Amy Stacey Curtis, who has lived in Maine since 1986, says her work “physically exists as art only when installed in a space and activated by an audience.”
Over the past 17 years, Amy has installed eight solo-biennial exhibits. For each, she has chosen a Maine mill as her space. Her first exhibit was in the Bates Mill in Lewiston. That is where she’d like to have her ninth and final exhibit in September 2016.
Each exhibit, which consists of nine installations, explores a different theme. In some way, the audience is asked to participate. For instance, they may need to alter the work, or maintain it, or enter it. Amy says she tries to “convey that we affect everyone and everything while everyone and everything affects us, no matter how small or fleeting the contact.”
I didn’t know about Amy’s solo-biennials until this year when she visited our drawing class at USM. The professor, Michael Shaughnessy, had this to say about her:
Amy is one of the most hard working and focused artists I know. Her work is elegant and conceptually innovative. Highly controlled and methodical, she embraces with a robust laugh the magic born of the accidental. She charts a course and sticks to it with a perseverance which is both personal and poetic in its own right.
Wherever her final exhibit is, I will be there. In this Profile of a Maine Artist, Amy tells us a little about herself and where she finds inspiration. First, I chose one photo from one installation from each of her past eight biennials to give you a sense of the magnitude and the depth of her work.
1. Amy’s first solo-biennial exhibit was EXPERIENCE, in the Bates Mill Complex in Lewiston, Maine, July 7- August 15, 2000.
2. MOVEMENT was installed in the Old Sebago Shoe Mill in Westbrook, Maine, October 12-26, 2002.
3. CHANGE was installed at Fort Andross in Brunswick, Maine, October 9-27, 2004.
4. SOUND was installed at Waterville, Maine’s Lockwood Mill, October 7-27, 2006.
5. LIGHT was installed throughout the Sanford Mill, October 4-24, 2008.
6. TIME was installed throughout the Pepperell Mill in Biddeford, Maine October 9-28, 2010.
7. SPACE was installed throughout three floors at Winthrop, Maine’s Winthrop Commerce Center (formerly Carleton Woolen Mill), October 6-26, 2012.
8. MATTER was installed throughout two floors of Parsonsfield, Maine’s Robinson Mill, October 4-24, 2014.
9. The ninth and final sol-biennial exhibit MEMORY will be installed throughout 25, 000 square feet of a to be announced Lewiston, Maine mill. Opening: Saturday, September 17, 2016
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
High school: Haystack is My Hogwarts.
Where/when did you go to school?
I received my BA in Studio Art and BA in Advertising from the University of Maine in 1993 and my MA in Art and Psychology from Vermont College in 2000.
What is your preferred medium and why? Where do you find inspiration?
Just before what would be my first biennial in 2000, I completed a Master’s in Art & Psychology at Vermont College. Part of my thesis had involved deep critical thinking about my imagery up to that point. It was then that I noticed patterns of repetition and chaos coupled with order throughout all of my work, as well as in everything around me — every surface, activity, happening …
I came to see the balance or sum of chaos, order, and repetition as a sort of equation for everything, an archetype for the interconnectedness of all.
Through the imagery of my first solo biennial (see next question), I set out to intentionally explore the balance of chaos, order, and repetition, to begin to think about our part in the whole and how I could convey this to others.
To convey how we affect everything and everything affects us, even when this impact is fleeting, I needed to make work which would enter audience’s physical, personal, and collective space, and vice versa, work which would impact audience and that audience would impact.
Through temporary interactive installation, I could create a tactile metaphor about how we have effect on the whole and the whole has effect upon us even if this impact or influence is momentary.
What is your process?
In 1998, I began an 18-year commitment to art-making, a project culminating through nine solo-biennial exhibits of interactive installation art from the year 2000 to 2016. In the end, I will have installed 81 large-in-scope, temporary works in the vast mills of eight or nine Maine towns.
Each biennial exhibit is a 22-month process from conceptualization to documentation. Each exhibit explores a different theme while requiring audience to participate with its nine installations and revitalizing its historic site. After the biennial, my work exists only through documentation, dialogue, and memory.
To see/read more about my process subscribe to [my blog] The Artist Plan.
Do you have some words of wisdom for beginning artists?
You can accomplish anything you want to from wherever you live if you are willing to work hard. Also, I teach professional development at the University of Maine. Readers can acquire my essays on my website.
How can we find out where your 9th and final solo biennial will be and follow your progress?
The only way to know my last location for sure is to write me to be added to my e-mail notification list firstname.lastname@example.org.
To follow my progress:
How can we see work from previous biennials?
Want to help?
If you’re interested in helping Amy in her studio, contact her by email.