Gallery  October 14, 2019  Cynthia Close

Meet the New Face of Printmaking

Burlington City Arts

Blue Isabelle, 2016. Collagraph on felt with bamboo thread.

“This is your life, Australia style,” jokes artist/master printmaker Sarah Amos in an undeniable Aussie accent as she introduces herself to the audience in the packed screening room on the second floor at Burlington City Arts. Her monumental, genre-bending collograph prints representing the last 5+ years of work produced in her rural East Fairfield, Vermont studio fill the ground floor galleries, their energy animating the space. It was clear in the first five minutes of her presentation that Amos was the source of that energy, now embodied in her work.

Burlington City Arts

Citrus Gumbo Series, 2019. Collagraph on paper with gouache.

For the past thirty years, Amos has bounced back and forth between Australia and Vermont, an unlikely melding of vastly different environments. She asks rhetorically, “What does it mean to have your heart in Vermont and your soul Australia?” and then she goes on to explain, showing images of the extraordinary Australian landscape and a favorite Aboriginal painting.

Amos comes from a family of artists. Her grandfather was an anthropologist, a muralist, and a collector of antiquities. Her grandmother was a ceramicist and her father an architect. Art for Amos was inescapable. She began as a sculptor but switched to printmaking earning a BFA from the Philip Institute of Technology in Melbourne and then an MFA in Printmaking from Johnson State College in Vermont. But it was during her more than ten-year stint as a master printmaker working collaboratively at the prestigious Tamarind Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico that she “fell in love with lithography and learned a lot about color as well as interpersonal relationships.”

Burlington City Arts

Double Dutch, 2018. Collagraph on felt with bamboo thread.

Amos estimates that she has worked as a printmaker with over 250 artists. She left that kind of collaborative work about twelve years ago, starting out on her own with large-scale, 8 ft x 7 ft and 10 ft x 8 ft collographs on paper, hybrids that were influenced by the Japanese printmaking tradition. Her largest work, a 17 ft x 7 ft piece titled Cats in the Cradle, featured in a scene in the 2010 movie Black Swan starring Natalie Portman.

Using Helen Frankenthaler’s press and multiple plates she would “bury layer upon layer of scratch marks, ghosts of secondary elements, then draw on top of it all.” Amos has always been interested in geographic marks, map-like layers of information, “geographical oddities” pushing the boundaries of printmaking, not trying to hide the print process.

Burlington City Arts

Sarah Amos works, all collagraph on felt with thread, installed at the Burlington City Arts (l-r): I Stop, I Look, 2016; Blue Isabelle, 2016; Jute and Bones, 2017; 39 Shillings, 2014.

The black and white 39 Shillings, (2014) is the prototype for all the work included in this exhibition. Amos transitioned from paper to printing on linen and then moved to a thicker, dense felt material that could be stitched and stuffed, appliquéd with bamboo thread and padded, producing a 3 dimensional, tactile relief, all layered on a printed background. She taught herself to stitch from YouTube videos. “There is nothing delicate,” she says about her “free association stitchery.”  “Printmaking is the scaffolding of the work and the threads are the drawing.”

Burlington City Arts

Dove’s Eye, 2019. Collagraph on felt with bamboo thread.

From the floating bubble-like forms in Dove’s Eye (2019) to the iconic yet mystifying “head” in The Arrival (2017) Amos has created her own personal folklore. “I wanted to build something that took time, to make a statement beyond just print on paper.” More than a statement, Unique Multiples, her recent exhibition at Burlington City Arts, is a clarion call by an artist whose work commands our attention.

About the Author

Cynthia Close

Cynthia Close holds a MFA from Boston University, was an instructor in drawing and painting, Dean of Admissions at The Art Institute of Boston, founder of ARTWORKS Consulting, and former executive director/president of Documentary Educational Resources, a film company. She was the inaugural art editor for the literary and art journal Mud Season Review. She now writes about art and culture for several publications.

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