Geometric. Abstract Expressionism. Found Paper. Personal Statement
This was our cycle of study. This was our structure; within these rules, unbridled creative freedom. For the past three years, I had the privilege of being one of Amy Finkston’s collage students. To enter her classroom or studio was to immerse oneself in a world of enchantment. Amy saw the possibilities in everything.
First came the treasure trove of collage materials. Amy had everything organized by color. You could just fall in love with all the different kinds of beautiful paper…Imagine Joseph’s coat of many colors laid out on top of plastic folders in a spacious sunlit classroom or large metal table in her basement. But it wasn’t just the paper. There was fabric of every type and texture to explore as well. There were also a vast array of tools: paint, colored pencils, magazine words and images, pieces of old calendars, letters, numbers, stencils, protractors. Amy taught us how to see the world anew, to find collage and the influence of it, in unexpected places, to appreciate collage as a valuable art form, to create, to change, to take risks, to open up and play, to shed perfectionism and discover what magic might happen.
Amy sought to stimulate and inspire the imagination of her students. She encouraged us to push boundaries, to make our works two or three dimensional and even mobile! She told me not to miss the Rauschenberg show and I went to have my mind blown. She taught her students about the many wonderful African-American, Latino, and feminist artists. She was always ready to dissect the New York Times Sunday supplements and harvest images that could inform and enhance our work. She reminded us about her teacher at Cornell, Alan Atwell, the psychedelic artist, and how important it was to feel free in one’s work. Consequently, I began to see the world with Amy’s eyes. A mix of multicolored wax from Hanukkah candles and the burned matches lying on top of tinfoil on my dining room table? That, too, was collage…
In a partial response to the zeitgeist, Amy’s work had begun to change. She shifted from capturing the human form in portraits. To my delight, her work became more political and large scale. The ipad that her husband gave her as a gift opened up new creative worlds. How many trips did she make to the Apple Store in order to continue growing as an artist? Her fearless work on the ipad was stunning, exciting, and incredibly beautiful. She was having them printed on enormous glossy paper. Before she became ill, Amy was preparing for a local exhibition that would showcase her enduring brilliance.
I expected to study painting and collage with Amy this spring. Come summer, I expected to hang out with her in the Parkwood Pool walking lane. She, like her cherished friend, the late poet and painter Kent Ozarow, (with whom I studied writing) enabled me to find a bohemian path while in suburban exile. In September 2018, during my month as a “Writer in Residence” at Byrdcliffe Arts Colony, I thought about Amy constantly. My studies with her enabled me to connect with an extraordinary community of younger artists. I shared my adventures with Amy upon my return. She cheered me onward as a short story that I started during the residency influenced a series of paintings in her studio. She believed in me as a fledgling artist and writer. And I believed in her.
When I first became Amy’s student, she looked at one of my early collages and said, with kindness and charity: “There’s so much love in there.” It was her love that made my growth as an artist possible. It was her love that has enriched so many lives. I will love and miss her always. Amy will always be a part of how I see the world.