There are some incredible artists in Calgary and one in particular I have always wanted to meet is Amy Dryer. One day, on a whim, I contacted her in hopes she would humour me and possibly sit for a portrait. A week later, I found myself standing in her studio hashing out the details. We set a date in early September when new work for an up-coming show would be completed as this would set the backdrop for her portrait. As I do with anyone I photograph, I start with a simple conversation; no pre-set questions or expectations. I hope you enjoy some words about an artist named Amy.
Amy’s studio is a visual experience all on its own. The entry way is aligned on either side with large vertical storage shelving that carry canvases as big as a human. The room opens unexpectedly where a fifteen foot ceiling and large vertical windows stand tall, allowing beautiful north light to illuminate the space exposing the original brick walls and all it’s imperfections. The floor is covered in paint that can only be compared to a Jackson Pollock piece and there are paintings everywhere, randomly placed as if each one is fighting to be seen, if only for a second; you can almost smell the craft and process that hangs in the air. Amy apologizes for the mess but in my head it’s a picture perfect postcard of organized chaos, a space any artist dreams of.
We start the conversation from the beginning and Amy describes her childhood with joy and candour, always having energy and the need to continually move her body taking up sports like soccer and track with a love for drawing. “My mom would cover the hallways in our home with newspaper and my sister and I would spend hours just sitting on the floor drawing, covering every part of the newsprint. She would also record us telling stories rather than reading them.… I journaled quite a bit and I think this is where my love for story telling came from. My journals and writings inform my paintings and really allow for a certain lyrical narrative to happen in the work.”
Her curiosity for space is something I find interesting as she mentions it several times throughout our conversation. “I was touring Western Canada High School in Calgary with my dad and it was the arts program and the art room that drew me in.”… “ I loved that room because of its big ceilings and natural light. It was like any art room, chaotic and I loved it. I have always felt connected to the spaces I like being in from an early age. For me it’s very intuitive, a space needs to be the right fit. I love open spaces and I'm always drawn to the vastness of places like the Yukon and Scotland, then I want to fill them with stuff.”
We continued our conversation talking about her time in Scotland where she lived in Glasgow for five months and went to the Glasgow School of Art. She spent two years in Sackville, New Brunswick at Mount Allison University getting her bachelors and she also shared stories of painting in various residencies across the globe with hopeful future plans for more. We then came to the question about process. Like any process in life, there are always highs and lows that come with the territory, especially anything creative. “Early on I didn't think I was going to make it. I wondered what it meant to be an artist for the first few years – how to survive financially, but also how to generate ideas, how to find community, endurance, infrastructure… I would call my dad when I was feeling upset and we’d go for lunch. The support from my family was great as I have a husband and parents that believe in me. Now painting is just part of my everyday life. In terms of my process, my father-in-law builds my amazing stretcher frames; then I stretch all of my canvas. After that, I start to draw, then layer paint on top of paint, all while letting each layer dry. Then I turn the canvas in a different direction and repeat the process. It’s very non-linear. It can be an almost random, free process - like riding a bike. No expectations as I don't know what or how it will turn out. I love the mix between order and chaos; I have a desire to tell stories and my painting becomes my voice. I hope to speak to people on an emotional level.”
You can see Amy’s work at her new solo show titled Stella Polaris (The North Star) at the Masters Gallery which takes place on November 3-17, 2017. The opening is on November 4th from 11am-4pm and an artist talk the same day @ 1pm.
If you would like to see the behind the scenes video, you can do so by watching below. And if you want to see more projects like this, feel free to subscribe as I'll be releasing them bi-monthly featuring some other projects that are currently in the works; I promise you'll only see the cool stuff.