Live, Create, and Question
Details of "Drives Along The Dogwood Cove" along with two other paintings in this collection that involve the use of hand sewn sequins.
Life Through Shades of Yellow is a collection by artist Amanda Clark of 120 colorful abstract paintings. Amanda states that this collection began as a way for her to try and gain clarity and over come hardships of previous life experiences that left her feeling unfulfilled. However, when an accusation of stealing another artists style arose while in the midst of working on this collection, all artwork needed to be re-evaluated for Amanda to remain positive of her artwork and her esthetic. In a world where most artists share their creations on social media sites like Instagram, Pinterest, and Flickr, how hard is it to remain true to your own visions as an artist when you are constantly looking at fellow artists work?
Painting came into artist Amanda Clark’s life in a time when she needed it the most. This medium created a safe place for her to freely express her emotions. In a time when she was completed blocked in living her life true to herself. Amanda Clark, of Rose + Sonnet, grew up in a culturally repressive Catholic household when at the age of thirteen had come out to her mother as queer. Her mother instructed her that this is not God’s way, that she will learn to love men, and that she should write down all aspects she is looking for in a husband, with the first quality being of the male sex.
Living a life that her mother and her surrounding community chose for her until she was the age of 27, Amanda tried to remain a good Catholic woman. Married at the age of 19 to an older man, Amanda was repressed into a roll of a dutiful housewife for eight years. During her marriage, her husband kept her from her from her first artistic passion, fashion. Her husband stated that world of fashion has no place for God. Amanda continued painting as a way of expressing her artistic desire without displeasing her partner. This is when painting turned into something more; it became a pursuit of truth and identity for the artist.
It was in Austin, Texas that Amanda was first discovered for painting. She was invited to participate in the 2010 East Austin Studio Tour, where she sold all of her paintings and gained the confidence to truly give herself to her art. Amanda continued painting and in 2014 enrolled in Savannah College of Art and Design for fashion design, which her husband reluctantly agreed to. It was here that Amanda found inner strength and decided to live a life that she chose, instead of one that was chosen for her. Amanda divorced her husband, came out as queer, and as a result, she lost the entire life she knew.
Amanda found herself without the community she once had, but what she found was relationships with people that knew who she was, an artist first and foremost, and supported her in her pursuit of happiness. Amanda met the love of her life, Danielle at a restaurant they both worked at, and they decided to pack everything up and move west. This is how Amanda found herself in Central Oregon and how she formed the idea for Life Through Shades of Yellow.
Drawn to the color yellow for the first time in her life, Amanda started to realize that the meaning behind yellow was hope, clarity, enlightenment, positivity, and joy. She was in a moment in her life where she wanted to explore all of these emotions; “I pulled ideas, colors, sensations from memories of moments where I pushed myself to be brave and explore aspects of my life from physical spaces to emotions”.
In this moment of self discovery, an accusation that rocked Amanda’s world came to light from another artist from San Francisco. Amanda asked that I not divulge the name of the artist or talk about the accusation, however I find it an important part of Amanda’s artist process. She ripped through her collection with the idea of another artists accusation and threw out any piece that could be considered similar to the artists pieces. She began fresh after a long month of soul searching and self criticism.
Amanda stated something that made me wonder what the impact of sites like Instagram, Pinterest, and Flickr have on artists now-a-days. She said, “I followed this artist for some time now and of course I was drawn to her work because it is similar to my own aesthetic. But to be accused of plagiarizing by someone I once looked up to rocked my world”. In the article Contemporary Art and the Digital Culture, author Melissa Gronlund discusses “post-internet art being set as a function of age rather than intentionality or shared characteristics” (Gronlund, 2017). This thought depicts the relationship between art and social media well. With a stream of other artists work set in your hand at all times, artists in todays world may not be intentionally plagiarizing or appropriating other artists body of work, but instead sampling ideas from the world around them. The world around them may include the physical world, the digital world, or both.
Every piece in Amanda’s Life Through Shades of Yellow collection represents something that Amanda holds dear, but the similarity between her work and the accusers is definitely evident to outside viewers. When addressing this criticism and infringement, can this force an artist to self validate, and then in turn cause the artist to review their creations and form a deeper connection to their artwork? Amanda, of Rose + Sonnet, believes that this experience made her dive deep into the realm of creativity that she lives in to authenticate her style, and to prove to others that her artistic esthetic is her own.
Amanda admits to being a longtime follower of the accusing artist, stating that she has “always inspired by fellow artists living their dream”, and before I looked at the other artists work, I was privy to a private look inside the Rose + Sonnet studio where Amanda created the collection, Life Through Shades of Yellow. The collection is hanging in her small studio space of a 12’x12’ room. At first glance, the use of yellow and blue instantly drew my eyes towards them, and the movement within the artwork is what maintained my interest. There is something so soothing when experiencing a piece of artwork that utilizes complimentary colors, not to mention a level of emotion that brought my eye from one nicely balanced corner to another.
The first three pieces I noticed were hung by each other to the left as you entered the doorway. Through the use of layering spray paint, acrylics, and pastel, Amanda has shaped these three pieces that not only draw you in, but keep you within the artwork through the beauty of the strokes, pulls, sprays, and rubs. It tells a story without the need for explanation and I can imagine that the story I felt is different from the story felt by another, or even by the artist herself.
Following these pieces were some smaller paintings done on thick sturdy paper, scattered nicely across the back wall to the room. These paintings contained less layering, however they still contained a balanced affect through the shapes and colors mixed on top of one another. Still a prominence of yellow and many shades of blue, but with an added depth through beautiful shades of rust red and salmon pink. Within these smaller pieces, I felt as though Amanda was more constrained, unable to wipe a slate clear with more layers, making them more delicate, more thought out with specific marks being made onto the paper from beginning to end.
Within some finished work scattering the floors, there seemed be more chaos then peace, more of a feeling of exploration than execution. Amanda has been playing around with layering multimedia objects on top of her paintings, which in some cases the objects helped draw me into the painting more, but in the case of a few, it seemed like it was a distraction.
One piece that involved more mediums on the canvas that I enjoyed was layered with thick strokes of spray paint, layered with acrylic paint that had been thinned to a transparency level where you could see the layers that came to be before them. Layered on top of this was a torn piece of blue glitter paper that fit so well with the colors surrounding it, that it almost felt like a tide pool with water rushing in and out of the painting.
The paintings surrounding this last one contained large pieces of glitter that Amanda special ordered from a fellow artist in New York. These pieces of glitter are hand sewn onto a handful of the paintings in this collection, while one of the pieces I found pleasing, the remaining glittered pieces seemed too reaching for me; almost as if she was trying to add too much to the artwork. My eyes didn’t know where to rest. As I look back on this artwork, I feel as though Amanda was trying to disengage any connection with the accusing artist, and this took these specific pieces in a more gaudy style.
Upon leaving Amanda’s studio, I was still left with questions in regards to artistic plagiarism and when is it acceptable and unacceptable to use other artists work as inspiration. How do you decide when the line has been crossed between inspiration and plagiarism? I believe an artist relies on absorbing all of the world around them to not only grow as an artist but to be inspired to create, but if a big part of the world around them is through a non-personal look at someones art through social media, can it be easier to plagiarize without being self aware?
Artistic plagiarism is defined as “the act of reproducing the work of another artist or artists and claiming it as your own original work of art” (Klaber, 2010), while artistic inspiration is defined by “the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something” (Oxford University Press, 2018 ). In an article titled This Year (Thus Far) in Art Plagiarism by Andrew Nunes of Vice News, Nunes discusses the far reaching spread that social media has. He states that “one will notice that accusations of artistic plagiarism today are not solely connected to social media or the Internet. But perhaps because these tools allow for an easier access of information, it's easier for more artists to become aware of acts of theft against their works than they could have in the past. In a similar fashion, an artist who feels plagiarized can voice their opinion and have it spread with much more ease than ever, aiding the sentiment that plagiarism is more rampant than ever, when the actual climate may or may not be so” (Nunes, 2015).
I truly believe that Amanda did not intentionally commit artistic plagiarism. I do believe though, that when you connect yourself through the non-personal touch of social media with someone you admire, the constant feed of their work may cloud your own artistic drives. When researching artistic plagiarism and artistic appropriation, I found a term that I believes more accurately depicts the relationship between Amanda’s art and the accusers, artistic sampling. Artistic sampling is when an artists work “transforms and individualizes elements that come from elsewhere”. In this book Avoiding the Subject: Media, Culture, and the Object, it discusses how “sampling totally erases the distinctions between original and copy, artist and thief, the individual and the series – in fact, it renders these distinctions secondary if not irrelevant” (Clemens & Pettman, 2004). This brings back the thought that Gronlund has within art in today’s culture. That art sampling is a function of age rather than appropriation.
When talking with Amanda, I could see the joy and passion that she felt with her artwork. She stated that she had wiped her collection clear after the accusation from a fellow artist, and she felt stronger as an artist after looking into herself and her artwork. Amanda lives by the motto that clarity comes with action, and she has not felt more clear then she does now when it comes to her creations.
Klaber, M. (2010). Art Plagiarism. Retrieved May 12, 2018, from http://edtech2.boisestate.edu/matthewklaber/502/scavenger.html
Oxford University Press. (2018). Inspiration | Definition of inspiration in English by Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved May 15, 2018, from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/inspiration
Nunes, A. (2015, September 07). This Year (Thus Far) in Art Plagiarism. Retrieved May 14, 2018, from https://creators.vice.com/en_au/article/3d553w/this-year-thus-far-in-art-plagiarism
Clemens, J., & Pettman, D. (2004). Avoiding the subject: Media, culture, and the object. doi:10.5117/9789053567166
Gronlund, M. (2017). Contemporary Art and Digital Culture. London: Routledge.