Amy Laskin has residency in New Hampshire, but her artistic journey led her to the rural Blue Mountains of Jamaica where she practices her art. After fulfilling a contract as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Jamaica, she found a studio in the rural mountainous area to continue her practice. Laskin’s passion is sparked by observing her intimate natural surroundings and building a pictorial archive of images that fascinate her.
“I’m eager to celebrate nature’s mysterious wonders as I ponder how to control illusion and describe atmosphere. I assemble disparate images using the visual relationship to create new contexts for the forms. I’m fascinated with decorative abundance, realistic renderings of imaginary compositions and fine detail. I build up fine layers of paint on smooth surfaces exposing clothed fantastical female figures bursting with floral abundance. This brings our focus to our past and present, nature, gender and identity while celebrating women kind/humankind’s intersection with the natural world”.
What initially drew you to your medium of choice?
As a child I frequented The Philadelphia Museum of Art and wandered the vast collections, admiring all of it, but the paintings especially drew me in. I wanted to have a career in painting, but when I went to art school for my BFA I was introduced to clay in the ceramics department. They had an exceptional department and as soon as I got my hands into the luscious tactile material...I fell in love. I went on to get my MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and was enrolled in the ceramics department. Once there however, I was excited by the faculty in the painting and drawing department, so I took extra classes from them in drawing. Immediately upon graduation, I didn't have a job or a kiln so I just started painting. Painting was more immediate and involved less process than I was doing with my clay work. After some years I became more skillful and known as a painter. Eventually, many years later, I did buy a kiln but I was a little rusty by then, however I do still love working with clay from time to time. Paint originally was my medium by default but it is so satisfying and versatile to use, it quickly became my first love.
What aspect of your art do you hope comes across to your audience?
I want my audience to connect on an emotional as well as a cerebral level. The imagery amalgamates fantastical female forms, floral bursts, and the ambient surroundings; hopefully this brings our focus to gender identity and humankind's intersection with the natural world. I want my audience to experience healing vibes while also feeling like it’s an enigma. I hope I can convey to my audience my fascination with the wondrous mystery of nature. I often incorporate snippets of historical clothing so I'd like my audience to get a sense of our past identities blended with a contemporary present.
Who inspires you in life whether it be artistic or otherwise?
I am completely inspired by Dr. Irene Pepperberg because of her astonishing and tireless research in animal language and cognition, especially in relation to parrots. Because of her extensive and exhaustive research of Alex the African Grey for 30 years, we learned about the intelligence and cognitive abilities of these birds. She revolutionized our understanding! Alex could understand the differences between sizes, colors, shapes, and could express verbally his preferences in food. He could tell you he didn't want the peanut but did want the banana. He could tell you when he wanted a bath. He had uncanny ability to understand numbers and understood the concept of "zero", something only a 4-year-old human being can grasp. She also is very dedicated to wildlife conservation. I am awestruck by the work she has done.
What keeps you going as an artist? Where do you find that creative drive?
I find that I have to keep my mind open as an observer. I need to carefully observe my natural surroundings, collect artifacts of nature so I can study them later. I hunt for pictorial images of my fascination and archive them. I like to keep abreast of what my peers are doing and visit studios and see their work as much as possible. I try to attend exhibitions and museums when I can. I make a habit of going online to look at work I can't see in person. The creative drive comes when I can experiment with a new material or idea, which needs to happen when my energy starts to wane.
Tell us about your primary goal for the future. Has this goal changed over time?
Aside from doing work that challenges me and continues to grow and change, my goal is to grow and widen my viewing audience. I find it hard to thrive in an environment where I feel I am creating in a vacuum so feedback from others is necessary. As long as I am able to make work that I like, I want to share it as widely as possible.