Diskursdisko Interview: Amy Casey

Amy Casey beschäftigt sich in ihrer künstlerischen Arbeit mit den sekundenschnell ins Leben brechenden Katastrophen, die uns umgeben und betreffen können, indem sie dem allgegenwärtigen Chaos eine Welt der scheinbaren Sicherheit entgegensetzt.

In ihren Gemälden sind Gebäude fest miteinander vertaut, den Gefahren der Normalität enthoben, und dadurch eigenen Regeln unterworfen. Gleichzeitig schleicht sich allerdings beim Betrachter das Gefühl ein, daß im Mikrokosmos der verschnürrten oder auf Stelzen wankenden Häuser ein eigenes, ganz neues Chaos entsteht, als warteten sie nur darauf, von einem Wirbelwind gepackt zu werden. Buckle your seatbelt, Dorothy, because Kansas is going bye-bye.

The Past

Diskursdisko: Hi Amy. To start things off, what’s your background? When did you start painting?

Amy Casey: My mum recently showed me an essay I wrote when I was seven in which I declared my intention to be an artist, so I guess I had ideas going back quite awhile. I ended up in an arts program in high school with a teacher who focused me and set me up with a good studio work ethic and a love of painting. I ended up studying painting at the Cleveland Institute of Art in Cleveland, Ohio, and also went to the Yale summer School of Art and Music.

The Art

Diskursdisko: How do you mainly produce your art? Do you have a system or method that you adhere to?

Amy Casey: I don“™t know that I have a system, but I have habits. I generally start pieces by lightly sketching in the composition, getting the basic elements, the movement and the story. When that feels right, I start to block in the forms with a light wash. As I work, I start using bits of paper to help finish composing. With white backgrounds, there’s not much forgiveness if something is badly placed. So I try to plot things out before I really commit. Once that is accomplished, I start rendering things and that can take days or months, depending on what else I am working on..I usually work on a few things at once to satisfy my short attention span. Some people ask if I use a computer at any point in the process, and no I don“™t. I think with my meager computer skills, it would probably just slow me down! I do use photos I take (mostly here in Cleveland) as reference, and I draw freehand. The whole thing is kind of a slow, nitpicky process.

Diskursdisko: What inspires you?

Amy Casey: I am inspired by my day to day, observing the place I live and reading the news.

Diskursdisko: Much of your recent artwork is based around images of houses clustered, moving about, connected by electric wires and cables. – how did you develop this style?

Amy Casey: I was painting little sort of narratives with animals characters. As I started moving them into more urban settings, the creatures were getting more and more mutated. Around this time, I was experiencing some personal disasters and simultaneously being aware and concerned distantly about larger and more spectacular disasters such as the Indian Ocean tsunami. It wasn“™t a conscious move, but I think I was dealing with wrapping my mind around these ideas of sudden change or being overwhelmed by your surroundings by going to my work and shaking up the world for my little creatures. I also started an interest in gardening at this time which I think is evidenced in the strange alien plantlike forms and tendrils which invaded the paintings.

Feeling a profound lack of capability in the real world „” for instance the helplessness so many people in the US felt watching hurricane Katrina in the news, (note: although I do reference specific disasters in citing influences of how I came to make the work I make, my paintings aren“™t meant to reference any of these specific events) I thought at least I could help my own little made up world, so I gave them lifejackets, little moments of hope, and homes raised up from the turmoil below. I am interested in the resilience of life, and how we refigure and rebuild life, learning as we go along. As I painted, I came to think about decisions made in vulnerable moments and their results- for instance the stilts holding my houses up were, however well intentioned, probably eventually going to start to break down and leave the creatures in my world more vulnerable than ever. So I started tying the houses into poles and eventually each other. And now they are dealing with the joys and problems that being tied into the air and each other might entail. One thing leads to another, in life and in my work.

Diskursdisko: Generally, even in the older pieces, your artwork seems to be mainly about urban structures, with a notable lack of living beings or other objects – where does the love for cityscapes come from?

Amy Casey: I actually do imagine there are living beings inside the houses or that the houses themselves are a kind of living being, otherwise I’m not sure what the stakes in keeping them up would be. Without some kind of organized mind, cities would pretty much fold in on themselves, so I“™ve always felt that living beings were implied. The more buildings in jeopardy that I painted, the more they started to anthropomorphize to me, and they became to me the little creature in trouble, so I felt the earlier creatures I was using seemed a little redundant. But I can see why people say there are no living beings.

I think city planning says a lot about the people who live there. You can see their worries and their aspirations and the places they are lacking foresight. I am pretty worried about the world and wish we could all work together to figure problems out. If I particularly love cityscapes, its because that is where I live, that is my experience of the world. I did notice that my paintings took on more urban flavor as I moved in closer to a part of Cleveland that very much reflects its industrial roots. Cleveland is a big inspiration to me as it has lost so much of its former identity and is left to rebuild a new life force now that much of the industry that created it has left. I love it here, it“™s an underdog sort of city, and so all of our triumphs are very hard won, and we appreciate them that much more for it, I think. It“™s a little depressing sometimes, but it“™s also like a big open sore of raw potential.

The Web

Diskursdisko: You’ve obviously got the website at amycaseypainting.com, any other presences on the web you’d like to publicize? Social networking?

Amy Casey: The gallery I“™ve been working with for a couple years now: Zg Gallery, and the gallery I have begun to also work with recently: Michael Rosenthal Gallery.

I“™m also on Facebook, although I only tend to add people when they send me a message telling me who they are. I am more interested in a little conversation than a big number of faces!

Diskursdisko: As you use the internet to showcase your art, are there any other websites you feel have influenced you, opened your mind or shown you new ways of creating art?

Amy Casey: Unfortunately between studio time and a developing computer related wrist pain, I try not to be on the computer too much. So I am not caught up on cool sites as I probably should be.

Diskursdisko: Of all the work you’ve created, or at least the ones showcased on your website, can you name a couple that you have a special love for or connection to?

Amy Casey: I am usually most connected to the last one I did! Or the next one on my mind! Of course sometimes you do feel specially for some pieces and there’s not really a rhyme or reason to it „” I don“™t necessarily think they are my best pieces. But I will say that I feel especially fond of City Calm Down (2007), Waiting for the bus, (2008) and Waiting place (2009).

The Future

Diskursdisko: Do you have any specific plans for the future direction of your artwork?

Amy Casey: No, I do have ideas that I mull over, trying to get a grip on how I want to represent them.. but a lot of my work grows out of past work, pretty organically as my ideas develop. often one painting leads to another, so my plan is to keep working.

Diskursdisko: Amy, many thanks for the interview – is there anything you’d like to add?

Amy Casey: Thanks for asking me!

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