By Bonnie Gangelhoff
Amy Lind’s recent show at Robert Lange Studios was a real circus. There was an old-fashioned popcorn maker, red-and-white striped straws for drinks, and a red velvet curtain to greet guests at the entry. On the walls of the gallery hung Lind’s fanciful, colorful paintings that brought together clowns, trapeze artists, girls with balloons, and men on stilts. “It was a fun body of work. Who doesn’t love the circus?” Lind says. “It brings out the little kid in everyone, and people seemed to love the whimsical nature of it.”
Lind’s previous figurative work tended to be what she calls “demure.” She depicted things like a friend donning a pair of antique white leather gloves and an elegant model sporting a crimson amaryllis in her hair. But after moving to Los Angeles from San Francisco in 2009, she found herself wanting to explore more complicated compositions. Her husband, Josh, who is a video producer, actually inspired the circus series, she says. Seeing him create fanciful worlds for his actors to inhabit intrigued her.
So a year ago, she put out casting calls on Craigslist to assemble models for the characters she envisioned in her new circus-themed series. She screened head shots and sifted through hundreds of would-be lion tamers and high-wire acts. Finally, in April, after choosing models for 16 characters, scouting costumes and props, and renting a tent, she brought all the production elements together for a photo shoot worthy of a Hollywood feature film. The images from the faux circus became reference photos for her paintings. From April to December, she painted non-stop. “It was a huge ordeal and took months in the planning, but it was incredibly fun. I enjoyed all aspects of the production,” Lind says. “It was great to see the body of work all come together in one place.”
Although she originally planned to capture the circus performers in action, Lind found she was drawn to another aspect of circus life—a more somber glimpse of the people involved. “There is something interesting to me about the life and personalities of circus performers, and many of my paintings turned out to be portraits of the people behind the characters that they play, allowing for a dichotomy of personality within a single figure,” she explains.
Lind, 27, says she has always been interested in art, but initially she lacked confidence in her abilities. When it came time to consider colleges, she was scared to venture into art schools. One day a teacher in her suburban Chicago high school gave her a motivational pep talk that helped her realize that a career in art was what she truly desired for her life. Initially she wanted to be a fashion designer when she entered Georgia’s Savannah College of Art and Design. But she quickly realized that she would miss drawing too much and decided to focus on illustration with a minor in drawing. Halfway though college she discovered her true passion—painting the figure. “After working full time as an artist for four years, I can’t imagine it any other way,” Lind says.
In the future, Lind says, she is itching to draw and paint simple nude figures after working with complex, multiple-figure compositions for her recent show. But she’s not entirely through with the circus, either. Lind has ideas for more characters she wants to depict—a contortionist, ringmaster, fire-dancer, strongman, and Siamese twins. “A constant goal of mine will be to continue learning and growing as an artist,” she says. “I never want to get comfortable in a particular way of art-making that may be working at the time. I hope to continue pushing myself to discover new ways of thinking and doing things.”
Robert Lange Studios, Charleston, SC.
Solo show, Robert Lange Studios, November 2011.
Featured in “Artist to Watch” in February 2011.