Interview with Amy Casey


Neoteric Art: In your current work you construct homes and buildings in very precarious situations. Discuss your intent.

Amy Casey: I think the work reflects my perception of the nervous state of things. The world has always been in some kind of agitated state, but now we can get up to the minute Google alerts on it! From my point of view, the work has been following a little world which progresses in a quasi logical fashion, dealing with catastrophes and persevering while at the same time creating new sets of challenges. Also I think a lot about community and the ways we connect and disconnect and build relationships. So it’s absolutely inspired by the world at large and current events. I’d say my work is about both vulnerability and perseverance. I try to use my palette and detail to depict a sort of everyday familiar real quality of the buildings or rubble or what have you and use composition to create movement or tension. I think using a blank ground sort of emphasizes for me the kind of vacuum this place is in and also adds another danger in my head that if the buildings or grounds fall away, they will fall into nothingness, if that makes any sense.

I’ve always imagined that there are inhabitants, but I can see why some people perceive them as being abandoned. I’d like to keep it open to interpretation. I think though that even without actual characters, the houses began to anthropomorphize so there is still something to empathize with, even if you feel there’s no one in them. My hope for my inhabitants is about as precarious as my hope for real humankind. Some days- definitely and I try to paint in little lifelines and help out. Other days, well, you just can’t imagine that there will be a good end to all of this and that safety is a ridiculous illusion. However, it seems that we (humankind) always seem to be able to figure out some way to carry on no matter what is thrown at us (or what we throw at ourselves) and I think my work reflects that. Life goes on and sometimes that’s a horrible reality and sometimes an optimistic hope for something better.

amy-casey-1.jpgNA: Describe your 7 months artist-in-residence at Zygote Press where you focused on printmaking.

AC: Zygote Press is an incredible printmaking studio in Cleveland put together by artists a bit over ten years ago I believe. Every year they host a local non-printmaker and show them the printmaking ropes, provide space to work in, materials and technical support. It was very intimidating coming in and facing all those processes! Thinking of my work in a new medium was very challenging (not to mention working backwards.) But everyone was so kind and helpful. As an artist who tends to work at home alone, it was nice to be part of a community.

I happened to be there during their move to a new location, so for a time, I was experimenting a lot with chin colle and monotypes because the acid wasn’t really available. I was cutting out chain link fences and bridges and things out of tissue paper. Very time consuming stuff. Later I started aquatinting with a ton of help from Susan Vincent, an excellent artist who assisted me. The notion of a fixed image in the plate is a bit trying for me. Liz Maugans, an artist and one of the founders of Zygote (and an incredibly energetic and smart lady) made the suggestion of using copper flashing to make little characters and other forms which I could etch and ink as very thin teeny shaped plates and move around either on a larger plate or in a monoprint. I really enjoyed this and it was great to have the freedom, but it was also possible to spend two hours inking up tiny fragile plates to end up with a so-so print. Although I would sometimes get frustrated with the processes, there is also this appealing sense of anticipation and surprise when you pull a print off the press that is a bit addictive.

I think working there definitely helped me to connect with paper which I still work with now but with acrylics. I have gone back to Zygote after my residency and hope to continue working with printmaking when I get more time.

gal_artist_66_2199_built_up.jpgNA: Was becoming a painter an easy choice for you?

AC: I suppose it was. I don’t recall agonizing over it at any time. I think I knew that I would have a life in the arts no matter what exact form it took. I’m sure it’s worried my folks a bit, they are extremely practical people and don’t come from an arts background, so to speak. Luckily I am happy living a few frills lifestyle that is pretty easy to support. I recall the decision to change to acrylic paint was actually a choice that I tossed and turned over for a long time. But I think that it was the best way to go for me.

NA: You recently had a 3-person show at White Walls in San Francisco and a solo show at Zg Gallery in Chicago. Discuss those experiences.

AC: I was pretty excited about the show at White Walls especially because I enjoyed the other two artist’s work, but I was fairly disconnected from the whole experience because here I am in Ohio and I didn’t get a chance to get away and go see it or be very involved. So, unfortunately, I don’t have a whole lot to say about the experience.

The show at Zg Gallery was wonderful, it was my first solo show outside of Ohio and exciting and nerve wracking. I’m terribly shy at times in person and so openings usually find me babbling nervously or hiding in the bathroom. At this opening, I believe I was babbling.

gal_artist_66_2201_hive_paths.jpgAt any rate, I ended up showing quite a bit of work ranging over a couple years and it was interesting to me to see how things work together and how the work has changed…It’s so seldom I really get the chance to look at a large body of my own work at once. I think the gallery is a great space too, and I really admire and respect the gallery owners. They first saw my work when I entered a show they juried early last year, and I have been working with them ever since. They are fantastic.

NA: You live and work in Ohio. Are there any local artists that you admire?

AC: Some of my favorite painters here now are Erik Neff and Douglas Max Utter (no websites!?). I also really like Judy Brandon, Arabella Proffer and Scott Radke.

I’m sure I’m forgetting some people. The art scene here isn’t huge and most people seem to be constantly coming and going, but people are definitely working. I’m afraid I don’t get out to see shows like I should, so I miss out on a lot of artists. Historically speaking, Charles Burchfield is from Ohio and went to an earlier incarnation of the college I went to. I think his work is beautiful.