Thursday, October 7, 2010

Introducing Amanda Vandenberg at 2nd April Galerie

One of the greatest compliments an artist can receive, is to know that their work has touched a viewer in ways they may never had intended. The wisest thing an artist can do is to then step away from whatever statements or messages may be the intent of their work and allow the pieces to speak to the viewer in whatever way they will. Such is the situation with the art work of Amanda Vandenberg now on display in the new featured artist section of 2nd April Gallery.

The newly painted walls in a soft cream color are the perfect complement to the hauntingly delicate pieces on view. Ms. Vandenberg is a 2010 graduate of the Corcoran College of Art and Design who has returned to the area to become part of the growing art community. The official introduction of her work will be at the November First Friday but I suggest that everyone stop by well before that and claim one of the 12 pieces on view as this young lady is well on her way to success. The presentation of each piece is excellent with proper matting, breathing space, framing, color choice, and scale. Maybe art schools are now teaching the value of proper mounting so as to enhance work, not just hang it. One will find lithographs, intaglio prints, and mixed media pieces, some similar in style, others singular such as the mixed media piece on an ironing board. All this information is well and good, (and obvious to anyone who can read a label) but I want to share my personal experience with the work which is truly a part of my own personal story.

Let me say right off, in reference to my opening paragraph, what I see in her work may be way off base from her intent, and I have not met the artist nor seen her in person to my recollection. What I see are issues with body image and the pain of living with or suffering through an eating disorder. If you have never lived on one apple a day for weeks (okay months) at a time, then the Apple Series may not be as relatable. Apple Series III is a delicate intaglio print on handmade paper. A skeletal figure is surrounded by a skeletal tree with sharpened branches that writhe towards her like snakes. One lone apple hangs above her head. Some of you will get an “Eve” message, but not me. I see the linear figure, her back to the viewer in a world that is ashen and grey encountering the one thing she craves, but knowing it will pain her to reach for it. The tree appears to taunt her into trying. The figure is stiff and naked in the image, nothing to give, nothing to share, nothing to show…. Another in the Apple Series is on an ironing board; an intriguing choice of surface. The apple is a bleeding ball of red in her hands. Ever eaten an apple core that has sat and rotted all day? The holes in the metal board are like the holes one feels in their own soul as if part of them does not really exist. One is not whole and nor is the figure in this work for it is a combination of ink, peeling paint, washes, and other such translucent and transparent media. The image produced is bold, yet not really there entirely. I can relate to that.

Two works are from her Biomorphic Series that at first glance appear to be abstractions. They are not. Look closely and you will find figures in the lithograph, layers and layers of gestural figures that entwine with each other. A hand can be seen, the curve of a spine, a high heeled shoe and a jutting arm. The surface mass is fascinating far beyond the standard layering of life drawing warm ups. The entangled figures are reduced to linear forms overlaid with masses of neutral tones that rely on positive and negative interactions to create a sense of wholeness. Those with an eating disorder often do not feel a part of a crowd even though they could be standing in the middle of one. Their presence is defined only by the spaces created by those who move around them, sort of like a rock in a stream, unnoticed and washed over but still affecting the course of action.

Two canvas-like works hang one over the other to the far left. They are not made of stretched canvas however, but of a frayed and tattered linen or silk upon which Ms. Vandenberg has employed staining, embroidery, ink drawing, cut outs and stitching to convey her imagery. I was reminded of the work of Claire Murray Adams in regard to surface treatment but the content is far different. Where Claire has sumptuous landscapes, Amanda has a figure that is not really there. Again, the figure is not a whole, she is made of bits and pieces, torn, frayed and mended to look like she is there, but an emptiness remains the way a stain will leave its mark long after something is gone. How one surface is sewn to the remaining edges of canvas is fascinating yet harsh and painful.

A portrait is the single burst of “color” in the exhibition if one can call the stained paper a color story. The ironing board piece is also very colorful, more so than this portrait, but the emotion of the former is not “colorful” so I discount its impact in that regard. The portrait is drawn using a reddish pen to scribble over and over with lyrical lines that build up over each other so the face emerges from the chaos. Interestingly enough, even though the completed picture is lively, I found the eyes to be vacant, depicting the blank stare of one not engaged with the world around them, only being, but not believing.

Several of her pieces contain words as part of the imagery. “Buddy Willard” is on a pedestal, a small piece that is both raw and yet refined. A second small piece cries out “I am Always Waiting to Breath”; a simple substitution came to mind from my perspective…” I am always waiting to eat” (but never would). The same gesture of hands to the neck and the face tilted back at a tortured angle is (was) all too familiar. I wonder what secrets drove her to create these images.

Two pieces remain. One is called Patriot Act which has been on view in the gallery for the last few months and though a wonderful work, not part of my story here. Is it consistent with her other pieces?....absolutely and worth the time to sift through all the layers of media. The other most powerful work and sure to sell within days is entitled “I Wasn’t Born to be a Skeleton”. It is a truly haunting work of art and pictured above, only the second time I have put the work of another artist on my blog. This piece is an intaglio print on handmade paper, a paper that could be compressed globs of fat around the edges as it is of that color and visual texture. The image is a delicately drawn outline of a woman with a skeleton living inside of her. The orientation is upside down and angled almost as if one is peering into a grave even though the figure does not appear to be dead. Now if that does not just sum up the whole story of a starvation disorder! Outsiders see a living skeleton, but the view from inside looking out is of a normal person in an upside down world. I apologize to the artist if I have completely twisted her intent, but I want her to realize that the imagery made an impact upon this viewer and I would like to thank her for that.

Everybody else needs to come down to 2nd April and see this display. The new wall treatment (gone are the thick gray stripes) truly forms an area dedicated to showing the work of emerging artists. Amazing what some paint and a sharpie will do!


  1. Happened upon this tonight when we stopped into 2nd April between events. I was immediately drawn in - found it to be mysterious, interesting, and memorable. Great write-up! Thanks!

  2. I agree it's a great write-up, and can only add that you don't need to be so apologetic for your interpretation. Once an artist releases work to the world, it becomes part of the world we all negotiate and interpret, independent of artists' intent. That's precisely what makes art such a force.

  3. I appreciate that my work did touch you and that you enjoyed it. It is always interesting and helpful to hear what others have to say about my work.

    Only thing is I went to Columbus College of Art And Design.

    Thank you for the lovely review, and I am so glad that you came to see it and enjoyed it.