and triumph over emotional fears. See and hear writers lay bare their innermost thoughts, indulge fantasies, and lash out at a world gone haywire.

Scheduled readers include poets Anique Taylor, Sharon Israel and Sharon Ruetenik, writers Geoff Rogers, Ev Ellsworth and Bonnie Lykes, and journalist Lillian Browne.

An open mic for the fearless and/or the fun-loving will follow the scheduled readings.

The day will include drinks, light refreshments, and live music. WIM board member Carrie Bradley Neves, writer, editor, and songwriter, will perform some of her original songs. Donations are welcome and appreciated.

The Catskill Center has been promoting the Catskill Mountain Region through regional advocacy, environmental education, arts and culture programming, invasive species management, and land protection for over 45 years. The Center stimulates, conducts, and supports integrated actions to protect vital ecosystems and unique landscapes, to enhance economic opportunities for all the region’s residents, to preserve cultural and historic assets and to further a regional vision and spirit. For more information about the Catskill Center visit www.catskillcenter.org.

Writers in the Mountains is a 501 ( c ) (3) not-for-profit organization with a mission to provide to the general public a nurturing environment for the practice, appreciation and sharing of creative writing. For more information, visit writersinthemountains.org.

Weekend in the Catskills – 8/12/2016

This weekend:

  • The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center performs at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center;
  • Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is hosting a Woodstock Anniversary Brunch, marking the festival’s 47th anniversary;
  • Thomas Cole National Historic Site is hosting Open House: Contemporary Art in Conversation with Cole featuring the works of multi-media artist Jason Middlebrooks;
  • And, photographer Helane Levine-Keating is showing Liminal Spaces at Longyear Gallery in Margaretville.

Learn more at Upstater.com.

The Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice Celebrates Its Seventh Season

© Simona David
At the Phoenicia Festival of the Voice in 2015 when the festival celebrated American music. © Simona David
This year the Festival of the Voice will celebrate Shakespeare and all things British. © Simona David
This year the Festival of the Voice will celebrate Shakespeare and all things British. © Simona David