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Time, Travel, and the Beauty in Found Objects: An Interview with Amie Sell

Amie Sell is a sculpture, installation, and all-around experimentation artist and resident artist at Chicago Art Department in East Pilsen.  Her work consists largely of the collection and manipulation of found objects, and has been shown at CAD and the Logan Square Art Center.  Another of her projects is the documentation of the bioluminescence of fireflies captured through a printing process called Lumetype, which Amie teaches monthly with local artist Caro d’Offay at the Hyde Park Art Center.  I met with Amie at her home in the west side and discussed her inspirations, her history, and past and future projects.

 

Lydia Shepard (LS): What is your history with art making?

Amie Sell (AS): I went to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.  I really wasn’t quite sure what I was going to go to college for, but I did know that I liked to make things.  So I took some art classes, and I took a lot of science classes, because I also really like environmentalism.  I got into sculpture, and thought of it as the right path for me when I met Davie Damkoehler, who is a professor there.  He turned me on to the crazy world of sculpture.  I always thought of art as such a specific way of having technical abilities and all of these natural things.  He really taught me to develop my creativity and find my own path.  Probably the best thing that I learned from my experience there was being comfortable with the uncertainty, especially that of the way that a project takes you.  You just got to go with the flow of things; if things don’t turn out the way you envision them, you can always create a new path.  I majored in art with an emphasis on museum and gallery studies, and I minored in business.  There were a lot of business courses that I didn’t like, but it taught me finance, and how to negotiate more the business part of art that people don’t always think about when they become artists.

 

Time Installation, 2010. Image curtesy of Amie Sell

LS: I have noticed that a lot of your work deals with the idea of time.  Why are you so interested in time?

AS: Time is a pretty interesting concept to me.  Time is a quantitative thing where I can create parameters within my sculptures.  In a more literal sense, I found 3,000 clock hands on Craigslist for free.  Some guy bought an old clock factory and was cleaning it out, and he just wanted to get rid of everything.  They were just so beautiful and delicate.  I just started to play with them.  I started to think about time, because they are these object that tell us what time is when they are on clocks, but when they’re not on clocks, do they still tell us what time is?  I started to think about time in a more conceptual way.

 

LS: Your project, “100 Cups of Tea,” reminded me of an accumulation of things over time.

100 Cups of Tea. Image curtesy of Amie Sell

AS: That was crazy; it just kind of happened.  When I was 25, I quit my job and travelled around the world with a friend.  We ended up in Australia where we met this junk collector.  He was a super cool guy.  The friend that I was travelling with was a guitar maker, a very handy person.  We totally fell in love with this guy, and ended up staying there for over three weeks.  He had so much stuff.  I hate calling it “junk;” they were beautiful objects that were just lying in piles everywhere.  I just spent three or four hours a day arranging them and cleaning them, and giving them love.  We were in this huge old open butter factory.  We drank 100 cups of tea.  We had one of those boxes of breakfast blend and we drank the entire thing.

 

LS: I see that you have done a fair amount of moving around in your upbringing.

AS: I have lived in 24 different houses and have moved 26 times in my life, which is a lot considering that I am only 32 years old.  It’s given me a lot of time to think about different things.  I moved around a lot in Wisconsin growing up, and then during the first Gulf War my stepfather was called back into the military.  We ended up moving to Spain after the war was over and we lived there for three years.  It really opened up my perspective tremendously to the world.  It’s a much bigger world out there then the small box that I lived in Wisconsin.

 

LS: Do you think that the moving around you have done has effected your art making?

AS: Yes and no.  It has taught me to be happy with what’s around me and to appreciate the small things.  It has taught me to create my own happiness.  I think that it has taught me to be a little more open, and to not see things as permanent.  Sometimes, art is seen as this great permanent thing, like big bronze statues and gigantic paintings preserved in museums.  I guess that I approach my art in a more temporary way.

 

A floor plan from the House/Home Project. Image Curtesy of Amie Sell

LS: What is going on with your current endeavor, the “House/Home” project?  What are you hoping to accomplish with this?

AS: I hope to complete a triptych series of each home that I have lived in consisting of a photograph of the house in its current existence, a floor plan drawn from my memory, and then a 3-D model done from my memory.  The memory aspect is not to try to recreate it exactly, but to inject experiences and relationships that I had with people in those.  I hope to display them around the community here in Chicago and elsewhere, not all together, but at least in triptychs.  Maybe people will re-examine what their house is like, and how is it a home, especially in this time where there are a lot of underwater mortgages and people have treated houses as just objects.  Maybe people will start to appreciate them and think of them more as homes.

 

LS: What are some other things that inspire you?

AS: I like to work with found objects.  This past week I’ve been collecting all of the tulip petals within about a four-block radius of my house.  It’s springtime, and they are falling off of their stems now.  I’ve been dipping them in beeswax to preserve them.  I’m going to sew them together, I think, in some sort of sculptural type thing.  I’ve also been collecting broken window glass from smashed automobile windows in the neighborhood.  I clean the glass very meticulously, because it’s very beautiful.  I guess that’s one of the main parts of my work: the process of collecting and finding things.

 

 

LS: You also have a fair amount of curating experience.  What kinds of shows have you curated?

AS: the first show that I ever curated was photos from a trip that I went on to Peru and Bolivia with a bunch of friends.  I’ve also put together some group shows.  Right now, I’ve been curating in the gallery lobby of my office.  It’s this really pristine white cube space.  I’ve been curating the work of some local artists and my co-workers.  I’ve been trying to increase the art collaboration and creativity in our office, a large architecture firm, and getting people to express themselves more.  I like working one-on-one with artists, especially emerging artists who are a little unsure of themselves, and getting them to feel comfortable with hanging their work and showing it to people.  It can be a really scary thing at first.  I think a part of my nurturing side comes out in curating.

 

Light of Fireflies, 2011. Image Curtesy of Amie Sell

LS: Tell me a little about your “Light of Fireflies” project.

AS: The Firefly project is based around the cycle of a firefly.  So, whenever they are alive every year, I capture some and I print them.  The printing process is called Lumetype.  It was invented by Caro d’Offay, who is a local artist.  I used to work with her at her gallery.  We teach the process now at the Hyde Park Art Center once a month.  It’s pretty much printing glow-in-the-dark things, so we teach it to kids.  Then we print using pretty much the same process used for printing black and white photography.  I collect fireflies, and then I bring them into my bathroom/dark room and print them.  It doesn’t always work; it’s all trial and error.  Through my pseudo-scientific process I’ve learned that they won’t light up if they have mated recently.  So, when I catch them, I try to keep the males and females separate.  The males are larger and they will fly straight up out of the bushes, and the females just kind of hang out in the bushes and sputter really tiny signals.  I didn’t really know all of this the first year that I did it.  Their bioluminescence is what prints on the paper.  I love it because it’s like capturing and immortalizing their light, and they have such a short life span.

 

LS: Is this going to be an ongoing project?

AS: Yeah, I’m hoping to do it every year because it’s fun.  I guess it’s another component of time; I like working with the cycles of nature.

 

LS: Do you like teaching the kids?

AS: I do, I love it.  And they think you’re cool if you’re teaching art.  [Lumetype] is fun to teach to the kids.  This is our first endeavor teaching it to kids and they love it.  It’s glow-in-the-dark paint and a room with chemicals… they just think it’s the coolest.

Broken window glass collected by Amie

To learn more about Amie Sell and her work, visit her website here.  To learn more about the Chicago Art Department, visit their website here.  For more information on Lumetype, click here

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1 Response to " Time, Travel, and the Beauty in Found Objects: An Interview with Amie Sell "

  1. [...] (LS): What is your history with art making? Amie Sell (AS): I went to the University of …Read More… [Source: lydia a met art - Google Blog Search] This entry was posted on June 4th, 2012 at 12:49 am [...]

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