Awakened Imagination

Amanda Marcott can seemingly use just about anything for what she refers to as a “jumping off place” when creating her imaginative sculptures. She might use the actual process of being interviewed for this article, remembering the slurping sound iced coffee makes as it is sucked up a straw to start the wheels turning.

“It can come from anything,” she says. “A different way that you start to see the world and the ordinary objects around you. It could be a story on NPR or an experience, a color, a pattern, a texture.”

“I have a really active sketchbook practice,” Marcott continues. “I take a lot of ‘visual’ notes. And I’m a list maker – a practice I really love.  Stream of consciousness lists of ideas and materials. Following that thread is really exciting.”

These lists begin to inform her art, even though she admits that sometimes the work “lives in my sketchbook for a really long time.”

She uses her summer vacation – she will begin her fourth year of teaching art at Las Cruces High School in the fall – to “do nothing” for a few weeks so she may switch heads from teaching to making art. When Marcott “does nothing” it turns out she is actually remarkably busy exploring and discovering things that will influence some project down the line.

Marcott says she spent much of last summer reading several comedians’ autobiographies and watching podcasts by and about them, paying close attention to the art of their comedic crafting. That interest, and the thread it created, has influenced her current ceramic sculpture in progress. Alternative comic Marc Maron is one of her favorites and she admitted to being fascinated by the bit of darkness in his humor. And when you mention Louis C.K., she brightens and expresses her appreciation for his series and its “real” quality.

But it’s more likely that one wouldn’t characterize Marcott’s sculptures as  being dark or even necessarily real/realistic – they are, rather, more fun or even a bit on the whimsical side. They are certainly entertaining.

A yellow slicker made of a metal “skeleton” and sheer fabric – each yellow panel hand-sewn to the frame with stitches one-eighth inch (or smaller) apart. Metallic “corsets” and “bustiers” with glossy painted areas and jewel-like decorations – one with a bustle and ruffle to complete the ensemble. An array of helmets constructed of safety materials.

“An object can stand for a much larger body of ideas,” Marcott explains.

During her graduate work at New Mexico State University, she began noticing post-World War II advertising that utilized the imagery of cars with the skeletal frame revealed.

“The skin was pulled back revealing the frame, but there was still this slick, sexy, painted exterior. I hybridized those forms with women’s swim garments from the period.”

The helmets “jumped off directly” from women’s bathing caps merged with leather football helmets.

“The advertising of the times reflected an obsession with safety, protection, prevention, and preparedness,” Marcott elaborated. “There was this pervasive interest in ever present readiness.”

The car imagery – revealing the inner strength of the vehicle – reflected this concern with safety. The helmets themselves are constructed from materials such as earplugs and reflective cloth, whose purpose is the promotion of protection.

But as Marcott says in her artist statement: Addressing both physical and psychological manifestations of protection and safety, I use materials to expose the lack of utility and exaggerated futility and frailties of my sculptural objects.

She explores the contradiction of trying to prevent emergencies while at the same time preparing for their inevitability. A journey that began by looking at an old car ad ended at an unexpected place.

Marcott’s first class as an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities was in sculpture – she found none of the other disciplines quite as satisfying as far as “getting your hands dirty.” The metal and foundry work was especially enjoyable.

Her “Ah-ha!” moment – when she knew for certain she wanted to be an artist – came in high school when her father took her out of school to attend an Andy Warhol retrospective. Now she hopes to help her students find their own “Ah-ha!” moments, as well as continuing to find those places she can “jump off” on her own. Who knows? She might even be inspired by the final version of this very article as she stares at it on the printed page complete with photos of her artwork.

Summer 2014

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