Margery Amdur: In between arts and crafts
Margery Amdur’s decade-spanning career has seen her exhibited around the world. Fibre Arts Take Two was privileged to speak with the artist about her work.
Margery Amdur’s Friday Feature Artist Interview can be found at the bottom of this page.
Margery Amdur is an artist whose work blurs the lines between the expected and the unexpected, the familiar and the unfamiliar. With a career spanning decades and 60 solo exhibitions, Margery brings a multi-dimensional perspective to work she passionately terms’ Felt Narratives’.
To truly experience her art is to suspend logic momentarily, allowing oneself to be swept up by juxtaposing objects, images and intricate concepts. Hailing from Pittsburgh, Margery’s artistic journey has been nothing short of illustrious. She honed her skills at the revered Carnegie Mellon University, earning her BFA, and later achieved her MFA from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
Renowned publications like Sculpture Magazine, New American Paintings, and Fibre Arts have all celebrated her contributions, ensuring her global recognition in just five years. From 2017 to 2022, Margery took on a staggering 10 international projects, leaving an indelible mark across borders. Speaking with Margery about her life, art, and passions was a distinct privilege.
Art as communication
While Margery says she was a maker of art initially to survive, her artistic inclination dates from before that, “I think most artists, or at least visual artists,” she says, “when they’re young, probably are not able to speak through language effectively and share what they want to, and somehow, outside of language, they start making marks on a page to show that they get to see they’re present. Obviously, as we become more professional, that gets embedded in the work, and then there’s all these years of training, sharing, and much more. But I will still say that today, I manifest things visually to understand my place in the world, and it gives me a backbone. And then I’m a better person, I’m a better Professor, I’m a better partner.”
Art and craft
Some might say Margery’s work bridges that gap between art and craft, but she considers her approach more nuanced, “I don’t see that I do bridge art and craft,” she says, “I feel like my work, actually, is a commentary. It comments on art and craft, and then I juxtapose them. In a way, I don’t fit neatly into either, and I’m comfortable being in between, but bridging them, I see it differently. I see that as more; I make them rub up against each other. It’s something about that sandwiching in that tension that I like.”
Walking on Sunshine
One of Margery’s most ambitious pieces, Walking on Sunshine, was installed in a subway station, “In terms of the subway station, making public art, it’s about place,” she says, “It’s about making places and the people that live there feel important and grounded. I wanted to deal with what was going on in the area. I remember standing out on a corner, asking people who the artist was that stood out in their minds. Some people said Van Gogh, some people said Jackson Pollock, and all these things, then somebody said Beethoven, and I said, okay, I was going to bring them all together to create these floors that basically gave people an opportunity to stand on something while they were going from here to there.”
“It was really an opportunity to walk on a painting,” Margery says, “and leave the fact that you are in an underground desolate subway station. To bring that bit of joy. I wanted it to feel like you’re standing on a collage. So, I made these 13-foot drawing collages in my studio. Then, they were scanned, produced, and embedded in resin. It was a way of bringing the digital and the hands-on together in an underground station.”
Magery says that her work is a sort of meditation, “As I’ve gotten older,” she says, “I don’t listen to music all that much. It is about just being in that process and the quiet. It’s the absorption into that. I’ll throw this in there for all the artists. I really think we don’t get enough credit. Artists know we need to take care of our well-being, so every day, we go in the studio, and in a sense, we do our meditation, but we just happen to make something. The whole world is talking about mindfulness and well-being. To be successful as an artist, you have to be in pretty good shape. So, the myth of the artists being crazy is like an old myth. That repetitiveness that it’s such a gift we give ourselves.”
Margery’s mission as an artist is to guide people towards deeper thinking, “This issue of pausing, of taking time, both for viewer and maker,” she says, “that things are so much more complex than they seem on the surface. We all need to make that extra effort, whether getting to know people or understanding our own work or other people’s work. And so that’s a dilemma. How do you bridge that in terms of making this complicated work and knowing you want to communicate with others and bring them in? This inquiry into things is far more complex than how they look on the surface. That’s something I would like people to think about. That comes out in my work; it’s not necessarily what you see. But what’s behind it?
Sure, I would like to sell more work and all those kinds of things, but if we could get people involved in that inquiry process, then we all win. And that’s what keeps me making art.”
About the artist
With an extensive array of materials and within varying formats, platforms and contexts, Margery Amdur creates what she has coined “Felt Narratives.”
One must suspend logic to fully appreciate how she juxtaposes objects, images, and concepts. Once inside one of her installations, one has the sense that they are in a protected space where the architecture has become a stand-in for the body, and the wallcoverings become an adornment in how clothing is one’s identity worn in public.
Margery Amdur has been actively creating site-specific installations for over thirty years. Originally from Pittsburgh, she received her B.F.A. from Carnegie-Mellon University and her M.F.A. from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Her work has been featured and reviewed in national and international publications such as Sculpture Magazine, New American Paintings, Fiber Arts, and Creative Practices for Visual Artists. In addition to more than sixty solo exhibitions, Margery completed ten national and international projects between 2017 and 2022. Both the U.S. Embassy and the Philadelphia Convention Center recently added her work to their permanent collections. Rutgers University, Camden, will soon acquire works from her newest series, Inside Out.