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Local Artists Live: Amy R. Peterson
January 9, 2021; 10:00 AM–10:30 AM CST
As Local Artist Live continues exploring the Birmingham-area art scene through February, Amy R. Peterson will be featured next, sharing about her art that reflects inspired moments, whether captured while painting in plein air or from the comfort of home during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Amy is a Birmingham native and comes from an artistic family with parents who encouraged creativity from an early age and provided a solid foundation of exposure to the arts. Amy remembers attending Birmingham Children’s Theatre productions at the BJCC in elementary school and how impactful the whole experience was for her—how “big” the surroundings felt driving into downtown and how her excitement built while waiting for productions to begin. Fittingly, what especially stands out in Amy’s memory are her innocent yet intuitive observations of productions’ visual elements. “Even before I knew what I was doing, even before I had much reference to speak of, I was critiquing the stage design and painted backdrops and costumes.” From early in life Amy knew that art would be an important constant, even when she explored other paths.
Amy recognized art as her true calling the summer after her freshman year of college—during which she was a pre-med major “taking all the art classes [she] could”—when she was in a car accident with her mom where they hydroplaned and spun out of control on Interstate 65. “That incident got me thinking that if I had more than one life to live, I might keep pursuing a career in medicine in my first life. But as it seems to stand that I have one life to live in this body and mind, I decided to go for art.” Amy switched from pre-med to studying art at the University of Notre Dame, and while she does not think that having a degree in art is necessary to becoming a working artist, she appreciates how learning from great instructors helped shape her artistic perception.
Tune in for Amy’s feature on Local Artists Live on Saturday, January 9, from 10–10:30 AM to learn more about how her vision is reflected through her art, how she has adjusted her practice during the Covid-19 pandemic, and to get a special look at some of her painted works. For now, continue reading below to get to know more about Amy, her art, and her inspirations!
This program is part of the series:
Meet the Artist
What is something you appreciate about life in the South?
Southern hospitality. And a slower pace of doing things (I still resist it, but I’ve come to appreciate it more).
What are some of your favorite works of art from the MMFA’s collection, and what specifically about those works speaks strongly to you?
Red Fish [by Leonard Koscianski] is one of those pieces that I can vividly recall: the scale, the drama…an anxiety and unsettledness it evoked in me. Seeing John Singer Sargeant’s handling of pearls and silk and hands [in Mrs. Louis E. Raphael] always blows me away quietly. Thornton Dial’s work is full of energy, it is very alive and you can’t help but engage with it when you see it. His creative process seems to be actively unleashed on the canvas as you stand before it.
What piece of art that you have created is your favorite, and why?
I don’t have a favorite. I don’t even speak about my own art in terms of what I like. Although there are plenty of things I don’t like about it! But I have favorite memorable experiences painting pieces—especially plein air pieces because of the beauty of the location I was immersed in while painting (like downtown Santa Fe, cliffs along the Oregon coast, overlooking Big Sur, farms in rural Alabama) or the company I shared (like fellow artists or my mom holding one of my infant children as I painted and pumped breastmilk between paintings at plein air events!), or pieces I worked on during memorable stages of life like pregnancies.
Do you have an all-time favorite work of art, and have you seen it in person? If you have, how did you feel in that moment?
The works of the Russian brothers Tkachev and itinerant Russian artists get me every time. I have not seen them in person, but I plan to! Velasquez’s Las Meninas made an impression on me since high school and I did get to see it in person in Spain. It’s magnificent at face value and even more fascinating knowing a little background info on it. Contemporary artists whom I follow on Instagram continuously blow me away!
Tell us about your most preferred place to be on Earth. What role, if any, has the energy of that place helped shape you as an artist?
I lived in New Mexico and Utah for short periods of time. The high desert feels like a second home to me. I am constantly moved to tears in view of canyons and mountain ranges. I still close my eyes and picture the contours of certain desert landscapes when I need to feed my soul or remind myself of the bigger picture!
What drives your creativity?
Nature, my sense of vision, a desire to problem solve and build something, to compose, to synthesize, to bring order to chaos; my excitement for color, a sense of accomplishment that comes from the creative process which is unlike any other sense of accomplishment I know in life. It feels like wholeness.
What is your preferred medium?
Do you listen to any particular music when you create?
Jazz, Christmas music, old country, and bluegrass
What advice would you give to beginning artists?
Follow your interest and ask questions. Then ask more questions, of yourself and of others whom you trust to be honest and have your best interests in mind, and keep asking questions. Take some risks. Experiment. Expose yourself to other artists and see what they’re putting out there.
What actions might we take in the state of Alabama to grow our appreciation of art and encourage creativity in our youth/for the future?
We must not lose art in our schools. We need to prioritize access to art and music programs especially for underserved students as much as we prioritize math and science. Art and music open the mind, the imagination, the expression of ideas, and that’s the basis for any sustainable culture!